boyfriend. played by Ewen Bremner. More recently. her Lady Macbeth was more schemie than scheming, in a modern-day TV version of the Scottish play. set on a Birmingham housing estate. That meant another dead baby, though no rubber dolls this time.
Now Vidler takes the title role in The Woman In White. a BBC costume drama in which she plays another sexually abused girl who has been locked up in an asylum since the age of thirteen. As she says: ‘Another cheery role for Susan.’ This time her character’s preferred method of sedation is laudanum. which never really caught on as a street drug in Edinburgh.
The TV film is based on a novel by Victorian crime writer Wilkie Collins. whose book. The Moonstone. was turned into a two- parter for Christmas telly last year. Producer Gareth Neame is at pains to deny this is just another bonncts-and-bodices drama. ‘It will have the feel of a contemporary thriller which happens to be set in the l9th century,‘ he says. ‘It has a fantastic plot and some of the richest characters in Victorian literature.’
The Woman In White is the story of a young woman called Marian (Justine Waddell). who marries a man with a dark past she is unaware of. Her half-sister Laura (Tara Fitzgerald) suspects him to be a bounder. but because he is played by upper-crust English actor James Wilby. no one believes her until a ghostly figure dressed in white makes an appearance.
Before shooting her next scene. Susan Vidler is actually the woman in rather striking emerald green leggings with a crop top that shows a fashionable hint of midriff. though the most noticeable thing about her is bum- length hair and piercing blue eyes. She is. as Waynetta Slob would say. smoking a fag, which is an occupational hazard for actors hanging around on film sets. The location is Thame Park which. confusingly. is a stately home near Oxford. The house has already been pressed into service in The Tenant Of Wilclfell Hall. which also starred Tara Fitzgerald. and The Madness Of K ing George.
At this point. a familiar figure on a mountain bike wheels over to say hello. It is none other than Andrew Lincoln. aka Egg from BBCZ‘s ultra-hip soap. This Life. He looks like Egg. talks like Egg and.judging from this brief encounter. is certainly a good egg. A slightly extended pair of sideburns are the 'only hint that. later in the day. he will be playing a Victorian drawing master who teaches Miss Laura and Miss Marian the gentle art of charcoal sketching.
Does he get to stride around in boots and riding britches in the manner of Mr Darcy? ‘No. I look more like a hessian sack tied in the middle.‘ he says. We discreetly pump him for gossip from the set of This Life. but it seems that. unlike her character Anna. Glaswegian Daniela Nardini does not in fact spend her time off-screen trying to wrap her thighs round the neck of any passing man. Frustratingly. they are all good chums off-
While all this malarky is going on, Tara Fitzgeraici is actually doing some were. la this scene she has to the creepy Count Fesce. played with twinkiy-«eyerﬁ menace by Simon Caiiow, piss off out of her hie.
screen. and Lincoln and Jack Davenport (Miles) are planning a boating holiday in Greece with some mates. ‘None of us have sailed before. so we are probably all going to die.’ he jokes.
While all this malarky is going on. Tara Fitzgerald is actually doing some work. In this scene she has to tell the creepy (‘ount Fosco. played with twinkly—eyed menace by Simon (‘allow. to piss off out of her life. But. being a well brought tip Victorian lady. this takes rather more words mannered politeness. Eventually he tips his top hat to her and bids her good morrow. but each time something is not quite right. and they have to do the scene all over again. A coach-and-pair is parked somewhere in the middle distance. and while everyone on set is champing at the bit to move on. the horses are doing it literally.
Eventually the shot is completed. and Tara Fitzgerald gamer consents to be interviewed. while refuelling with a can of Diet (‘okc and a fag bummed off one of the crew. This accounts for the throaty and deeply sexy laugh which she employs to devastating effect. Without getting too adolescent about the whole thing. and in present company its not that easy. this is the actress who made a big impression on the 'l‘V-viewing public by disrobing frequently in the Channel 4 series The ('ainoini/e Lawn, and then again in the Australian babe-fest Sirens.
In a past interview she said there was no line she woulan cross. Really? ‘Well. there could be. There was a film I was going to do and then didn‘t in the end. and it got sort of twisted round so the reason I wasn‘t doing it was because it was about rape and I took this very hiin stand. but that‘s just not true. There are some things morally I might feel uncomfortable about doing because I think film is a big influcncc.’
and a lot of
THE WOMAN IN WHITE
Tara Fitzgerald: deeply sexy laugh
lior a Catholic girl. she seems remarkably guilt—free about the whole business. ‘l‘m an actress!‘ she says. ‘You're given a wonderful licence to do something as pretend. and that brings its own liberation. You enjoy it for what it is.‘ What she doesn‘t find liberating about her current role. however. are the Victorian foundation garments. ‘(‘orscts arc tiring. I promise you.’ she laughs.
As we finish talking. I could swear I saw a hessian sack tied in the middle saunter past. Waiting for the next scene is a woman in white — well. off-white actually. but I guess they didn‘t have Persil in those days. Whatever the producer says. it‘s a costume drama all right.
The Woman In White is due to be screened at Christmas on BBC1.
Susan Vidler: has made a career of playing screwed-up characters
ll 24 Jul l‘l‘l/THEUST 15