Comedian and actress Victoria Wood, who shot to fame on ATV’s New Faces talent show in 1974, has died aged 62 after succumbing to cancer.
Born on the 19th of May 1953 in Prestwich, Lancashire, she auditioned for the Derek Hobson fronted talent show while studying at Birmingham University. The series, produced by ATV in Birmingham for ITV, saw Wood win the 1974 series with a performance of witty jokes and musical comedy routines. A summer variety series followed on ITV with fellow New Faces personalities, however it was a switch to the BBC that gave Victoria her first major long running television exposure.
In 1976 she joined the Esther Rantzen fronted mash-up that was consumer investigations meets entertainment series That’s Life! providing a weekly musical comedy reflection on current topics of the time. Across the late 1970s there were several other ventures in live theatre and television including 1978’s Talent which had proved a success on the stage – with Wood bestowed a gong for Most Promising New Writer. It was adapted for television by Granada in Manchester and saw Wood team up with long established pal Julie Walters. It was however material from the 1980s and 1990s that Wood, and indeed Walters, would be best remembered for.
In 1984 Wood left Granada Television for the BBC, who promised her more creative control over her programming. This lead to the launch of sketch series Victoria Wood As Seen on TV. The show launched a host of well-loved and remembered characters, with Acorn Antiques becoming possibly the best known. A mixture of the bizarre storylines from Crossroads with iffy production values of serials of the 1960s and 70s, it became a huge hit. Especially with fans of Crossroads, Victoria later would become a honorary member of the Crossroads Appreciation Society.
As Seen On TV ran for two series and a one-off special. The show wona number of BAFTA Awards and, in 1996, it was awarded all-time Favourite Comedy Series by the BBC. In 1988 ITV celebrated her comedy talent with the prestigious An Audience With Victoria Wood produced by London Weekend Television. The show later won a BAFTA.
As the late 1980s became the early 1990s Wood had moved away from the sketch show format with more focus on stand alone comedy storytelling and a move into comedy drama, notably with the poignant Pat and Margaret in 1994 which starred Wood and Julie Walters in the title roles. In 1998, she wrote her first sitcom, Dinnerladies, set in a factory’s refectory. There were also several one-off sketch show specials across the years including the celebrity filled Victoria Wood’s Mid-life Christmas, Victoria Wood with All The Trimmings and Victoria Wood’s All Day Breakfast. There were also two one-off revivals of Acorn Antiques for special BBC programmes, the last airing in 2001, while in 2005 the spoof soap opera moved to the Theatre Royal, Haymarket, London as it became a successful stage musical.
A year later and Victoria Wood turned to serious drama with ITV’s Housewife, 49, an adaptation of the real diaries of Nella Last. Wood played the lead role of the introverted middle-aged woman who discovers new confidence and friendships in Lancashire during the Second World War. Wood won BAFTAs for both her acting and writing with the drama. She would return to serious drama in 2011 featuring in the BBC’s Eric and Ernie which told the early years of comedians Morecambe and Wise. She appeared as Sadie Bartholomew, mother of Eric Morecambe.
“The multi Bafta award-winning writer, director, actor and comedian died peacefully at her north London home with family this morning. The family ask for privacy at this very sad time.” – Press Release
The statement released announcing the writer, actress and comedian’s death noted the 62-year-old had died from Cancer, stating it had been a short ‘brave’ battle against the disease. Wood married magician Geoffrey Durham in March 1980. They separated in October 2002. They have two children, Grace (1988) and Henry (1992). (Below the video to 1991’s The Smile Song, an A-Side single released for Comic Relief.)