Monday 31 August 2020


There are few actresses that deserve the title of “The Queen of the West End” more than Gay Soper. With an incredible career that has spanned more than fifty-five years, including a definitive performance as Madame Thenardier in Les Misérables, Gay is a welcome fixture of London’s theatre scene. A member of the original London production of Godspell, and the iconic voice of BBC Television’s The Flumps, I thought it was time to find out her scented secrets during “Stephan's Six.”

What is the first smell that you can remember?
One of my early childhood memories is the smell of the one cigar my father used to smoke each Christmas, and the smell of the sandalwood box his cheroots came in. These, combined with logs on the fire and all the smells of Christmas, made me feel warm and safe.

What perfumes did your parents wear?
I didn't think that either wore any scents but my brother, whose memory is better than mine, thinks that Mum occasionally wore Yardley's English Lavender and that our father used Aqua Velva Aftershave. I did buy my mother April Violets once. At the time I thought it smelled gorgeous but, after a year or so of seeing it sitting on her dressing table seemingly untouched, I realised it was sweet and sickly. I actually don’t believe she ever wore it. My brother also remembers one of our Grannies wearing 4711 Eau de Cologne. I loved Granny’s smell, but never realised it was a perfume!

What was the perfume of your twenties?
On the press night of Godspell in November 1971 at The Roundhouse in North London, all five girls in the cast (Julie Covington, Marti Webb, Jacquie-Ann Carr, Verity Ann Meldrum, and me) were each given a bottle of Weil de Weil. I utterly adored it and wore it for years. I used to put some on whenever I went out - and we went out a lot! What a decade...

What was your biggest perfume mistake?
My biggest perfume mistake was buying a bottle of Poison by Dior. At first I thought it was a rather exotic and sensual fragrance, but then I realised that it was in fact heavy, sweet, and incredibly overpowering. I have hardly ever touched perfume since!!

You can only choose one scent?
Can I be naughty and choose two? The first would have to be the smell of my cups of coffee first thing in the morning. A glorious aroma, I absolutely love Monsooned Malabar coffee which is spicy and mellow. My other favourite smell is Chandos Beauty roses. I have about eight of these plants in my garden and I love sinking my nose into their petals and almost swooning with the scent. The smell is utterly magical!

What perfume should I try?
I wish that I had a perfume that I loved, so perhaps you could suggest one for me instead? If I could find a perfume I liked, I think it would need to be woody, and slightly musky, but it would also have to be very delicate and subtle! There is nothing I hate more than the overpowering smell of perfume on a body. [I asked Brooke Beldon to suggest a fragrance for Gay Soper and she recommended Lumière Blanche from Olfactive Studio. Created by Didonie Lancesseur, it’s described as “a whirlwind of light and freshness followed by milky mildness and a distinct, warm, and sensual end note.”]

Gay Soper will be appearing in Die Schöne Magelone on December 5th as part of The London Song Festival. For more information you can visit or also Gay's own website at

[Photograph of Gay Soper © Walter van Dyk]

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