Thursday, December 09, 2021

On not seeing an early performance by Victoria Wood

Jasper Rees's authorised biography of Victoria Wood tells her story wonderfully well, though it is inevitably a sad book. Even as she is riding high in her career, you know an abrupt ending is coming.

You could argue that she worked too narrow a canvass or that there was something a little snobbish about some of her work, but who cares? She was three rare things in a television comedian: she was a woman, she had not been a member of the Cambridge Footlights and she was funny.

Rees incidentally repeats a sad fact that I recently read in a profile of Jo Brand. Women comedians mention their weight at the start of their act because a heckler will do so if they don't.

I might have seen Wood early in her career: together with her husband Geoffrey Durham, she performed at the University of York while I was a student there.

It did not go well:
After doing his act Geoffrey watched her from the back as she tried out some new material with no means of amplification: "She struggled from the beginning. No one could hear her properly and the show wnet downhill. I went for a walk round the building. As I came back two indignant guys were leaving, One said to the other, 'That was awful, It was like watching What the Papers Say'."
Remarkably, though, I had already seen Durham perform. He was a member of the cast in Peter Bogdanov's Leicester productions of Hamlet and The Tempest while I was still at school.

As we were doing these plays for A level, I went to performances of both.

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