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Coronation Street actress Maureen Lipman’s partner of 13 years Guido Castro dies

Dame Maureen Lipman’s partner of 13 years has died after a short Covid-related illness.

The actress said of businessman Guido Castro: ‘He got Covid – it wasn’t Covid that killed him but it weakened him terribly.’

Dame Maureen, 74, said Mr Castro, 84, who was in a respite home and had a form of Parkinson’s disease, tested positive days after receiving his vaccine jab.

‘We don’t know how he got it or when or if he had it when he got the vaccine,’ she added.

The actress was with Mr Castro when he died on Thursday.

Dame Maureen, 74, said Mr Castro (pictured), 84, who was in a respite home and had a form of Parkinson’s disease, tested positive days after receiving his vaccine jab

‘I said to Guido, ”It’s time to go. You’ve got to let go”. 

‘And I think for once in his life he actually did what I told him.’

Two weeks before his death, she gave an interview to Weekend magazine, published today. 

Referring to the interview, she said yesterday she had announced Mr Castro’s death because she did not want people to think ‘I was being frivolous and joking at a time when my heart is cracking’.

Sometimes I think I’m immortal! Monster courgettes, Coronation Street under Covid and the joy of jigsaws – irrepressible as ever, Maureen Lipman, 74, says it takes more than lockdown to rein in her lust for life 

By Chrissy Iley for Weekend Magazine  

At 74, Dame Maureen Lipman is still as lively and opinionated as ever. 

And as busy too. During lockdown she’s not only been commuting up and down from her home in west London to Manchester every week for her role as Evelyn Plummer in Coronation Street, she’s also reprised Martin Sherman’s haunting one-woman theatrical masterpiece Rose – and in between she’s been indulging a new-found passion for jigsaws.

‘I hadn’t done one in about 70 years,’ she says. ‘But I saw this video of Hugh Jackman who’d done this massive jigsaw of New York and it showed him putting the last piece in. 

‘They’re better than mindfulness and meditation, two hours can pass without me thinking about Covid, Brexit or Boris Johnson‘s hair once. All that matters is that frilly dress on the woman in front of that blue building.’

Dame Maureen Lipman, 74, (pictured) who lives in west London, has spent lockdown starring in Coronation Street and Martin Sherman’s one-woman theatrical masterpiece Rose

Dame Maureen Lipman, 74, (pictured) who lives in west London, has spent lockdown starring in Coronation Street and Martin Sherman’s one-woman theatrical masterpiece Rose

We’re chatting over Zoom because her tour de force in the two-hour monologue Rose is now available to stream on Sky. 

It’s a memoir of the harrowing events of the last century, told through the eyes of a feisty Jewish woman from a tiny Russian village as she reflects on her life at the turn of the millennium. 

She survived the horrors of the Warsaw ghetto where her husband and child died under Nazi occupation, and then escaped via the sewers and a ship called The Exodus to make a new life in America where she ended up running a hotel in Miami.

The play was first performed to huge acclaim by Oscar-winner Olympia Dukakis at the National Theatre in 1999, and Maureen’s new version, filmed in an empty theatre, was originally made for release as a digital download at the height of the first lockdown last year. 

‘Martin wrote it when I’d just done the BT commercials, and I was very loathe to go into another Jewish part then,’ she says. ‘Also I was too young to play Rose. She’s 80 and I was only 40 at the time.

‘But this has come at the right time now, it’s a brilliant piece of work. I first worked with Martin on his play Messiah in 1982, he’s got my voice and I’ve got his – we understand each other. 

‘So even though I had to learn 47 pages of script in a very short time while still doing Coronation Street, I knew it was going to be all right because his dialogue just rolls out like Cleopatra coming out of a carpet.

‘Rose is in Florida and sophisticated at this point in her life, so they got me a blouse to wear but it didn’t go over my bosom. I had a little grey jacket with me, left to me by a friend from Germany who died. 

Maureen revealed her role as Evelyn Plummer in Coronation Street (pictured) is her second stint on the show, after previously appearing as Lillian Spencer in 2002

Maureen revealed her role as Evelyn Plummer in Coronation Street (pictured) is her second stint on the show, after previously appearing as Lillian Spencer in 2002

‘When the reviews came out last year they said, ‘Even her jacket was redolent of a concentration camp.’ It’s marvellous how you can see what you want to.

‘But this doesn’t necessarily have to be another Jewish experience, it could be a Vietnamese boat experience. It just makes you feel differently about immigrants. 

‘I’d like to perform it in the theatre at some point in the future, if by then there is such a thing as the theatre.’

Meanwhile she’s keeping her hand in playing Evelyn on Coronation Street. As Tyrone Dobbs’ long-lost grandmother, she’s already rubbed Ken Barlow, Rita Tanner and Tyrone’s fiancée Fiz up the wrong way with her bluntness. 

It’s actually Maureen’s second stint on the show, having appeared as Lillian Spencer, the snooty caretaker manager of the Rovers, for six episodes in 2002, and it re-establishes the connection to her late husband, the playwright Jack Rosenthal, who was a writer on the soap back in its 60s heyday. ‘I was delighted when they offered me the part,’ she says. 

If people tell me they don’t watch Corrie, I say 10m do

‘I had a different head on when I was in it before. Jack started on episode 31, and went on to write more than 100 of them. I always like it when people say to me, ‘What are you doing these days? Ah, you’re in Corrie, I’ve never watched it myself.’

‘I tell them, ‘Well, 10 million people make up for you!’ It’s a strange mixture of down-to-earth reality and fantastic absurdity, but if you watch something passionately you can believe anything.’

I wonder if all the commuting and hanging around on a busy TV set has worried her. ‘They’re very good at sending cars for me and they all have dividing screens,’ she says. 

‘I was actually one of the first people to wear a mask back in February last year. People were looking at me like I was crazy.

Maureen said working in theatre taught her how to do her own make-up, however the new strains of covid has made her feel less safe. Pictured: Maureen in her one-woman play Rose

‘Now I sit there on set with my mask and my gloves on and they take my temperature. I go to my dressing room where my costume is hanging up and my make-up and heated rollers are waiting for me, I plug in the rollers and put them in for Evelyn’s hairstyle. 

‘The make-up girls aren’t supposed to touch us, which doesn’t bother me because if you’ve worked in theatre you can do your own make-up. Covid tests, of course, aren’t entirely reliable.

‘I did feel quite safe but I don’t feel terribly safe now. It’s these new strains. Say what you like about Boris, but nobody could have coped with that. 

‘The vaccine should have been the best of news, but it’s been overshadowed by these variants and nobody really knows if the vaccine is going to work. When it comes down to those fine details we don’t know, we’re guinea pigs.

‘It’s agonising, but we do have a vaccine, Trump’s gone and the Brexit deal is done, so we just have to get on with it.’

I couldn’t do Strictly, I’m not great with criticism 

Getting on with it has always been the Maureen Lipman way. She was made a Dame last October in the belated Queen’s birthday honours list in recognition of a stage and screen career stretching back more than 50 years. 

After training at LAMDA, her work has mostly been in the theatre (she was a member of the RSC and Laurence Olivier’s National Theatre Company in the 70s). 

But she came to prominence on television playing an agony aunt whose own personal life was a shambles in the sitcom Agony in the late 70s, and then of course as Jewish grandmother Beattie in those famous BT ads. 

On the big screen she had supporting roles in Educating Rita with Michael Caine and Julie Walters, and Roman Polanski’s 2002 Oscar winner The Pianist.

Maureen was married to Jack Rosenthal from 1974 until his death in 2004. Pictured: Maureen and Jack with daughter Amy and son Adam in the 70s

Maureen was married to Jack Rosenthal from 1974 until his death in 2004. Pictured: Maureen and Jack with daughter Amy and son Adam in the 70s

She was married to Jack Rosenthal from 1974 until his death from cancer in 2004, and she had roles in a number of his works. 

It was Jack who wrote the 1983 Barbra Streisand film Yentl, and knowing that I have interviewed Barbra in the past Maureen is keen to know more. ‘Did you go to her house?’ she asks. ‘Did she have Art Deco furniture?’

In the new play Rose delivers her monologue from a bench where she’s sitting shiva (a Jewish mourning tradition in which people sit together and remember the dead), and I tell Maureen that Barbra was about to sit shiva when I interviewed her once. 

But I sat on the wrong side of her and she got very upset with me.

THE DAY BARBRA STREISAND PRANKED MY HUSBAND 

Maureen’s late husband Jack Rosenthal crops up a few times during our chat, and at one point she tells me how Barbra Streisand once played a joke on him on the set of the 1983 film Yentl, which she directed and starred in and Jack co-wrote with her. 

‘They didn’t speak much, they just got on with it, and one day as the cameras were about to roll Barbra seemed restless,’ she says. 

Pictured: Barbra in Yentl

Pictured: Barbra in Yentl

‘The assistant was in and out, and finally she came back with a package.

‘Barbra went into the bathroom, and when she came out she said to Jack, who was famously gullible, ‘When the green ring’s at the top and the blue ring’s at the bottom does it mean you’re pregnant, or is it the other way round?’ Jack said, ‘Er…’ It was a brilliant moment because he had no idea, and millions of dollars rested on that result. 

‘The film went ahead and she did an exceptional job which people really don’t give her credit for.’

Maureen is incredulous. ‘There’s a right side to sit shiva?’ she asks.

I explain that it wasn’t about a right side to sit shiva, but a right side to sit next to Barbra because she feels one side of her face is less attractive than the other. 

‘Did you ever meet a woman who was happy with the way she looked?’ says Maureen. 

‘Who was that woman, apart from my mother? If women are happy with their faces it’s because they’ve had a lot of work done. That’s not a woman who’s satisfied with her looks, because then they do it again and again and that’s the problem.

‘When you see yourself on screen regularly it doesn’t make you happy, it makes you fixate on things. I used to fixate on my eye bags. 

‘I used to sit with cucumbers on my eyes every morning until I started fixating on something else, the saggy bits where my cheekbones used to be, and that took care of the next year.’

Our chat flits in and out of the ageing process. ‘We think we’re immortal, which means you never plan ahead,’ she says. 

‘You’re just entranced by each new thing that comes up and you think, ‘OK, I’ll deal with that.’ 

When I tell her that’s exactly what I’m doing at the moment as I’ve broken my foot falling down the stairs and have my leg in a cast, she says, ‘You have to be glad you’re a journalist and not an ice skater! 

‘One of the things I’ve discovered about ageing is that you don’t pick your feet up enough. I did it down the Tube steps, landed on my knees with a sickening crunch. It makes you tentative.’

Although she says she’s increasingly feeling her age, she has a healthy disregard for it too. ‘I’ve started making noises when I get up, ‘Ow, ow…’, surely that’s the beginning of the end,’ she laughs. 

‘But I’ve been doing my own version of a workout on a chair every day. It’s not really a Joe Wicks type of thing. It doesn’t leave you out of breath, it’s a kind of daft yoga. And in between I do face, voice and eye exercises.’

She shares her home with her two dogs, a basenji and a podengo. ‘Diva the basenji is 15 and Inky is two, she’s a Spanish rescue dog. I was outside the vet’s the other day and I ran into Catherine Tate with her dog.

‘I said, ‘Is that dog a griffon?’ and she said, ‘You’re only the second person ever to have identified my dog.’

‘I do love dogs, but I shouldn’t really have them because you have to give them your full focus. I tried taking Diva on tour with me once and she ate the dressing room in Woking. 

‘She’s so beautiful, like a little movie star, like a fox, red and white. She’s really more like a cat, she’s not a cuddly dog.

‘She doesn’t come near me unless I say so, which is good for me because I don’t really do needy. I’m not very good at fussing or being fussed over. 

‘I remember Diana Rigg said to me when we were in The Cherry Orchard many years ago, ‘Why don’t you get yourself a real dog?’ I said, ‘She is a real dog, I love her’, and she said, ‘Well, she doesn’t love you!’

The dogs have been another boon for her during lockdown. 

‘We’ve been going for long walks, which has been amazing. If you look up in London you see amazing things all the time, it’s so fantastically beautiful. 

‘I also took up painting and somehow I grew a monster courgette. Suddenly I was painting tables, spraying furniture and moving it around. I was busy. 

‘I don’t usually watch a lot of television, but I’ve watched all of the French comedy Call My Agent on Netflix and the documentary My Octopus Teacher was great.’

She was captivated by Strictly too, and buoyed by the fact that the winner was of a certain age.

‘I thought one of the pretty ones would win because they always do, so there’s something in the fact that Bill Bailey won. 

‘He was elegant and graceful and screamingly funny. It’s a great mark of where we’re at as a nation that we wanted someone who’s slightly over the hill to win.’

Would she ever like to have done Strictly herself? ‘I’ve never done it because I’ve never been great with criticism,’ she says. 

‘I don’t want to be pushed towards emotion. It’s too easy. If I was standing there and I’d done my best and… well, I don’t want people to see me getting upset.’

Meanwhile, it’s back to the Hugh Jackman-inspired jigsaws. ‘I love Hugh Jackman. I worked with him for a year on Oklahoma! at the National and I didn’t find anything to complain about, and I can find the flaw in a Persian carpet before it’s been spun.

‘I went to see his one-man show in Manchester in 2019 and I got tickets for some of the Coronation Street people. I went early to have a chat with him – he lets in people who are either big fans or disabled and he meets them before the show and signs things. 

‘Then he has a little circle where we went and he introduced me. I’d gone out beforehand around Manchester, bought a bottle of wine and passed it around to the cast. It really was fabulous, he’s a fabulous showman. 

‘Halfway through the show he introduced me to thousands of people, I had to stand up and my face was red.

‘At the end the guy who plays Craig the policeman in Coronation Street said, ‘Thanks very much for getting us tickets, but did you mean to have that in your hair?’ 

‘I then saw that I’d been walking around with a Velcro curler in all night. The whole time I was turning and accepting compliments with a Velcro roller in!’ 

Rose is available now on Sky On Demand/Now TV.


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