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Sister my sister

1994 would bring a string of interesting releases. First she'd help out Alan Bleasdale by popping up in Requiem Apache, one of a series of shows he produced to promote the work of new writers. Then would come Bambino Mio, written by Colin Welland, another criptwriting champion of the working classes. Here Walters would lose both her husband and their unborn child then, driven on by a nagging desire to be a mother, she'd seek a baby in Venezuela, her methods becoming increasingly dodgy. Next she'd be back with Victoria Wood (and director Gavin Millar, with whom she'd earlier made Dreamchild and Intensive Care) for Pat And Margaret. This would see the two actresses as long-estranged sisters reluctantly reunited on a nostalgia-mining TV show, Walters playing a star of American soap operas and Wood a dowdy homebody. Their differences would gradually be overcome as they joined in a search for the mother who abandoned them, support coming - as so often before - from Celia Imrie and Thora Hird.


Actually, it's interesting to see Walters and Hird together. Where Walters had often been cast as much, much older than her real age, Hird many times represented a former generation of northern cussedness - Walters was the tough but loving (and occasionally batty) mum, Hird the feisty grandmother.

After Pat And Margaret, Walters would make a return to sexual politics with Sister My Sister, based on the same short story as Jean Genet's The Maids. Set in a French provincial town in 1932, this saw Walters as the strict head of the household, dominating her daughter and the staff, demanding cleanliness and respectability at all times. As her rules and the force of her will repress the girls - including Joely Richardson and Jodhi May - so they are drawn together, politically and physically, the tension building to a violent climax.

1995 would see Walters back with Alan Bleasdale, and other Bleasdale regulars such as Robert Lidnsay and Lindsay Duncan, for Jake's Progress. This would see Lindsay (Robert) as a perennial teenager rocked by the birth of son Jake, harassed wife Walters becoming the main breadwinner. Confusion and resentment would increase for the growing boy as his parents make their mistakes, then thoughts become darker as a new child is on the way. Walters next feature, Intimate Relations, would start out very differently. A black comedy, this would see her as another saucy landlady, this time seducing young lodger Rupert Graves.


However, matters would again descend into darkness as her young daughter discovers the affair and demands a piece of Graves, while Walters' crippled, drunken husband lurks in the shadows. A more conventional comedy would be Brazen Hussies, where Walters would be (yet another) saucy landlady. This time, though, she's running a pub and hopes to boost both her business and her marriage to Alun Armstrong by hiring male strippers, all arrangements to be made by a shifty Robert Lindsay.


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