I'll Sleep When I'm Dead

National Film Theatre

The Archive Presents: Sylvia Syms

April 2004

'A hard-working actress, not a star,' is how Sylvia Syms describes herself, and hard-working she certainly has been. Winning a Shakespearean Scholarship to RADA, she graduated with a prestigious prize. Performing in repertory, she made her London stage debut in 'The Apple Cart' with Noël Coward. A minor television role in a 1955 series called Terminus resulted in the lead role in the BBC production The Romantic Young Lady. Her assured performance in that play led to a seven-year contract with Associated British and some defining British film roles - most notably in Ice Cold in Alex and Woman in a Dressing Gown. She also appeared in some of the most groundbreaking films of the 60s: dealing with racism in Flame in the Streets and homosexuality in Victim - playing the compassionate role, turned down by many other actresses, of a woman married to a gay man - as well as touching on the subject of lesbianism in The World Ten Times Over. All the while she continued to work on stage and in TV (appearing in The Saint, numerous single plays and dramas and the sitcom My Good Woman). There were some memorable cameo appearances in the 80s, and she has moved effortlessly into the role of character actress, as she demonstrates wonderfully in Mike Hodges’ new film I'll Sleep When I'm Dead. She also continues her stage career (acting and directing) and presents poetry readings. Actually, then - protestations aside - a hard-working star.

Simon Baker

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