THERE can't be many 85-year-old grandmothers who can still do the splits.

But then there aren't many people who have been friends with Audrey Hepburn, or supported Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis.

Those are just a few of the claims to fame that octogenarian dancer Diana Payne-Myers can count during her time treading the boards of Britain's theatres.

"Everybody has an amazing life," says Diana. "Most people manage to contain it better than I have."

Diana's early showbiz biography reads like a who's who of the entertainment industry – she trained in classical ballet in London at the same time as a young Audrey Hepburn and went on to appear on stages all over Britain in a variety of ballet, contemporary dance and popular roles in panto and seaside summer seasons.

And she moved in starry circles as her late writer husband, Peter Myers, wrote three Cliff Richard films, including Summer Holiday, The Young Ones and Swingers' Paradise.

But it was only when her son, Japheth, became a professional dancer that she returned to regular ballet classes in her 60s.

She met former Royal Ballet dancer and celebrated choreographer Matthew Hawkins and made the decision to get involved in the work he was putting on at the time.

"I used to be called Pussy," said Diana, who was given the nickname by her mother.

"A famous dancer came to see a show and he said 'What are you using Pussy as an administrator for? She's a dancer and a performer.'

"I'm usually known as Japheth's mum by all that generation of dancers."

She renewed her Equity membership and hasn't looked back since.

Indeed, she looks decades younger as she plays in the upper gallery of Tramway with toddlers two-year-old Otis and one-year-old Inigo Bazié, brothers she appears alongside in a dance production that's currently being toured around Scotland.

Diana plays the title role in A Conversation With Carmel, which is based on a grandmother's surprise 80th birthday party.

It is the brainchild of Barrowland Ballet's artistic director Natasha Gilmore, who also choreographed the National Theatre of Scotland's hit Glasgow Girls musical.

When the show last toured in the autumn of 2011, Natasha was heavily pregnant with youngest son Inigo.

The 39-year-old, who based the production on conversations with her own grandmother, said: "Diana is absolutely amazing.

"When we were coming back, she said she's older now and we might have to change things, but we got back into the studio and she just did everything as usual, jumping into the splits and running around."

Diana's good friend Matthew Hawkins is also in the cast, as are 10-15 members of the local community drawn from the towns to which the production tours.

"I do a cartwheel in the show," says Diana, who, within minutes of sitting down to chat laments the smoking ban.

"And it seems to impress people when they think I'm doing the splits, but I'm cheating a little."

Although she was born and bred in Darlington in the north-east of England, Diana has strong ties with Glasgow.

It was the city where her Scottish parents met and married just after the First World War – her surgeon father completed his medical degree at Glasgow University and her mother studied at the Glasgow and West of Scotland College of Domestic Science.

When she's performing in Scotland, Diana lives with a cousin in Pollokshields, a stone's throw from Tramway.

She had originally planned to be a secretary after leaving boarding school.

"Nobody thought of being a dancer," she said. "I went to London to do another secretarial course. I didn't like being a secretary, even though it was a lovely architect's office. I wanted something else."

She was a latecomer at the age of 20 when she won a place at Ballet Rambert (now Rambert Dance Company), then based at the Mercury Theatre in Notting Hill Gate.

It was there that she met Audrey Hepburn, who had trained in ballet in Holland before coming under the wing of Marie Rambert.

"When I went for my first interview at the Mercury Theatre, there was this fantastic girl with fish-net tights," said Diana. "She was so beautiful and she'd already been picked up to go into the West End revues.

"I used to go and see her dancing in shows."

Diana regularly attended ballet class taught by Celia Franca at the Vic-Wells Ballet, which went on to become Saddler's Wells and then the Royal Ballet.

She picked up dance roles all over Britain including appearing on a bill with Frank Sinatra at Liverpool's Empire.

Her first time on stage in Glasgow was in a "sister act" warming up the audience for Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis at the Empire Theatre.

"We used to do a little dance, a little ballet skit," she said. "Jerry Lewis used to take us out to dinner after the show with his family. Dean Martin stayed in the dressing room with all the girls.

"Jerry Lewis was the sort of person you fall in love with because they're so brilliant and such a perfect clown performer."

Diana called time on the sister act and returned to London's West End where she found work in a series of musicals, including A Girl Called Jo, a musical version of Louisa M Alcott's novel Little Women, written by her future husband Peter.

They wed in 1959 and had a daughter, Saffron – now a director and mother to Diana's two grandsons – and son, Japheth, who is currently starring in Disney musical Tarzan in Hamburg.

Diana continued to teach and dance, performing in early work by Scottish Ballet founder Peter Darrell and productions with Sadler's Wells Opera, which became English National Opera.

Peter Myers died of diabetes in 1978 at the age of 55.

Since returning to the stage, Diana has moved into acting and performance art, with roles in An Inspector Calls at the Garrick Theatre and appearing at the arts festival of the Sydney Olympics in 2002 with DV8 physical theatre company.

For DV8's show Living Costs at London's Tate Modern in 2003, she sat naked in a gallery next to a sign that read "please touch".

She made her Edinburgh Festival Fringe debut in 2007 at 79, dancing a duet with Matthew Hawkins in Muscular Memory Lane.

The word retirement barely registers with the octogenarian, who says the only drawback to her enduring years is adjusting her eyesight to different stage lights.

"Apparently I've got osteoporosis, but lots of people are crippled by the time they're my age and they've had new hips or new knees," she said.

"Last time after working, when I was doing a lot of crawling about with Otis, my knee was bad. Next time, who knows?"

lA Conversation With Carmel is at Tramway on Wednesday, June 5 at 7.30pm, tickets £10 (£8).