Written by Alison James
No matter how good a film Dad’s Army turns out to be, the classic TV series from the Sixties and Seventies will be a tough act to follow.
But whether Toby Jones is as memorable a Captain Mainwaring as Arthur Lowe, Bill Nighy impresses as Sergeant Wilson and Tom Courtenay cuts it as Corporal Jones, it’s pretty much a given that Sarah Lancashire will give a sublime performance as Mavis Pike – the over-protective mother of scarf-wearing, ‘stupid boy’, Frank Pike.
Although Mavis was ably played in the TV series by late actress Janet Davies, Sarah has the kind of star quality which will translate onto the big screen.
Sarah (51) has been busy since leaving Coronation Street and the much-loved character of Raquel Wolstenhulme behind 16 years ago, yet she’ll be forever associated with the ditzy Rovers’ barmaid. In fact we’re rather hoping that Sarah’s Mavis Pike will be, in some ways, an older, tougher version of the much-loved Raquel.
What we do know is that Sarah’s Mavis – unlike the TV portrayal – will be in uniform for much of the time, as will the majority of the other female characters, who include Cissy Godfrey played by Annette Crosbie and Mrs Fox played by Alison Steadman.
Their ‘Mum’s Army’ is at the heart of the Dad’s Army film as the Walmington-on-sea women-folk take up arms as members of the Auxiliary Territorial Service, or ATS.
The group – led by the never-before-seen, long-suffering yet extremely formidable wife of Captain Mainwaring played by Felicity Montagu – help to defend the village from an enemy spy. It seems however that the women are as inept as the men. One scene sees them practising firing guns, only to fall flat on their backs thanks to the impact!
But it’s an impact of a very different kind that Sarah looks certain to deliver when she returns to the small screen playing strong-willed Police Sergeant Catherine Cawood in the second series of gritty crime drama, Happy Valley.
The new series, set to return to the BBC in February, shortly after the release of Dad’s Army, follows on from the hugely successful first series in 2014. It’s thought that writer Sally Wainwright (who also wrote Last Tango in Halifax in which Sarah starred as Caroline), penned Happy Valley with the actress in mind.
“When you read Sally’s scripts, they’re not like scripts, they’re like transcripts of people’s lives,” Sarah has said. “Her words do it for you, you don’t have to think about it too much – in fact it’s often best to let her writing do it for you. She’s just at the top of her game really.”
Sarah has spoken about how her research for Happy Valley, which saw her going out with a real-life police force, not only helped her get into the role but also increased her admiration for the organisation and its officers.
“I’d always imagined in my head that these police officers were just people and that’s exactly what they are. One of the most interesting things I learnt when I went out with them was how undermanned the service is and also that life can change within five minutes.”
Sarah passion, apart from her husband and family, is, and always has been, acting. She is, however, refreshingly un-‘luvvie’ about it.
“In my job, I can never take a day off,” she explains. “There’s no room to feel unwell. You just have to turn up. There’s no one who can do it for you so you can’t have a day off. You just have to get on with it and that makes you very tough. There’s never a constant rhythm to an actor’s life. It’s a peculiar one, but by the same token, we don’t want a constant rhythm and, in fact, work very hard not to have it. I find that acting is a subtle combination of hiding and revealing yourself.”
- Dad’s Army is released in cinemas nationwide on February 5.
- The second series of Happy Valley starts Tuesday, February 9 at 9pm on BBC1.
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