Obituary: Versatile Victoria Wood, one of the nation's favourite comedians


Victoria Wood was one of the nation's most respected and loved comedians.

But she was also a highly versatile entertainer who was as much at home in drama and music as comedy.

Victoria Wood

Born on May 19 1953, in Prestwich, Greater Manchester, Wood was still a drama student at Birmingham University when she won talent series New Faces.

In 1976, she became a regular on Esther Rantzen's BBC consumer show That's Life! and supported Jasper Carrott on tour.

In that same year, Wood met her husband, magician Geoffrey Durham. They wed in 1980, but separated after 22 years of marriage. They had a son Henry and daughter Grace.

Her first play, Talent, was adapted for television in 1979.

Victoria Wood

It reunited her with Julie Walters, whom she met while auditioning at Manchester Polytechnic's student theatre when she was 17 and began a lifelong partnership.

In 1985, Wood moved back to the BBC for the series that would finally establish her as a television force: Victoria Wood - As Seen On TV.

Showcasing her skill for observational comedy and sharp characterisation, it also included her most memorable pastiche: Acorn Antiques.

This amusing homage to daytime soap operas became a series in its own right and a musical, and was a favourite with critics and viewers.

Julie Walters and Celia Imrie

Victoria Wood - As Seen On TV featured an ensemble cast who would go on to become leading lights alongside Wood, including her frequent collaborator Walters, Celia Imrie, Anne Reid, Duncan Preston and Patricia Routledge.

It won three Bafta TV Awards: best light entertainment programme and best light entertainment performance in 1986 and best light entertainment programme the following year.

ITV's An Audience With Victoria Wood, recorded in 1988, also won two Baftas for best light entertainment programme and performance.

In 1989, the comedian returned to the BBC for her series of half-hour plays entitled Victoria Wood, which was followed by a sell-out season of stand-up entitled Victoria Wood Up West at London's Strand Theatre in 1990 and in 1993 a record-breaking 15 nights at the Royal Albert Hall.

Victoria Wood

But it was the 1994 screenplay for Pat And Margaret, Wood's first drama for 13 years, that marked an ambitious BBC return and a reunion with Walters.

Wood's acclaimed tale of two very different sisters, which won her a Broadcasting Press Guild Award for best single drama, saw her compared to Alan Bennett.

The year 1997 was marked by an OBE, with her hugely successful BBC One sitcom Dinnerladies following a year later.

Set in a factory canteen, it played to Wood's strengths of razor-sharp dialogue, eccentric characters and a strong cast including, once again, Walters, Imrie, Reid, Preston and former Coronation Street stars Thelma Barlow and Shobna Gulati.

Victoria Wood

Dinnerladies confirmed its place as a popular sitcom by winning a National Television Award (NTA) in 1999 and best TV comedy at the British Comedy Awards in 2000.

A special Bafta tribute followed in 2005, and in that same year, her musical Acorn Antiques opened at London's Theatre Royal for a 16-week run, featuring all of the original cast.

More sombre than her usual output, a moving performance in ITV's 2006 World War Two drama Housewife, 49 won Wood a Bafta for lead actress. It also won best single drama.

One of her final productions was That Day We Sang, a 2014 BBC Two musical television film of her stage play starring Imelda Staunton and Michael Ball.

Victoria Wood

It exemplified the warmth and wit Wood had demonstrated throughout her career.

Once associated with the alternative comedy scene of the 1980s, Wood's humour was always grounded in ordinary experience, but it was her extraordinary gift for observation and dialogue that made her so revered.