12th August 2021.
I’m a huge fan of Victoria Wood and couldn’t wait to read this biography to find out more about her life and her work.
On the whole most of the biography was interesting, giving insights into her life, her feelings and what drove her to be who she was. Some of the anecdotes were fascinating, the examples of her writing hilarious. From her troubled childhood, through her years of struggle to develop an identity and place in the world of comedy, she showed a remarkable determination to succeed and develop her craft.
When success on TV brought her to the attention of the public, she began to develop the style and insight that set her apart from all other comedians and writers. From here, she developed into the brilliant entertainer that brought us so many classics from As Seen on TV to Dinnerladies. She worked relentlessly to provide the best she was capable of, whether for TV or on her stand up tours.
But it’s a long book, weakened by too much detail that sometimes seemed irrelevant or of little value. It’s as if the author was afraid to leave anything out, which diluted the impact of the more fascinating details.
With some careful editing and focus, this biography could have been as engaging and brilliant as Victoria Wood herself.
‘I was born with a warped sense of humour and when I was carried home from being born it was Coronation Day and so I was called Victoria but you are not supposed to know who wrote this anyway it is about time I unleashed my pent-up emotions in a bitter comment on the state of our society but it’s not quite me so I think I shall write a heart-warming story with laughter behind the tears and tears behind the laughter which means hysterics to you Philistines…’
From ‘Pardon?’ by Vicky Wood, Aged 14. Bury Grammar School (Girls) Magazine, 1967
In her passport Victoria Wood listed her occupation as ‘entertainer’ – and in stand-up and sketches, songs and sitcom, musicals and dramas, she became the greatest entertainer of the age. Those things that might have held her back – her lonely childhood, her crippling shyness and above all the disadvantage of being a woman in a male-run industry – she turned to her advantage to make extraordinary comedy about ordinary people living ordinary lives in ordinary bodies. She wasn’t fond of the term, but Victoria Wood truly was a national treasure – and her loss is still keenly felt.
Victoria had plenty of stories still to tell when she died in 2016, and one of those was her own autobiography. ‘I will do it one day,’ she told the author and journalist Jasper Rees. ‘It would be about my childhood, about my first few years in showbusiness, which were really interesting and would make a really nice story.’
That sadly never came to pass, so Victoria’s estate has asked Jasper Rees, who interviewed her more than anyone else, to tell her extraordinary story in full. He has been granted complete and exclusive access to Victoria’s rich archive of personal and professional material, and has conducted over 200 interviews with her family, friends and colleagues – among them Victoria’s children, her sisters, her ex-husband Geoffrey Durham, Julie Walters, Celia Imrie, Dawn French, Anne Reid, Imelda Staunton and many more.
What emerges is a portrait of a true pioneer who spoke to her audience like no one before or since.