Victoria Wood Live: The Sands Centre, Carlisle, 1988
Victoria Wood Live: Palace Theatre, Manchester, 1996
Victoria Wood At It Again: Royal Albert Hall, London, 2001
I have been extremely fortunate to see Victoria Wood live in concert on three occasions. The first time I saw her was on Easter Day 1988 at The Sands Centre in Carlisle with my mother who like many in Britain was a fan. Wood walked on stage alone in front of a couple of thousand people and explained that due to an unfortunate circumstance Joan Collins was due to appear in Carlisle tonight and because she has been delayed near Silloth, she unfortunately has abandoned the appearance and you’ve got me instead, good evening! The fact that Wood had never played Carlisle before and the fact that she had taken time to research the area that she was due to play endeared her all the more to the audience. The evening was also notable for the standing ovation Wood got after performing her classic comic song The Ballad of Barry and Freda. During the evening there were trademark piano compositions together with comic tales of everyday life including very relevant and humorous references to the city or town that she was playing in.
The wealth of written comic material that Wood has created was on display again when I saw her at the Palace Theatre in Manchester in 1996. When I took my seat, I noticed someone in the front row frantically writing down notes whilst Wood was on stage. It later transpired that the person was Wood’s husband for many years Geoffrey Dunham who had his own magician act known as The Great Soprendo. Dunham would regularly sit in the audience at Wood’s gig writing down which parts of the show worked and who parts didn’t work depending on which audience Wood was playing too.
I have been living and working in London for many years. During a weekend visit to London in 2001, I took my parents to Kensington and we ended up walking around the outside of the impressive world famous Royal Albert Hall. As we finished the walk, we stopped and as my parents were talking to me I asked them to turn around. They did so and we looking at a poster for Wood’s At It Again Tour which was playing at the Royal Albert Hall for a record-breaking twelve nights. ‘Guess where we are all going tonight?’ and produced three tickets for the evening show. My parents were delighted and that night, I sat in awe watching this solo performer effortlessly be funny and engaging to her audience. They loved her comedy routines, perfect timing, delivery and comic characters and songs. Her performance that night was revelatory.
Wood was one of Britain’s greatest comedy writers and performers. During her career she had major successes writing sketch shows, sitcoms, plays, feature length stories and live performance. I was extremely saddened to read in 2016 that Wood had died from cancer at the age of only 62. What else could this great writer have been capable of? It was a very sad end to a great legacy of comic work from an extraordinary woman.