Thursday, 3 August 2017

Favourites in Five: Judy Matheson


I started a brand new series of blogs last week, asking some of my favourite people to write in about the five most important influences on their lives from the world of theatre, film and television. You can read Sarah Miller Walters' wonderful blog here

Today it's the turn of the actress Judy Matheson. Judy has enjoyed a career that has taken in Hammer Horror (Twins of Evil, Lust for a Vampire); European cinema (The Exquisite Cadaver) and comedy films such as Percy's Progress and Confessions of a Window Cleaner. On the small screen Judy has worked on The Professionals, Citizen Smith, The Sweeney, Blake's 7, Crossroads and the first ever colour episode of Coronation Street (which you can read about here). Judy also worked on Michael Apted's The Shooting War and Charles Wood's The Emergence of Anthony Purdy Esq. 

I'm delighted that Judy has agreed to write a blog for me on her greatest influences, so let's find out who they are and more importantly, why she has chosen them:


When I sat down to think about this, the first major hurdle was cutting it down to five, so many were the admired influencers throughout my life. The filtering process was hard!

However one name stands out for me above all others. My favourite actor, often described as the greatest actor ever – yes, it’s MARLON BRANDO. From the earliest days of On The Waterfront & Streetcar, his mesmeric performances, the potent combination of realism & dynamism, completely captivated me. I can’t remember quite when I started to watch his films – I think it was the middle teenage years when I would travel up from rural Essex to the Academy in Oxford Street. What treats those trips were. I loved all his performances, even in fairly dire film fare such as ‘Teahouse of the August Moon’& ‘Bedtime Story’. Well, I just loved him!

And talking of travelling up to the exciting metropolis during my formative years, another great name springs to mind. I would wave my parents off on what seemed to me visits to the theatre that were the epitome of alternative glamour. The only problem was that I was deemed too young to join them; some of the output was considered too risqe! How I longed to be old enough to see such amazing shows such as ‘Fings ain’t Wot they Used To Be,’ ‘The Hostage’ & ‘A Taste of Honey. But my time did come & suddenly I was old enough to go to what was to become my favourite theatrical venue, run by that indomitable theatrical revolutionary genius JOAN LITTLEWOOD. I was able to see such plays as ‘Sparrers Can’t Sing’ & the superb ‘Oh What A Lovely War’ - the latter remaining one of the finest pieces of theatre I have ever seen. Joan Littlewood had not been dubbed ‘The Mother of Modern Theatre’ for nothing. And of course, Joan Littlewood’s Theatre Workshop gave us such extraordinarily talented performers as Brian Murphy, Barbara Windsor, Yootha Joyce, Harry H Corbett & so many more.

The third great influence might be a surprise to anyone who knows my work. But it is another great theatre director, a man the theatre critic Michael Billington calls ‘the most influential director of modern times’. And, reader, I worked for him! After drama school, I was working in Harrods toy department, as you do, ( when you are an out-or-work actor trying to get a first job) when I received a call from The Bristol Old Vic Company, saying the legendary director SIR TYRONE GUTHRIE was auditioning for a theatre tour that was to take three Shakespearean productions all round the world, including a stint on Broadway! 


Well, I was full of misgivings & self- doubt, but I duly took the train to Bristol where, with several other aspiring actors, I was asked to run across the stage & scream ! ( Yes, folks, the very beginning of what’s been dubbed my ‘Scream Queen ‘career!) And blow me if I wasn’t asked to stay behind and rehearse with the rest of the company there & then for small parts & understudying for this forthcoming theatrical tour. I had got the job!

I was astonished and honoured to be selected by this great man, particularly as he had a reputation for considering the tiniest part as crucially important to the whole. And the legacy and the memory of working with him have stayed with me always.

You can read more about Tyrone Guthrie here

The next great influence for me has been the actor RICHARD O’SULLIVAN. I spent the best part of a year working with him on two record breaking National Tours of the farce Boeing Boeing. It was hard to keep playing the same thing for so long & to keep it fresh, but I enjoyed every minute of it, largely due to Richard’s permanently twinkling & mischievous eyes and the ease with which he performed each night, keeping it just a little different each evening. His stagecraft & timing were second to none and, somehow, as in his TV performances, he made always it all look so very easy. 


As an addendum, I met up with Richard after many years, quite recently, visiting him in Brinsworth House where he now lives and he & I spent a lovely morning reminiscing.

And finally...

The most consistent influence in my life from the world of TV, Film, & Theatre has to be DAME HELEN MIRREN. From our early days sharing flats, problems & clothes, hitchhiking to Southend as wayward drama students, to the present day, she has been the best & most loyal friend a girl could have. But she is so much more than that. It goes without saying that she is an extraordinary actress. She has also kept the flag flying for feminism, speaking out again and again against sexism & ageism and becoming a role model for all, young & old, men & women. A huge influence on me. But also, I suspect, on all of us. 


You can read my interview with Judy here. And you can follow Judy on Twitter here 

Thanks again to Judy for taking the time to write such an interesting, thoughtful piece for the blog. And thanks also for allowing me to share that wonderful photo of Richard O'Sullivan, which hasn't been published until now.

You can follow me on Twitter @CarryOnJoan on Facebook and on Instagram

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