ROBERTA Taylor's roles in Eastenders and The Bill may have made her one of the most famous faces on British TV.

But the Londoner admits her acting success is down to the training she received back in the seventies at the Citizens' Theatre in Glasgow.

"When I left drama school I came to the Citz to get my Equity Card," she recalls over coffee at the theatre, where she's set to star in Hamlet as Gertrude.

"In those days you couldn't work in television without having done 40 weeks of theatre.

"And I was so lucky to come here, being so aware of the productions and who worked here in the past.

"And having worked for 38 years in the business I would say my strongest work was done here."

The actress had grown up watching forties films and with a dream of acting one day.

"I wanted to play the gangster's moll and wear bright nail polish," she recalls grinning.

"But of course, when you're from a working class family, that's never likely to happen."

Roberta went along to evening classes to study acting after her son was born, after her mother encouraged her to "get out of the house for a break".

She loved it and applied to drama college, despite being entirely impoverished.

When she left drama college and landed the Citz work, she brought her son to Glasgow during the school holidays.

Now, back at the theatre in which her career began, she rhapsodises about the experience.

"I loved it here," she recalls. "You were pushed to look at the story telling in a slightly different way, and with a bit of fun.

"And the theatre has the equality ethos. It still doesn't matter here if you are an actor, a cleaner or a stage hand. Everyone is important at the Citz."

Taylor wasn't trepidatious about coming to Glasgow.

"When I told the students in my year at drama school what I'd be earning in Glasgow - it was £65, which was quite good at the time. They said 'Yes, that's danger money!'

"But it wasn't dangerous. It was great fun.

"As a Londoner, I felt Glasgow, like London, had a great energy.

"Edinburgh, for some reason, doesn't have the same level."

The Citz in the sixties and seventies was famous for its little Bohemian world.

"Yes, but we won't go there," she says laughing.

TAYLOR worked with the likes of Rupert Everett and Gary Oldman in Proust's A Waste of Time.

"Yes, both were my servants," she says of the future stars.

"What I liked about the Citz roles was they broke the moulds.

"Most theatres employed pretty little feminine women but up here we all had to be the Bette Davis of our time, the broads, and that's not what many people wanted in women."

Taylor reveals that for a time, in the Eighties and Nineties, theatre companies in England weren't keen on Citz-trained actors.

"I'm not sure why it was," she says. "Perhaps it's because there was a European feel about the theatre, with actors from all over appearing here.

"But I do know so many other British actors were jealous of the Citz experience.

"Helen Mirren once told me she would have loved to come to the Citz. But the Citz, I learned later, never thought she would have come."

Television success - she has enjoyed lengthy stints in the likes of the Bill - hasn't come about as a result of her huge theatre experience and plaudits.

"TV producers only come into theatre when they are looking for young, fresh faces," she says.

"Television feeds on itself and you can see that in the casting. But no matter how good the actors are, television eats them up.

"I knew that before going into EastEnders, which is why I only planned to stay for two years.

"It was never about the money. I've just always been happy to pay the gas bill."

She adds: "Before going into EastEnders, people knew my name in the business but not my face. After going in, they know your face. But only your character's name."

Now, the lady with the awesome talent is starring alongside her husband Peter Guinness, playing Claudius to her Gertrude in this contemporary take on Shakespeare's awesome tale.

At least they won't have a problem creating passion on stage.

"You think?" she says with a dry, throaty laugh.

l Hamlet, The Citizens Theatre stars Brian Ferguson in the lead, September 19 to October 11.