Let’s Do It

I knew I’d relish a deep dive into the world of Victoria Wood but totally wasn’t prepared to have my heart broken. Written with the blessing and anecdotes of family and friends, this biography feels authentic, which makes it all the more tragic. For while she was a comedy genius, Wood’s life was actually tinged with sadness – but then, so was a lot of her work.

Left to her own devices by emotionally remote parents, as a kid she would have to amuse herself with books, the piano and her imagination. It’s thanks to this eccentric upbringing that Wood developed a love of comedy and an ear for the way people talk up north (jokes often involved thrush, mangles and rafia) and became the creative powerhouse behind Acorn Antiques, Dinner Ladies, Pat and Margaret and umpteen comedy turns and musicals.

Clever and funny, Victoria Wood was also complicated. Success came hard to her, but when it it arrived she didn’t enjoy the fame much. While she was controlling and demanding according to her co-stars, this was never more true than when it came to herself – her fierce work ethic and perfectionism meant she often worked through the night. And the jokes about her weight that littered her comedy sometimes felt like a form of self harm.

But in spite of Wood’s spikiness, when you get to her death at just 62, it’s hard not to weep along with her adoring friends. This very long book is well worth the effort because you end up feeling like you really get to know her. And there are also plenty of laughs, memories of corpsing on stage and jokes about macaroons and bras as the likes of Julie Walters, Celia Imrie and Duncan Preston help to bring Victoria Wood and her unique brand of comedy back to life.

Marina Gask