When you turn 80, the NHS offers a free health check-up, including a memory test. Having reached the qualifying age earlier this year, Sheila Hancock went along for hers. "At the beginning," she recalls, "they gave me some things to look at, and then came back later to see how much I could remember. And they kept saying, 'Don't worry. You're not expected to remember all of it.' But actually, as it turned out, I could."
Hancock suggested to the impressed medics that the discipline of learning lines may actually protect actors from memory loss. "They were interested in that – and there's a possibility now that I may take part in a clinical trial."
Hancock features in one of two big openings in London's West End this week which reinforce the notion that, both on screen and on stage, performers have traditionally worked for as long as their health lasts and the opportunities still exist.