She has worked with everyone from Timothy Spall and Imelda Staunton to Meera Syal and Paul Merton.

But Josie Lawrence’s choice of desert island companion would be her idol, acclaimed actress Glenda Jackson.

“She is a hero of mine. I even have a cat named Glenda,” said the 57-year-old who found fame appearing on nine series of Whose Line is it Anyway? and more recently has appeared on our screens in EastEnders and Humans.

She first starred with Spall in the mid-1990s in ITV sitcom Outside Edge and reunited with him last year for upcoming film Finding Your Feet which also stars Celia Imrie and Joanna Lumley.

Josie said: “I loved working with Tim, he is a great leading man and fantastic but I don’t think his wife would like it if I took him to a desert island.

”So I’d make Glenda come with me as I have never worked with her.”

She has also honoured the former Labour politician with the name of her fledging improv group – The Glenda J Collective – who will be performing a rare gig at Wilton’s Music Hall as part of the The London Jam 2017 (January 16-22). It culminates in The 10th Annual London 50-Hour Improvathon.

“Growing up I just thought Glenda was so brave when she acted. She didn’t mind if she looked absolutely s***. She just went for it and could do everything – tragedy, comedy – and I just adored her.”

She finally got to meet her hero last year when she went to see Glenda’s long-awaited return to the stage in King Lear at the Old Vic.

“It’s the first time in my life I have been starstruck but I didn’t let that show. She thought it was funny when I told her my cat’s name.”

Timothy Spall and Josie Lawrence in Outside Edge

Raised in the West Midlands, Josie moved to the East End in the 1970s to try to emulate her hero and had her first professional role as a boy named Bert at the Half Moon Theatre in Stepney Green.

Her first steps into improv were when she joined the Comedy Store Players in 1985. It is now in its 32nd year and she is still going strong, performing every Wednesday and Sunday at The Comedy Store in Soho.

“I have never done stand-up comedy,” she said. “It was as a singer that I was introduced to the circuit.

“And it was how I met Jim Sweeney and the Players and they told me they needed more women so I joined.

“We have been together so long now we are like family. It’s meant that from 1985 I have never had a week when I’ve not been performing. It’s been amazing.”

It is also how she met fellow performers Pippa Evans, Ruth Bratt and Cariad Lloyd and decided to form an all-female improv group in early 2016.

Josie said: “Over the years in Whose Line Is It Anyway? I have tended to be the token woman so its nice now that it is me and my pals who happen to be ladies.

“They are the top three women in improv and we are all a bit silly and mad, which I love.”

They will be performing their fifth gig at Wilton’s on Tuesday, January 17.

“We are getting together about an hour before we do it,” said Josie. “The girls are always so busy travelling around and Cariad has just had a baby.

“There’s no prep for what we do, it’s all very laid back. We come on and ask for a word and let things happen. There’s a lot of music involved as we’re all singers.”

“There is no hard part of improv,” she added. “It is all enjoyable as I’m working with people I genuinely love.”

OTHER DATES

Monday January 16

7.30pm

Austentatious

An improvised comedy play in the style of Jane Austen, based on a title suggested by the audience and performed in full Regency costume, with live musical accompaniment,

Monday January 16

9.15pm

Lights! Camera! Improvise! The Improvised Movie Live On Stage

See a Hollywood film brought to life on stage by Mischief Theatre, the Olivier-Award winning team behind West End comedies The Play That Goes Wrong, Peter Pan Goes Wrong and A Comedy About A Bank Robbery

Tuesday January 17

7.30pm

The Glenda J Collective

Songs and sketches created on the spot from Josie Lawrence (Whose Line Is It Anyway? Comedy Store Players), Pippa Evans (Showstopper, Sunday Assembly), Ruth Bratt (Showstopper, People Just Do Nothing) and Cariad Lloyd (QI, Peep Show).

Lord of Thrones

Tuesday January 17

9.15pm

Almost Ibsen

Det Andre Teatret from Oslo (the town where Ibsen spent most of his working life) will conjure up new, one act plays based on the writings of Ibsen, his characters, themes and narrative style, combining theatre and improv.

Wednesday January 18

6pm Semi-final. The Ken Campbell Caper Competition

7.30pm Semi-final. The Ken Campbell Caper Competition

9.15pm Grand final. The Ken Campbell Caper Competition

Six teams compete to be crowned the most entertaining group in spontaneous performance. The audience decides.

Thursday January 19

7.30pm

The Sufferettes

Toronto duo Becky Johnson and Kayla Lorette bring their unique mix of comedy and clowning to London. Winners of the Canadian Comedy Award for Best Improv Troupe 2014 and 2015.

Thursday, January 19

9.15pm

The Dungeons & Dragons Show

Spontaneous swords and sorcery in the UK premiere of Canadian comedian and writer Mark Meer’s geeky extravaganza.

Friday, January 20, 7pm to Sunday, January 22, 9pm

Lord of Thrones: The 10th Annual London 50-Hour Improvathon

Tolkien meets George RR Martin in this improvised comedy soap opera in 25 episodes, running continuously and overnight across an entire weekend. The annual marathon stars performers from the UK and overseas, with many going without sleep for 50 hours. There will be live music throughout and an all-night bar and guests can drop in for one episode, a few, or stay for the whole thing.

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