The Daily Telegraph - The Telegraph Magazine

Flashback

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Chris Larkin’s childhood memories of his mother,

Dame Maggie Smith

GROWING UP AS the child of two very wellknown actors must be dreadful for the children of today’s stars. But for my younger brother Toby and me, it never seemed to faze us. In fact, I can’t think it affected us much at all, though our mother and father probably kept slightly strange hours compared to our friends’ parents, and when we were taken to see them at work (which happened every now and again), it would be to watch Mum swinging around on a rope as Peter Pan, not to an office. I remember going to see her in the title role at the London Coliseum in 1973, which I was pretty impressed by. That was the first time I went: ‘Oh wow. That’s my mum. Flying!’

When we were children, I suppose we only spent time together as a family on a Sunday, often in the room you see in this picture, which is in the house where my mother still lives while in London. During the week, we would get home from school and they would be out at work, then when we woke up in the morning they would still be in bed, having done a show the night before. And yet I have very clear memories of my parents from childhood, I think maybe because the time we did spend with them was so precious. I seem to remember watching one of the missions to the moon together in this room.

I think I was about three in this picture, so it would have been 1970. This was the grown-up sitting room upstairs – Toby and I played downstairs. There are two years between us, and we got on pretty well together, although I do remember wanting to throttle him for a period when he was about three. He used to play Rubber Ducky, sung by Ernie from Sesame Street, over and over on his little old-fashioned record player. I can remember thinking, ‘I am going to break that record over his head,’ and discussing how we would do it with a cousin, who was a bit older. But we thought better of it.

I showed my children this picture the other day and they squealed, ‘That’s Granny Mog’s living room!’ My daughter recognised the lamp, which is now on her own bedside table. It has little daisies on it and as her name is Daisy, Mum said she ought to have it. Then they asked who the man in the picture was, because sadly they never met my father, Robert Stephens, who died in 1995.

My kids – Daisy, 11, and Nat, nine – are very funny about their famous granny. They would never dream of telling anyone at school they are related to Professor Mcgonagall. We have always said you don’t want to be seen to be showing off, so they don’t tell their friends. It’s funny, most people didn’t know who she was until 10 years ago really. Mum has always been very quiet when it comes to publicity, never actively seeking it out. It’s only since Harry Potter and Downton Abbey that things have changed.

Toby and I are very different actors, and when we went into the business Mum and Robert left us to it, but they certainly taught us a work ethic. We were always adamant we would forge our own paths, and I think we’ve been able to largely. We’ve certainly tried our very best to do it our own way. I used to be fascistic about that in my 20s. These days, I think the cat is probably out of thebag.— Interview by Eleanor Steafel Chris Larkin is in Again at Trafalgar Studios until 3 March. Visit atgtickets.com for tickets

We saw Mum as Peter Pan. I went: ‘Oh wow. That’s my mum. Flying!’

 ??  ?? Larkin with his parents, Dame Maggie Smith and the late Sir Robert Stephens, in 1970
Larkin with his parents, Dame Maggie Smith and the late Sir Robert Stephens, in 1970

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