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’ The Catholic Church told you what to think and what to feel.” Shaw was also “frightened” of her (half-English) father. Knowledge, history and rugby were the three big themes in our house. His big complaint was that I was either out or sick.My mother was a party girl, so they were very different people. You were meant to study in very cold rooms and not go out.“Oh, I’m just enjoying everything much more,” she says, back in hearty mode. My mum visits him every day” — she smiles — “apart from her days off in France.” She notes my stricken expression. “Like a lot of Irish households we read a lot of Irish history.

I am very interested in playing a psychologist next, to be the recipient of someone else’s stories rather than the teller.” What about Lady Macbeth: she hasn’t done her yet? “Alan Rickman asked me recently, ‘Whatever happened to us doing the Macbeths? She has been friends with Warner ever since they got off to a bad start when Warner directed her in a play at the Edinburgh Festival in 1981.

“When it was suggested we work together eight years later we both thought the other wouldn’t really want to.

The acclaimed actress is just finishing her stint as we thought about me lying down in a stairwell, the audience looking down.

Now, post 9/11, a crowd means something else, buildings have changed, Eliot’s image of postwar London has changed.” She shivers. ‘Your shadow at morning striding behind you / Or your shadow at the evening rising to meet you.

This was the Seventies and we were desperate to get out dancing to Abba.

So I went out and got on with it.” Shaw’s parents were dead set against her becoming an actor, but her father agreed that if she studied at university first (she did philosophy at Cork) he would pay for what- ever she chose to do next — which meant Rada. I was just having my debut at the RSC, playing Celia in . I go back on Christmas Day every year to his grave and every year I have the same conversation with my older brother; we both worry that the heather planted on his grave won’t grow.Up to that point acting had been a facility, after it, it became a reality. Honestly, I get more recognised for .” Shaw is single, “very happily” (this after newspaper reports linking her with the actress Saffron Burrows; she won’t confirm or deny this).With a part like that you’re communicating the private sorrows of an audi- ence. She’s not dating or particularly relationship-focused and talks about living in a “community of people” in Primrose Hill and feeling “safe and content”./ I will show you fear in a handful of dust.’ That ‘shadow of morning striding behind you’ was behind me when I first performed this, at 35.Now ‘the shadow at evening’ is much bigger.” Meaning she has a sense of her own mortality? Ever since I turned 50 last year.” That sounds scary. I enjoy making films, but my heart is in the stage. There’s no second take.” Last year’s Shaw’s father had a stroke. The day before he had a stroke he was up a ladder and I don’t think he’ll be going up ladders again. My brother Peter played violin.” It sounds idyllic, especially as the family home was grand, but it wasn’t.“The kind of actress I wanted to be meant playing huge theatrical parts requiring huge amounts of travel and emotional energy. I can see it in my face.” To really unwind she loves climbing, would love to do Kilimanjaro.

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