A Comic Genius You Should Know: Victoria Wood

The late, great Victoria Wood image credit BBC
The late, great Victoria Wood. (Image credit: BBC)

You may have heard that Victoria Wood died yesterday at the age of 62. If you're familiar with this versatile English performer, like me you are probably gutted by the unexpected loss. For a start, she was a comedian, actor, singer, writer and director.  

A pioneer for British women in comedy, particularly those from the North, Wood was a BAFTA Award winner for her accomplishments in light entertainment comedy as well as drama in her later career. The tributes have been pouring in from her contemporaries and from those who looked up to her as well. The words "national treasure" have been attributed to Victoria time and again and with good reason.

If her work is unknown to you, I want to share some of the performances which highlight her considerable talents.  Her comedy is still relevant and I'm sure her legacy will be to earn new fans even now that she has gone.

Stand-up. Victoria performed stand-up on tours and specials as well as starting her sketch shows with solo monologues. She was touted for her observational humor regarding poplar culture and the daily grind of life.

 

Julie Walters. Wood and Walters had a comedy partnership that lasted over three decades. These ladies were hilarious and shared a wonderful chemistry together. When asked for her reaction, Ms. Walters stated she was "Too heart sore to comment. The loss of her is incalculable." 

 

Acorn Antiques. One of the most popular recurring sketches from the the comedy series Victoria Wood as Seen on TV , 'Acorn Antiques' was a parody of popular soap operas. These episodes poked fun at the poor acting, awful dialogue, low production values and outlandish story lines that often plagued low-budget, long-running series. These sketches featured an ensemble of actors Wood often worked with including Celia Imrie, Julie Walters, and Duncan Preston

 

Composer/Singer. Music was an integral part of Victoria's act. While some of her sketches were structured entirely around a song, she could often be found behind a grand piano singing one of her humorous compositions, the most famous being a ditty entitled 'The Ballad of Barry and Freda (Let's Do It)'. However, I chose this poignant performance instead about a 17 year-old girl named Andrea who dreams of breaking free from her dead-end town before it's too late.

 

Dinnerladies. This warm and funny sitcom was written by Wood about a crew of factory canteen workers. She stars as Bren, the heart and soul of the operation,  who acts as mother and/or friend to all. She tries to make things right for everyone but herself, probably due to her unfortunate abandonment as a child. On the other hand, Bren knows how to speak her mind when the situation calls for it.

 

Dramatic Actress. Despite her great comedic talent, Wood delved into more dramatic work from time to time. In 2009, she wrote and starred in a World War II drama called Housewife, 49 which won a BAFTA for Best Single Drama. Two years later she also contributed to the biopic Eric & Ernie as a writer and supporting actor.

 

Victoria Wood's Nice Cup of Tea. Finally in 2013, Victoria wrote and presented a TV documentary about Britain's love affair with tea. She traveled to India, China and back home to the UK to chronicle the history of the "little plant that changed the world." The show features the likes of Matt Smith, Morrissey and Graham Norton who chat with Wood about their affection for tea as well as clips of some of Wood's former co-stars in character doing tea-related things I would assume.

 

So there you have it; an abbreviated retrospective of a very special entertainer's life. I enjoyed visiting parts of Ms. Wood's career I wasn't aware of and I hope I've helped give you a better appreciation for a woman who left us too soon.