You know you’ve reached ‘national treasure’ status when the BBC screens a TV programme about your career the night before Christmas. Alison Steadman, whose ‘many faces’ will be discussed on BBC TWO tonight, has provided the visage for so many heart-warming, excruciating and (most importantly) recognisable strong female characters over the years, that the Beeb must have found it hard to pick and string together the best Pamela Shipman, Beverly Moss or Mrs Bennet moments.
Speaking to independent.co.uk about her festive plans, Steadman presents a ‘face’ which is as warm and unpretentious as you would expect the woman who did the robot in the Gavin and Stacey Christmas Special to be. Christmas this year will be “A family get-together. Christmas dinner. A few games. You know, the usual. We’ll get a nice and tree and the fire going.”
To younger audiences Steadman will be first and foremost Pam Shipman (‘Pam-e-lar’), the adoring and somewhat hysterical mother in Ruth Jones and James Corden’s series about the fledgling relationship of Gavin and Stacey. The show, which was originally broadcast on the digital channel BBC THREE, commanded such interest that it was moved to BBC TWO and BBC ONE, with the final two episodes given peak slots on Christmas Day and New Years Day in 2009.
When asked about a possible Gavin and Stacey reprisal, she sounds excited: “I hope so. It would be nice if we could a Christmas special for next year. But it’s not up to me, is it? I would love it myself and I think everyone involved in Gavin and Stacey would love it. I promise you if I had a pound for every person who asked ‘Is there going to be another Gavin and Stacey series?’ I’d be a rich woman.”
She says that people yell “Pam-e-lar” across the street and frequently ask her to do the robot at parties. But her role as the terrifyingly commandeering “make-up consultant” in the stage and television adaptation of (her former husband) Mike Leigh’s Abigail’s Party, is still strongly alive in the minds of her fans. “People still quote me Beverly,” she says. “Little top up? Little gin and tonic, Sue?”
The Liverpool-born but North London-based mother of two has stayed firmly connected to theatrical ‘boards’ throughout her television and film successes. She has been playing the part of Madame Arcati in a revival of Noel Coward’s Blithe Spirit in Bath until recently. “We’ve just finished for our Christmas break but we’re rehearsing again in February and then we’re touring for a couple of weeks before ending up in the Apollo Theatre in March,” she says.
The wonderful contrasts in the roles Steadman has had should make for interesting viewing tonight. It amazes me that the woman who played the dozy, insufferable and speech-impeded Candice Marie in 1976 television film Nuts in May, is the same one that cried out for the smelling salts and married off her daughters in the 1995 television drama of Pride and Prejudice. On Monday she was once again on British television, alongside Sir David Jason, playing yet another put-upon wife in the warmly received, if slightly too sentimental, ITV drama Come Rain Come Shine.
Steadman’s versatility has been the key to her success in the last 35 years. So, what will the New Year bring? “I’m not very good with resolutions because I never stick to them. I do make resolutions but I don’t make a public announcement about them. I don’t make lists and tick them off but I do think it’s nice to have a fresh start in the New Year and at least start with some good ideas.”
Watch The Many Faces of Alison Steadman on BBC TWO tonight at 9.55pm. You can also join Alison in a festive game of charades for Sky Movies Christmas Charades- an interactive version of the game that you can play online at www.skymovies.com/christmascharades or at home on Sky Anytime.