Written by Alison Carr

Arts

Review: Our Friend Victoria

A year after her death, the BBC celebrates Victoria Wood with a six-part series. Alison Carr took a look at part one.

Anyone who knows me knows I love funny women. I’ve written about a fair few of them here, but one name will always stand head and shoulders above the rest. One funny woman who I have been a devoted fan of for more than 20 years  – the irreplaceable Victoria Wood.

Our Friend Victoria kicks off with a Julie Walters-fronted episode celebrating Wood’s musings on age, from teenage angst to middle-aged woes.

Are there any clips I haven’t seen before? No. I’d be stripped of my mega-fan status if there were. Is it joyous to see them again? Hell yeah.

As well as making us smile and laugh as we relive some of her best sketches and stand-up, it’s also a reminder that Wood was a trailblazer. Take ‘Swim the Channel’ for example, the iconic sketch from her As Seen On TV series. Long before The Office, Wood was writing short mockumentaries about the absurdities of every day people. Her teenage swimmer Chrissie is one of her best ever characters – funny, odd, relatable and heartbreaking. That final shot of her empty bed is tragic.

There are clips too from Talent, Dinnerladies, Wood & Walters and her live shows, as well as memories from long-time collaborators Celia Imrie and Duncan Preston. Elsewhere, Maxine Peake and Shobna Gulati talk about first meeting her, how nervous and excited they were. I’d have dissolved into a puddle, so good on them for staying upright.

Naturally, many of the sketches feature Julie Walters who calls Wood a “powerhouse of creativity” who gave her some of her best roles. Who can forget Mrs Overall, Petula Gordino and the two soups waitress. Comic creations that will go down in history.

I laughed a lot through this first episode. Of course I did, it’s Victoria ruddy Wood. Her delivery, her word choice, the rhythm of a line. Even if it’s not her saying it, you know it’s Victoria Wood. Her voice was so strong, in everything she wrote.

I also, full disclosure, cried. A bit. I welled up less than two minutes in. Not because it’s sad or mawkish, it’s not, but because I still find it hard to believe that Wood is gone. I’ve been a fan since I was a teenager when I first saw this funny, intelligent, sharp woman alone on stage with just a piano and thought “wow”. A fan who was encouraged to sit down and write in the first place because I wanted to be like her.

I hope in the future episodes they really delve into the depth of Wood’s talent. She was a comedian, yes, but also a writer, actor, songwriter, singer and director. She did so much, and while there is no new material to look forward to, what an incredible body of work she has left behind for us to enjoy.

@AlisonCarr_

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Written by Alison Carr

Alison is a playwright and would-be tap dancer. She lives in Newcastle upon Tyne.