Born: April 17, 1937;

Died: October 16, 2021.

JANET Michael, who has died aged 84, was an actress who had a strong connection with the theatre and television in Scotland. She was principally associated with the Perth Theatre but was seen at many seasons at the Pitlochry Festival and at the Edinburgh Festival. She is fondly remembered for her characterisation of the colourful Maisie Forbes, the tea-leaf-reading psychic, in STV’s Take The High Road.

One colleague recalled: “Janet could do anything, from Shakespeare to musicals, from panto to Pinter.”

Michael was a legend at the Perth Theatre and Pitlochry. At the former she held the record for the most consecutive seasons (1972-2004). Her last appearance there was in Aladdin in 2004, playing The Jeanie of the Lamp. She was seen in at the Pitlochry Festival for nine seasons from 1976 and was frequently outstanding as Dolly in Tony Roper’s The Steamie.

Janet Michael was born in Glasgow and grew up in Hyndland, in the city’s west end. She had a youthful passion for the theatre and after the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama she joined the Glasgow Citizens.

She was in the acclaimed production Teresa of Avila by Hugh Ross Williams (the cast also included Dame Sybil Thorndike and Lewis Casson) and the Citz’s world premiere of John Arden’s Armstrong’s Last Goodbye (1964) with a host of Scottish actors including Hannah Gordon, Iain Cuthbertson and Leonard Maguire.

Michael approached Sir Laurence Olivier when she was a final-year student at the RSAMD for work in his film of Macbeth when he was on tour in Glasgow. Olivier said the film had been cancelled but offered her an audition in London.

At the Old Vic audition her Scottish accent was not widely appreciated by some until Olivier’s voice emerged from the back of the stalls: “She’s the one I want.”

For the 1968 season Michael appeared with the National Theatre, notably as the nanny in Frank Dunlop’s production of Somerset Maugham’s Home and Beauty, with Olivier in the leading role.

But it is the Perth Repertory Theatre with which Michael will be most fondly associated. She lived in the Fair City for fifty years and was in many of the productions directed by Joan Knight, who ran the company for over three decades (The Herald once described her “the First Lady of Scottish Theatre”). The two formed a wonderful partnership and friendship.

Michael first appeared in Perth in Dracula in 1972 and her last appearance (in a play) was in 2002 with a bravura rendering of Alan Bennett’s monologue, A Cream Cracker Under the Settee.

Her reviews in The Herald recognised her status in the company. In 1989 a memorable production of A Man For All Seasons, to celebrate Knight’s 20th season in Perth, Michael played Thomas Cromwell’s wife, Alice: “a pleasingly commonsensical performance by Janet Michael when she demands to know why he is behaving in such a pig-headed, self-sacrificial manner.”

Similarly, in David Purves's adaptation of two Scots folk tales in 1996, the Herald said: “Janet Michael's lusty queen [...] stalks her servant boy with lascivious intent.​​​”

In 2007 Michael confessed that she had twice been diagnosed as dead. In 1972, while in Leicester for a role in Oscar Wilde's An Ideal Husband, she was overcome by gas fumes in her digs and was moved to the mortuary. Her heart had stopped. She made a full recovery.

In 2005 she was in a bingo hall, doing research for another play, when she collapsed: a blood clot had rushed to her heart, which stopped. "It turned out that half of the local cardiac unit were in the bingo hall that night and they managed to resuscitate me", she recalled. She had to spend six weeks in hospital.

At the Edinburgh Festival she was in Thrie Estates in 1973 (directed by Bill Bryden), while her first Festival visit was in 1962, with the Gateway Company in Young Auchinleck. She made an outstanding contribution to Rikki Fulton’s adaptation of Moliere’s Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme: A Wee Touch of Class, which was the hit of the 1985 Festival, toured Scotland and returned to the Festival the following year. Joan Knight’s direction, Fulton’s exuberant central performance and Michael’s spritely Clementina were a joy.

Michael also appeared with Fulton in a memorable (and hilarious) production of Peter Pan in 1985. She was a mermaid in a vibrant blond wig and a flapping tail.

For two years Michael was critically ill with a broken back but in 2018 she returned to the stage for In Her Own Words at Birnam Arts and, suitably, at the Joan Knight Studio in Perth.

Apart from The High Road Michael was seen in several other STV dramas including Taggart and Murder Most English.