HATE COUTURE
WARDER SIGHT!  IT'S VERA DRESSED UP

photo of Fiona SpenceAussie soap star Fiona Spence is a closet glamour puss, purring to come out.  But to millions of TV viewers she's vicious-tempered Vera Bennett of Prisoner: Cell Block H, or Home and Away's resident busy-body Celia Stewart.

Neither role gives her any scope to shine as a clothes horse.

As the spinsterish warder of Wentworth Detention Centre or the time-warped Summer Bay gossip she shows about as much fashion sense as Dame Edna Everage without the sequins.

"I have to dress down for my parts," she sighs.  "I'd LOVE to play somebody more in control of her life, more sophisticated - with a better dress sense and more shoulder padding."

Eat your haute couture heart out,Fiona.

For the next few months she's going to be serving time in her screws' uniform during a stage tour of Britain with Cell Block H that starts tomorrow.

For 42-year-old Fiona it will be both a homecoming - she was born in Kent to an Irish mother and Australian father - and a stage debut here.

Fiona's fans would hardly recognize her in her civvies, without the scraped back hair-do, face set in a concrete scowl, flat black shoes and grey stockings.

Out of uniform she cuts a colourful figure.

Her hair is soft and shiny.  She wears heavy gold jewellery, glittering earrings.  She sports scarlet polka dot trousers and baggy, bright white shirt; or big and bold colour prints.
photo of Vera
Clothes are very important to me, especially as Celia and Vera never get a chance to look glamorous," says Fiona.

"Vera gets strength from her uniform.  When she gets into civilian clothes she is socially inept.

"And poor Celia wears ultra conservative clothes, matronly and dowdy."

The only aspect the stylish Miss Spence shares with her Celia character is that neither has married.

"I was engaged a couple of times - when I was 22 and 32 - but made a decision it wasn't quite right for me," says Fiona.

Home for Fiona is a sun-filled Victorian weatherboard house in Melbourne - a sharp contrast to the gloomy basement flat she occupied when she lived in London, in her 20s.

It was then, after seeing some stunning West End plays that Fiona was bitten by the acting bug - and has never looked back.  Which has been a gain for her TV fans but a loss for Fortnum and Mason - the posh people's Piccadilly emporium where she worked in the casuals department before starting a drama course.

"We don't sell clothes - we dress ladies," the store once stuffily told her.

Now she likes nothing more than to burst out of the stuffy mode of Vera and Celia - and into off-duty fashion a la Fiona.

[Taken from the Daily Mirror - March(?) 1990 ]
 

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