Obituary: Myra Frances, actress

The actress Myra Frances, who has died at 78, was in the 1960s a shining light of the permanent company at the Sheffield Playhouse in Townhead Street, which was to become The Crucible.

Myra Frances with fellow Sheffield Playhouse members Christopher Wilkinson (left) and Barrie Smith, in June 1968

The actress Myra Frances, who has died at 78, was in the 1960s a shining light of the permanent company at the Sheffield Playhouse in Townhead Street, which was to become The Crucible.

But it was for a later role that she achieved a degree of brief notoriety, participating with Alison Steadman in the first lesbian kiss to be shown on British TV.

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It took place in a half-hour 1972 BBC2 barrack-room play called Girl, written by the Yorkshire playwright, James Robson. The content was considered so inflammatory that the channel controller felt compelled to transmit a warning before it began, to viewers of a sensitive disposition. It would be nearly 20 years before Anna Friel broke the taboo once more, on Channel Four’s Brookside.

Myra Frances was from a showbusiness family – her father, Harry Piddock, was a music-hall performer and her mother, Jane Bayley, an entertainer. Born in Hastings, East Sussex, she had moved to London by 15 and was working as a secretary in the Duke of Edinburgh Award office while training for the stage by night, at the Actors’ Workshop.

She was recruited for the Sheffield Playhouse company by its artistic director, Colin George, who had previously directed her in an open-air production at Ludlow Castle in Shropshire.

Once installed in the city, she appeared in an early production of Alan Cullen’s fondly-remembered The Stirrings in Sheffield on Saturday Night, and in Ring O’ Roses, Cullen’s musical based on the 17th century bubonic plague outbreak in the Peak District village of Eyam.

The Playhouse closed in 1969 and Ms Frances moved into television, scoring an early success in The Organization, Philip Mackie’s satire about company politics and mores, made by Yorkshire Television but inspired by his experiences during the 1960s at Granada.

The series starred Donald Sinden as the head of the public relations department at the fictitious corporation and Peter Egan as his naive new recruit. The chemistry between Egan and Ms Frances was instant, and they married in 1976.

She went on to appear with Gerald Harper in Hadleigh, another Yorkshire classic of its time, and as the suffragette Norah Smyth in Shoulder to Shoulder in 1974.

She could also be seen in the serials Crown Court, Survivors and Doctor, but after turning her attention to directing at the Mill Theatre in Sonning, Berkshire, she became heavily involved in animal welfare charities and campaigns. At one time, she and Egan took in seven rescue dogs.

He survives her, along with Rebecca, her daughter from her first marriage to the actor Robert Taylor.