Tuesday, 17 February 2009

"My maisonette backs onto a cake factory, so I’m dusting my knick-knacks all the day long"

Happy 80th birthday today to the magnificent and multi-talented Patricia Routledge, one of my favourite actresses, and "national treasure".

Born in Birkenhead, Ms Routledge made her stage debut in 1952, and went on to a long and illustrious career in the West End and international theatre, appearing in productions of plays by Shakespeare, Chekhov, Wilde and Sheridan, among many others. She demonstrated a brilliant singing voice in such musicals and operettas as The Beggars Opera, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Candide and The Pirates of Penzance.

Such a prestigious talent also transferred her to the big screen, mainly in character roles, until mainstream success came in the 1980s when she made such a huge comedic impact as the fabulous "Kitty" on the Victoria Wood show - one of my favourite comedy characters of all time...
  • "She chomps down the last of me Bourbons, and says 'Kitty - I'm leaving Bill. We're not compatible.' They never were - he loves opera, and she can't follow the plot of the 'Teddy Bears' Picnic'. She only married him because he was pally with a man who made chocolate mis-shapes."
  • "If I were Prime Minister... and thank goodness I'm not because I've been the length and breadth of Downing Street and never spotted a decent wool shop!..."
  • "She said 'I'm a radical post-feminist lesbian!'. And I thought; 'What would the Queen Mum do?' so I just smiled and said; 'We shall have fog by tea-time!' She said 'are you intimidated by my sexual preferences?', I said; 'No, and I'm not too struck with your donkey jacket either!'"
From this success she was massively in demand, and portrayed such diverse screen roles as Hildegard of Bingen and Queen Victoria, made hit radio series such as Ladies of Letters with Prunella Scales, and was lauded for her appearances in three episodes of Alan Bennett's brilliant Talking Heads. It is of course for her role as uber-snob Hyacinth Buckett in Keeping up Appearances that she became a household name, and this series is still incredibly popular across the globe to this day. Here are just a few examples of the sheer diversity of the wonderful talents of Patricia Routledge:

Patricia Routledge CBE (born 17th February 1929)

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