On 19 May, City Connect celebrates the birthday of Victoria Wood CBE, the English comedienne, actress, singer-songwriter, screenwriter and director. Wood has written and starred in sketches, plays, films and sitcoms, and her live comedy act is interspersed with her own compositions, which she accompanies on piano. She is noted for her skills in observing culture, and in satirising social classes. Wood frequently works with long-term collaborators Julie Walters, Duncan Preston and Celia Imrie.
Victoria Wood started her career in 1974 by winning the ATV talent show New Faces. It wasn’t until the 1980s that she began to establish herself as a comedy star and became one of Britain’s most popular stand-up comedians starting with the award-winning television series Victoria Wood As Seen On TV. Wood began working at the BBC in 1984 and her sketch show Victoria Wood As Seen On TV went into production. Wood chose actors and actresses herself: her friend Julie Walters starred, as did Duncan Preston. Wood’s friend Celia Imrie was also cast, as well as Susie Blake and Patricia Routledge. As Seen On TV was notable for featuring classic sketches such as Acorn Antiques, a spoof of low-budget soap opera and rumoured to be named after an antiques shop in her birthplace. Acorn Antiques is remembered for characters such as “Mrs Overall” (played by Walters), the deliberately bad camera angles and wobbling sets, as well as Celia Imrie’s sarcastic tone as “Miss Babs”. Below is “Episode 1” of Acorn Antiques starring Walters, Imrie and Preston.
Between 1989 and 1999, Wood began to move away from the sketch show format and into more self-contained works, often with a more bittersweet flavour. The television film, Pat and Margaret (1994), starring Wood and Julie Walters as long-lost sisters with very different lifestyles, continued her return to stand-alone plays with a poignant undercurrent to the comedy. In 1998, she wrote her first sitcom, dinnerladies, which continued her now established milieu of mostly female, mostly middle-aged characters depicted vividly and amusingly, but with a counterpoint of sadder themes.
December 2000 saw the Christmas sketch show special Victoria Wood with All The Trimmings, starring her traditional troupe of actors and actresses as well as a string of special guest stars. Here’s her parody of Brief Encounter that was one of the sketches on the show.
Wood wrote her first musical, Acorn Antiques: The Musical!, which opened in 2005 at the Theatre Royal, Haymarket, London, for a limited period, directed by Trevor Nunn. It starred most of the original cast, with Sally Ann Triplett playing Miss Berta (played in the series by Wood). Wood played Julie Walters’ character Mrs. Overall for matinee performances.
Wood wrote the 2006 one-off ITV serious drama Housewife, 49, an adaptation of the real diaries of Nella Last, and played the eponymous role of an introverted middle-aged character who discovers new confidence and friendships in Lancashire during World War II. Housewife, 49 was critically praised, and Wood won BAFTAs for both her acting and writing for this drama — a rare double.
In 2007, Wood appeared in her own travel documentary show on BBC One called Victoria’s Empire, in which she travelled around the world in search of the history, cultural impact and customs which the British Empire placed on the parts of the world it ruled. The three programmes covered India, Hong Kong, Borneo, Ghana, Jamaica, Canada, New Zealand, Australia and Zambia, finishing at the Victoria Falls.
Wood returned to television comedy for a one-off Christmas comedy sketch-show special, her first in 9 years, titled Victoria Wood’s Mid Life Christmas, transmitted on BBC One on Christmas Eve 2009. The special, which reunited Wood with long-time collaborator Julie Walters, included a spoof of BBC period dramas Lark Rise to Candleford, Little Dorrit and Cranford entitled Lark Pies to Cranchesterford, a spoof documentary following Acorn Antiques star Bo Beaumont (Walters) titled Beyond The Marigolds and a reprise of Wood’s most famous song “The Ballad of Barry and Freda” (“Let’s Do It”).
Wood has received many awards in her long career. In 1997, she was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List. Earlier in 1994, she was made an honorary Doctor of Letters by the University of Sunderland. She was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 2008 Birthday Honours.
Wood has four BAFTA wins from fourteen nominations winning Best Light Entertainment Performance in 1986 for Victoria Wood As Seen On TV and in 1989 for An Audience With Victoria Wood. In 2007, Wood won Best Actress and Best Single Drama BAFTAs for Housewife 49. In December 2011, she received the British Comedy Awards award for “Best Female TV Comic” beating competition such as Sarah Millican.
Wood is a Quaker and a vegetarian, once remarking; “I’m all for killing animals and turning them into handbags. I just don’t want to have to eat them.” She lives in Highgate, North London.
Images reproduced from gaylondontravel.com
Videos reproduced from YouTube/NickLotay and YouTube/cloogle
Biography text reproduced from Wikipedia under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License
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