I picked up a national treasure at the M6 services at midnight on a Thursday. It was a question of survival. She was my last defence against sleep and I must have been the only numpty in Lancashire who had no idea who she was. Sadly the Julie Walters I picked up was only a recording but even so she, and her friends, made me laugh until my face ached.
The CD is a compilation of sketches starring Julie Walters with occasional appearances by Victoria Wood, Alan Bennett and others. Most of the material is taken from shows recorded in front of live audiences so a few are punctuated with applause but that is a small price to pay. The monologues are clever and funny, always with truth tucked inside the bouncing Julie Walters’ delivery. You have to listen to them at least three times – once to enjoy the performance, twice to track the hidden layers, and a third time just to check you’ve got it all.
Other pieces are more obvious: Jayne Mansfield’s Balls, with Victoria Wood at a genius pace, is plain ridiculous; the gentle song A Modern Romance, is wedded truth; Camberley comes in for a good, old-fashioned march around; and cuts to Arts funding gets such emphatic mockery it’s hard to know which way is up. I could not have picked better company for my roadworks-lit journey north to Preston.
Since then, in blank daylight, I’ve done some research just to check that my enthusiasm is not based on some form of motorway-induced delirium. The gleaming array of awards suggest it’s not. Julie Walters CBE, born close to Birmingham and now 64, has just been awarded her eighth Bafta (British Academy of Film and Television Arts) award. This award is the biggest hurrah they can give. It is a Bafta Fellowship to honour years, decades even, of great television entertainment. To put it in their words they made the award “in recognition of her outstanding and exceptional contribution to British television”.
But Julie Walters is not just about television. Amongst other things she has written an auto-biography That’s Another Story; has won an Olivier Award for best actress in All My Sons (2001); and has also starred in well-known films. Here are a few: Rita in Educating Rita; Mrs Weasely in Harry Potter; and Billy Elliott’s dance teacher, Mrs Wilkinson. Both Rita and Mrs Wilkinson earned her Oscar nominations.
In short – Julie Walters – one of the nation’s finest actresses but, as her friends on this CD will tell you, not a person who likes to be “treasured”.
Copyright Georgie Knaggs & The Phraser 2018