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Victoria_Wood

Victoria Wood

Victoria Wood CBE (born 19 May 1953 in Prestwich, Lancashire) is a BAFTA award winning English comedian, actor, singer and writer, educated at Bury Grammar Girls' School. Wood has written and starred in sketches, plays, films and sitcoms, and her live stand-up comedy act is interspersed with her own compositions, which she accompanies on piano.

Much of her humour is grounded in everyday life, and abounds with references to popular British media and even brand names of quintessentially British products. She is noted for her skills in observing culture, and in satirising social classes.

She started her career in 1974 by winning the ATV talent show New Faces. It wasn't until the 1980s though that she began to establish herself as a comedy star, with award-winning television series such as Victoria Wood As Seen On TV and becoming one of Britain's most popular stand-up comedians.

In 1999, she wrote and starred in the (again, award-winning) sitcom dinnerladies. In 2006, she won two BAFTA awards for her one-off drama for ITV1, Housewife, 49.

Wood frequently uses a string of associated actors in some of her output. These include Julie Walters, Duncan Preston and Celia Imrie.

Career

Early years

Wood began her showbusiness career as an undergraduate, appearing on the TV talent show New Faces while studying drama at the University of Birmingham. This led to her appearance in a sketch show featuring the winners of that series, The Summer Show. Her first big break was as a novelty act on the BBC's consumer affairs programme That's Life! in 1976. Wood had first met long-term collaborator Julie Walters in the early 1970s, when Wood applied for Manchester Polytechnic, and coincidentally met up once more when they appeared together in the same theatre revue, In At The Death, in 1978 (for which Wood wrote a brief sketch). Its success led to the commissioning of Wood's first play, Talent (also 1978), starring Hazel Clyne (in a role which had been written for Walters), and which won Wood an award for Most Promising New Writer. Peter Eckersley, the then-head of drama at Granada Television, saw Talent and immediately invited Wood to create a television adaptation. This time Julie Walters took the lead role which had been written for her, while Wood reprised her stage role.

1980-1988

The success of the television version of Talent led to Wood writing the "follow-up", Nearly A Happy Ending. Shortly afterwards, a third Granada play was written and filmed: Happy Since I Met You, again with Walters alongside Duncan Preston as the male lead. During 1980 she also wrote and starred in the stage play Good Fun.

Recognising her talent, Eckersley offered Wood a sketch show, though Wood was unsure of the project; she only agreed to go ahead with the programme if Walters received equal billing. Eckersley came up with the obvious title Wood and Walters, and the dry run of the show (the pilot episode) was filmed. The programme was arranged to be made into a full series, and went onto co-star Duncan Preston and a cast of other supporting actors. However, in between the filming of the pilot and the series, Eckersley died. Wood cites Eckersley as giving her her first big break, and feels that Wood and Walters suffered due to his death. She was not impressed by Brian Armstrong, the emergency fill-in for Eckersley, and was of the opinion that he hired unsuitable supporting actors.

Wood also appeared as a presenter in Yorkshire Television's schools television programme for hard-of-hearing children, Insight, alongside Derek Griffiths, between 1980 and 1983.

Wood left Granada in 1984 for the BBC, who promised Wood more creative control over projects. Later that year, Wood's sketch show Victoria Wood As Seen On TV went into production. This time, Wood chose actors and actresses herself: her friend Julie Walters once again 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 became famous in its own right, and was celebrated 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". The sketches bore more than a passing resemblance to the production values held by ITV soap opera Crossroads in the 1970s. Wood's most popular comic song, "The Ballad of Barry and Freda (Let's Do It)" originated in this show. It tells the story of Freda (a woman eager for sex) and Barry (an introverted man terrified of sex), makes clever use of allusions to a multitude of risqué activities while avoiding all taboo words. There was a second series of Victoria Wood As Seen On TV in 1986, followed by a one-off 'special' in 1987.

In 1988, she appeared in the BAFTA-winning An Audience With Victoria Wood for ITV. At the time of recording the show, Wood was six months pregnant.

1989-1999

During this period Wood began to move away from the sketch show format and into more self-contained works, often with a more bittersweet flavour. Victoria Wood (1989) (six parts) featured Wood in several individual stories such as "We'd Quite Like To Apologise", set in an airport departure lounge, and "Over to Pam", set around a fictional talk show. There was a brief return to sketches with the 1992 Christmas Day special Victoria Wood's All Day Breakfast. The television film, Pat and Margaret (1994), starring Wood and Julie Walters as long-lost sisters with very different lifestyles, continued her trend into 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.

2000-2005

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. However, it was during this period that Wood tended to move away from comedy, focusing on drama instead. She did continue to produce one-off specials, though, including Victoria Wood's Sketch Show Story (2002) and Victoria Wood's Big Fat Documentary (2005).

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.

2006-present

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. She won BAFTAs for both her acting and writing for this drama, a rare double.

In November 2006, Wood directed a revival production of Acorn Antiques: The Musical! with a brand new cast. The musical opened at The Lowry in Salford in December and toured the United Kingdom from January to July 2007.

In January 2007, she appeared as herself in a series of new adverts featuring famous people working for supermarket chain ASDA. The adverts featured Wood working in the ASDA bakery and introduced a new catchphrase for the supermarket - "there's no place like ASDA". Wood was also the subject of an episode of The South Bank Show in early 2007 and is the only woman to be the subject of two South Bank programmes.

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. She departed Victoria Station, London for:

In a tribute to Wood, the British television station UKTV Gold celebrated her works with a weekend marathon of programmes between 3 November and 4 November 2007. The weekend focused on programmes such as Victoria Wood Live and dinnerladies in addition to Victoria Wood As Seen On TV - this marked the first time it has been shown on British television since its last repeatings in 1995.

Wood returned to stand-up comedy with a special performance written for the celebratory show Happy Birthday BAFTA on 28 October 2007, alongside other household names. The programme was transmitted on ITV1 on Wednesday 7 November 2007. On Boxing Day 2007 she appeared as "Nana" in the Granada dramatisation of Noel Streatfeild's novel Ballet Shoes.

In December 2007, while guesting on the radio programme Desert Island Discs, Wood said that she was about to commence writing a movie, described as a contemporary comedy about a middle-aged person. This will mark Wood's first outing into film.

On Thursday 12 June 2008, Wood was part of the celebrity guest panel on the series The Apprentice: You're Fired! on BBC Two.

Associated actors

Wood is notable for frequently including the same actors in her shows. These actors have appeared in most of her work in the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s and include - most notably - Julie Walters, Celia Imrie and Duncan Preston, and to a lesser extent Lill Roughley, Anne Reid, Susie Blake, and Andrew Livingston.

Awards and recognition

Wood has received many awards in her long career. In 1997, she was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE). 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.

Her work has also been laden with awards, both by the public and her professional contemporaries.

In 2003, she was listed in The Observer as one of the 50 Funniest Acts in British Comedy. In the 2005 Channel 4 poll The Comedian's Comedian, she was voted 27th out of the top 50 comedy acts ever by fellow comedians and comedy insiders. She was the highest-ranked woman on the list, beating French & Saunders, Joan Rivers and Joyce Grenfell.

Her sketch show Victoria Wood As Seen On TV won BAFTA awards for its two series and Christmas Special. In 2007, she was nominated for and won the BAFTA awards for "Best Actress" and for "Best Single Drama" for her role in the British war-time drama Housewife, 49, in which she plays the part of an ordinary housewife dominated by her moody husband. Wood's character eventually stands up to him and helps the Women's Society in preparations for the British soldiers.

Her popularity with the British public has been confirmed when she won Best Stand-Up and Best Sketch Show by Radio Times readers in 2001. Wood was also voted Funniest Comedian by the readers of Readers' Digest in 2005 and came 8th in ITV's poll of the public's 50 Greatest Stars, four places behind fellow co-star Julie Walters.

Personal life

Wood married magician Geoffrey Durham in March 1980. They separated in October 2002. They have two children, Grace (born 1988) and Henry (born 1992).

She currently lives in Highgate, North London.

Wood is a vegetarian, and once said "I'm all for killing animals and turning them into handbags. I just don't want to have to eat them."

References

External links

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