Queen Victoria | But this one is most amused

Queen Victoria

But this one is most amused

Victoria Wood is back on TV, having written new episodes of her Acorn Antiques spoof for a new programme about the history of the comedy sketch.

And she says she has enjoyed the process.

"Acorn Antiques was one of my favourites so it was good to do it again," she says. "I don't often write sketches now, but just once in a while it is nice to put one together."

Although they are, by definition, short pieces, Victoria stresses they are not always quick to write, because of their structure.

"There is a traditional form for a sketch," she explains. "There's a set up and you have to say, this is one character and that's another character and this is the tension between them, and this is the pay-off.

"That doesn't always happen - with something like The Fast Show they might just come on and say, these are the characters, this is the catchphrase, and that's it, so I think that it's quite an old-fashioned form now and it may have gone out of style already."

Though with the popularity of such shows as Goodness Gracious Me, Smack The Pony and The Sketch Show, maybe it's coming back in. But, though some modern standards are included in the two-part programme, the show leans towards classic clips from the likes of Morecambe And W,se, Dick Emery, Monty Python and The Two Ronnies.

"One of my favourite sketches is a Mastermind sketch that The Two Ronnies did," says Victoria. "It was written by David Renwick, and it is answering the question asked before last. It's very, very clever and I've always admired that as a sketch."

They may be hard to write, but Victoria has fun performing short pieces. "There's a nice thing about being in sketches, they're not very long and also there's a lot of laughs in them," she explains. "They're usually with other people too so for someone like me, who stands up on stage for two hours on their own, a sketch is really quite a refreshing thing to do."

The Acorn Antiques skits have refreshed her briefly in between sell-out dates on a massive nationwide tour which, she says, will be her last. (story)

"It's been about four years since I did my last tour. It's been good, I'm enjoying it a lot, and I won't do any more of these big tours so I'm making the most of it."

She's quitting while she's ahead, she explains, and while she is still enjoying it, as it can be a tiring process.

"I don't do more than usually four nights away and if I'm within two-and-a-half hours distance from home I come back. That's the tiring bit, coming back late at night and waking up first thing in the morning with the children. But we manage," she says.

Not for Victoria a glitzy showbiz lifestyle - doing ordinary things together with husband, conjurer Geoffrey Durham, and children Grace, 12, and Henry, nine, is what gives her most pleasure. She says that the highlight of the day that she received her OBE from The Queen was the school carol service Grace sang at earlier.

Geoffrey and Victoria resisted the move to London for as long as they could, preferring to stay near Morecambe, close to their Northern roots. Victoria, the youngest of four children, spent her childhood in Ramsbottom, near Bury, in a bungalow in the middle of a field with no one around for miles. The perfect background, she admits, to make someone a writer: "I was lonely, bored and isolated."

After seeing Joyce Grenfell, Victoria decided she wanted to become a comedian. She was six at the time. Her father, though an insurance broker, was an amateur entertainer who helped teach her the piano and she began to realise her dream by studying drama at Birmingham University.

She shot to prominence at the tender age of 20 on the TV talent show New Faces, with her comic songs earning her a slot on That's Life. But it was when she branched out into sketches and stand-up that she really found fame and fortune.

Her own experiences provide much of the material and on this current tour she talks a lot about the emergency hysterectomy she underwent earlier this year.

"You can probably go further without being shocking these days, there are probably more things you can talk about," she says. "I get my inspiration from whatever happens to me really . And I've always written by myself - I find it impossible to write with anyone else. It's just how I am, I'm too awkward, I have to write on my own.".

It hasn't done her any harm. She won the Writer Of The Year and Best Comedy awards at last year's British Comedy Awards for her BBC sitcom dinnerladies. But this chapter in her career has also closed.

"I've done that now, I don't like doing the same thing twice," Victoria says rather dismissively. "Once I've learned how to do something I want to do something else."

So what's her next project going to be? "I can't tell you!" she smiles. "I've got a few things in my head, I'd like to write some films... At the moment I'm just thinking about my tour because that goes on until next spring, on and off."

Victoria Wood's Sketch Show Story starts on BBC1 on Sunday October 28.

First published: October 16, 2001

Published: 22 Mar 2009

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