Britain's Most Loved and Best Comedy Double Act

We Interview Victoria Wood


A new drama about the early lives of Morecambe and Wise is due on our screens around Christmas time, with Victoria Wood playing the role of Eric’s Mother, Sadie.

As executive producer as well as the leading actress, Victoria has been touring around the North of England holding auditions for the roles of Eric and Ern in their younger form.

In a break from her busy work, she very kindly took some time out to talk to us about the programme, her role and Morecambe and Wise.

Victoria, you first came to the public eye on a talent show called new faces. Unlike today’s affairs, they included and encourage a wide range of acts. Is there still a place for a proper variety show that showcases new talent?
I think there is always a place for a show that allows people to start off, there has to be really. I think those early shows were very different to today’s show that seem to concentrate on singers.

New Faces was open to anyone. Professionals and amateurs, it was a place to let the public see their act and hopefully move on another step from playing the clubs or singing in the bath.

The talent shows of today are different. I think the whole variety thing has gone from our screens.

Sadly yes, long gone are the Saturday nights in front of the telly...
Watching a man bang himself on the head with a tray, yes. It’s a pity really because there is no route through now for proper talent.

Comedians still have the live circuit, but the link between that and the television seems to have diminished, they seem to be very separate now.

Morecambe and Wise toured all over the country trying to get their act noticed; did they influence you at all?
I don’t think they were an influence; I am just one of their fans. I really like what they do and the more I learn about them, for the show, the more I admire them.

Their work ethic and the effort they put in, I find that really appealing. It is such a great story, they were together for such a long time and they didn’t fall out. Something which other double acts couldn’t seem to manage. It’s not one of those sad stories where you find out that in fact they hated each other.

They didn’t spend a lot of time together when they weren’t working, it was a very professional method.
Yes, they were very sensible. They had different lives and families and there was no point in living in each other’s pockets all the time.

Is it true you have been trying to play the role of Sadie, Eric’s Mother, for a long time now?
No, not at all. I have been interested in telling the story. Playing Sadie wasn’t really my idea.

That wasn’t my motivation at all. I just wanted to get this remarkable story to the public.

Playing Sadie sort of appeared during the process, which also had the effect of making it more attractive to sell.

What do you know about Sadie?
She sounds quite formidable. It depends on who you talk to, and which books you read, but she seems to be the driving force with Eric. She obviously saw something in him, and was determined he wouldn’t be stuck in an ordinary job. He needed to be pushed, and she made sure he reached his potential.

She recognised this talent he had, and that he needed driving to bring it out.

Did you have anyone like that in your early life?
No.. there was only me. When I was married, my husband was a great encourager, but before that that there wasn’t really anyone like Sadie.

Can you tell us about the drama, how would you describe it, gritty, thought provoking?
No, none of those. It’s a very positive telling of their lives from when they first met to the first television break. A celebratory telling of that story from two thirteen year old children, to nearly making it big on television.

Two boys who originally didn’t think much of each other, through them teaming up, touring, and aiming for the big time. Of course it didn’t happen, we all know about Running Wild, which is the part where this story ends.

That is quite a time span to cover...
Yes, that’s why we needed a selection of people to play Eric and Ern. As we cover different times in their lives, we need different actors to play the different ages.

You have been doing auditions around the North for these roles, how is that progressing?
The auditions have been great. We have probably seen about 120 boys looking to play the parts, and from that we now have a pool of about six.

It’s difficult because we couldn’t cast our older boys or our adults until we had the younger roles sorted out. Once we have those, we can then look for likenesses to play the older roles, so we can try to match faces and features.

Because we have a lot of years to cover, from 1939 to 1954, we can’t have the same actors playing the roles all the way through. There has to be changes to reflect the different stages in their lives and the different ages.

As well as actors, you have been looking for locations too..
Yes. There are a few lovely local theatres we could use. They have to be either unchanged or restored to look like they would have done in the 1940’s. We have a few in mind, based on location and budget, and we are hoping to do some filming in the Winter Gardens in Morecambe.

We have to be careful with outdoor shots too, we have to find somewhere with no satellite dishes or modern lamp posts. Street where the houses don’t have double glazing and things like that.

Given all that we have said, do you think something like Eric and Ernie could happen again? Is there the routes available now, and is there room for this kind of act?
They will always come through. If the talent is there they will always come through and work in whatever media is popular at the time.

Eric and Ernie probably didn’t think it was a great time to start their career during the war, with all the theatres closing down and people living on rations.

They had to duck and dive just like we do now, but if the talent is there, and the will is there, they will make it.

That is what this drama is about in essence. About how the act came together, how they came up with ideas and material, and what drove them.

Everybody knew they had a good act later, in the 60’s and 70’s, but this is about before then.

A time when the material wasn’t as good and when they had to do what they were told. Inevitably this is what caused Running Wild to flop, Eric and Ern were not allowed to be themselves, and we see that in this story.

When will this be on our screens, and what next for you?
We have started work now and it should be ready just before Christmas. Filming is scheduled to start at the beginning of August, so we are all pretty busy right now.

After that I have another drama I have written and then a lot of things to do in the autumn. I don’t even want to think about them at the moment though! My attention is on this production, and will be until it’s complete.

We would like to thank Victoria for giving us this great interview.

© 2010

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