“I was just devastated to hear the news because for me, she will always be alive, she’s someone like Eric Morecambe who to me is always just around the corner.”
Those are the words spoken by dinnerladies star Anne Reid about the death of the show’s creator Victoria Wood.
She’s chatting to us ahead of her show I Love To Sing! coming to The Core at Corby Cube on FridayMay 20.
And it’s safe to say that Victoria Wood had a huge impact on her career.
Anne said: “She was also the sort of person who recognised that I could do comedy and opened that door up for me so I’ll always be grateful. I hadn’t done much comedy before except little bits with Benny Hill.
“Dinnerladies was hard work, especially at the time as there was a lot of rewrites, right up to the wire with that, sometimes even two hours before the recording. But it was very rewarding.”
Indeed just before a very long chat with the distinguished star that she makes a shocking confession.
Anne said: “Doing a cabaret show has completely changed my life and is something that I love doing.
“I was staying in the south of France with some friends five years ago who was organising this cabaret event and I was asked if I wanted to do it.
“I loved doing it and it has changed my life. We’ve even taken the show to New York so it has been great.
“It’s something that I really like to do, I think if I had my time again I would have gone into music rather than acting, it is something that I regret. It has only been in the last 15 or 20 years that I have been more successful with the acting side of things.”
And while she might wish for a career in music, the tour is giving her a chance to enjoy the spotlight.
Anne said: “It’s really me singing songs from my era and telling stories from my time in showbusiness including working with Daniel Craig and performing in front of the Queen.
“It has got a lot more talking in it now than it use to have but people really liked the talking bits.
“I’ll be singing songs that I love so there will be things like Rogers and Hammstein and Cy Coleman. There is no point doing something like My Way because everyone has done it but there’ll be a few songs that people won’t know.
“It is very creative doing what I am doing now. There will be little bits that change throughout the tour which is really nice.
“It’s not like a ‘performance’ where you get a script and you learn it, you get the chance to change it.
“I like to play it at smaller venues but we’ve just been playing the show in London for a couple of weeks as it sold out last time we were there.
“I suspect the show is going to appeal to those aged over 45 and 50 rather than younger people who might want to hear stories about Wallace and Gromit and dinnerladies.”
Anne Reid first got her big break appearing in Coronation Street for 12 years but it was the chance to work alongside her late co-star that fully got her back into the business following the death of her husband.
She said: “I had started to do some things but they were smaller things which weren’t watched. That was the difference between working with Victoria Wood, that was something that was seen by a much larger audience.”
However she thinks sitcoms are a genre which are rather looked down upon by people.
Anne said: “I think comedy is the hardest medium to work in. It strikes me that if you can do all that tearful acting then people praise you, but making someone laugh is something that is rather looked down on.
“There aren’t many people like Julie Walters out there.”
I put it to her that because there are universal things which makes people cry that it easier rather than comedy where everyone has a slightly difference sense of humour?
Anne said: “I think you are absolutely right, I hadn’t thought of it liked that before. I really like witty sense of humour.”
A quick scan of the internet shows she has been in the period drama Bleak House, Upstairs Downstairs, Our Zoo and the very popular Last Tango in Halifax,
However it was the adaptation of a very popular radio show that she says was one of her favourites.
Anne said: “Ladies of Letters on the televison was really the brainchild of the late producer Geoffrey Perkins (the man responsible for bringing the cult sci-fi comedy The Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy).
“In fact he died, the day we came to the first rehearsal. We spent ages waiting for him to turn up and then the director had a note where we were told he had passed away. We couldn’t believe it.
“It was one of those shows that if he had survivied, I think it it something that would have run and run because Geoffrey was so passionate about it.
“It was very hard work because there was an awful lot to learn, as it was the two of us, but looking back, it is the thing that I am proudest of in my career.”
And as if she wasn’t busy enough, she manages to fit in guest appearances on shows including Inside No 9, Agatha Christie’s Marple, Shameless and Doctor Who. It is the mention of the latter which prompts a laugh at the job.
Anne said: “I still get asked where’s my straw, it was one of the most ridiculous things I’ve ever done in my life. But I was trying to be all serious and David Tennant was just falling around laughing. I was a Plasmavore but doubled up as Florence Finnegan.
“I had no idea how this lady should look like. But when the make up lady said to me, I have some ideas and so I let her get on with it. It was a really fun job though.”
And indeed she has even worked on feature films including Hot Fuzz and The Mother alongside future James Bond Daniel Craig. This year alone, she has three films out and has worked alongside Dad’s Army star Toby Jones, X Men’s Michael Fassbender and Pirates of the Caribbean star Orlando Bloom.
She will be speaking about her time working on The Mother, an unlikely success for the star and one she wasn’t expecting to be in.
Anne said: “The Mother, I have to admit I didn’t think there was much point in going up for the job. It was the lead in a film, who was going to give it to me. But I really wanted to meet Hanif Kureshi and Roger Michell.
“I have the latter to thank because I think there was people above him who wanted a big name for the part. He said to me he cast me because he wanted the sort of actress who you could walk past in Tesco and not know.
“I thought thanks a lot Roger. I think I might have punched him at the time.”
But in a collection of TV shows and films which would make many BAFTA winners blush, the part she picks as her favourite might be considered a surprise.
“Probably my favourite part I played was Barbara Cartland (in In Love with Barbara). It was a very low budget film and there wasn’t a lot of time for retakes. Her voice was quite hard to pull off but we managed it.
“Although I had this dog and it was a blooming heavy thing so there’d be points where I was sinking into the mud doing the takes.
I Love to Sing! can be seen at 7.30pm. To book tickets call 01536 470 470 or visit www.thecorecorby.com.