Alison Steadman

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Alison Steadman

You'll Have Had Your Tea - Alison Steadman.jpg
Steadman during a recording of You'll Have Had Your Tea for BBC Radio 4 in 2006
Born (1946-08-26) 26 August 1946 (age 76)
Liverpool, England
Years active1968–present
(m. 1973; div. 2001)
PartnerMichael Elwyn

Alison Steadman OBE (born 26 August 1946) is an English actress. She received the 1991 National Society of Film Critics Award for Best Actress for the Mike Leigh film Life Is Sweet and the 1993 Olivier Award for Best Actress for her role as Mari in the original production of The Rise and Fall of Little Voice. In a 2007 Channel 4 poll, the ‘50 Greatest Actors’ voted for by other actors, she was ranked 42.[1]

Steadman made her professional stage debut in 1968 and went on to establish her career in Mike Leigh's 1970s TV plays Nuts in May (1976) and Abigail's Party (1977).[2] She received BAFTA TV Award nominations for the 1986 BBC serial The Singing Detective and in 2001 for the ITV drama series Fat Friends (2000–2005). Other television roles include Pride and Prejudice (1995), Gavin & Stacey (2007–2010, 2019) and Orphan Black (2015–2016). Her other film appearances include A Private Function (1984), Topsy-Turvy (1999), The Life and Death of Peter Sellers (2004), Dad's Army (2016) and The King's Man (2021).

Early life and education[edit]

Steadman was born in Liverpool, the youngest of three sisters born to Marjorie (née Evans) and George Percival Steadman,[3] who worked as a production controller for Plessey, an electronics firm.

Steadman was educated at Childwall Valley High School for Girls, a state grammar school in the Liverpool suburb of Childwall, followed by East 15 Acting School, at which she secured a place in the autumn of 1966 and where she met Mike Leigh during her second year.[4]


Stage work[edit]

Having left the East 15 Acting School in Loughton, Essex, Steadman worked in various regional repertory theatres, starting at Lincoln in 1968, where her first role was the schoolgirl Sandy in The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie. She created the role of the monstrous Beverly in Mike Leigh's Abigail's Party, which she reprised with the original cast on television. She won an Olivier Award for The Rise and Fall of Little Voice and also appeared in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Entertaining Mr Sloane, Hotel Paradiso, and others in locations as diverse as the Royal Court, the Theatre Royal, the Old Vic, the Hampstead Theatre, the Nottingham Playhouse, the Everyman Liverpool and the National Theatre. She starred as Elmire in the 1983 RSC production of Molière's Tartuffe, which was adapted for BBC television.[citation needed] In 2010 Steadman played Madame Arcati in a revival of Noël Coward's Blithe Spirit.[citation needed] In 2014 Steadman appeared as Madame Raquin in Helen Edmundson's adaptation of Emile Zola's Thérèse Raquin.[5][6]


Steadman has appeared in many films, including P'tang, Yang, Kipperbang (1982), Champions (1983), A Private Function (1984), Number One (1984), Clockwise (1986), Stormy Monday (1988), The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (1988), Shirley Valentine (1989), Wilt (1989), Life Is Sweet (1990), Blame It on the Bellboy (1992), Secrets & Lies (1996), Topsy-Turvy (1999), The Life and Death of Peter Sellers (2004), Confetti (2006), Burn Burn Burn (2015) and 23 Walks (2020).


An early television appearance came in 1976 which saw Steadman cast as Cheryl Baker in the Granada Television daytime series Crown Court. Her character was the secretary of a confidence trickster found guilty of fraud.

Other television work includes Fat Friends as Betty, Grumpy Old Women, Stressed Eric, Let Them Eat Cake, The Singing Detective, No Bananas, The Caucasian Chalk Circle, Adrian Mole: The Cappuccino Years as Pauline Mole, opposite James Bolam in the television film The Missing Postman, and Pride and Prejudice as Mrs. Bennet. In 1991, she also appeared as Edda Göring in Selling Hitler and as Lauren Patterson in Gone to the Dogs, which was then followed up by Gone to Seed.

Television productions directed by Leigh in which she has appeared include Nuts in May, Hard Labour and Abigail's Party. She also appeared in the BBC comedy The Worst Week of My Life. In 2007 she featured in the BBC Wales programme Coming Home about her Welsh family history, with roots in Trefarclawdd and Ruabon.

In October 2007 Steadman appeared in Fanny Hill on BBC Four.

From May 2007 to January 2010 Steadman starred in the BBC comedy Gavin & Stacey as Pam Shipman. She returned in the role in the 2019 Christmas special. She appeared in Lewis as the Reverend Martha Steadman in ‘Intelligent Design’ in 2013.

Steadman starred with Myra Frances in Girl, a 1974 BBC play in the Second City Firsts series, performing the first lesbian kiss on British television.[7]

In 2014 Steadman starred in the first series of the BBC comedy Boomers as Joyce. The show returned with a Christmas Special in 2015 and a second series in 2016. In 2016 she presented the three-part series Little British Islands with Alison Steadman on Channel 4. The series visited Gigha, Jura, Colonsay and Oronsay in episode 1, Jersey, Alderney and Sark in episode 2 and the Isles of Scilly in episode 3. In 2016 she appeared as Abigail in the Midsomer Murders episode ‘The incident at Cooper Hill’.

In 2018 Steadman made a return to BBC1 with John Cleese in Hold the Sunset. On 9 December 2018 Steadman appeared in the BBC1 Drama ‘Care’ in the role of Mary.


On radio Steadman's talent for mimicry and character voices was given full rein in shows such as Week Ending, Castle's on the Air and The Worst Show on the Wireless. In the second and third of these she played the over-protective mother to Eli Woods' long-suffering Bunty/Precious. From 1982 to 1984 she joined Eli Woods and Eddie Braben (Morecambe and Wise's scriptwriter) in 13 episodes of the UK radio show The Show with No Name, which can be described as an updated version of Round the Horne comedy sketch show. Later, from 2002, she starred as Mrs Naughtie in the series Hamish and Dougal. Steadman had a spell in Roy Hudd's long-running comedy show The News Huddlines in the early to mid 1980s. In December 2009 she starred in Mike Stott's My Mad Grandad on BBC Radio 4.[8] From 2012 she played Ginny Fox, a parody of Virginia Woolf, in the sitcom Gloomsbury. In 2018 she made a guest appearance in Radio 4's The Archers as Olwen, a friend of Jill Archer.

Personal life[edit]

In 1972 director Mike Leigh drove to Liverpool to see Ted Whitehead's play The Foursome, which featured Steadman. He asked her to be in his film Hard Labour, during which, both said, they "got together".[9] They married in 1973 and had two sons, Toby (b. 1978) and Leo (b. 1981).[10] The couple lived with their sons in Wood Green, London.[11] They separated in 1995 and divorced in 2001.

Steadman's partner is actor Michael Elwyn.[12] The couple live in Highgate, London.[13]

She is a birdwatcher[14] and in November 2016 became an ambassador for London Wildlife Trust.[15]



Year Title Role Notes
1975 Nuts in May Candice Marie TV film
1977 Abigail's Party Beverly TV film
1980 Moving Pictures Mrs. Arnolfini TV film
1982 P'tang, Yang, Kipperbang Miss Land TV film
1983 Tartuffe, or the Impostor Elmire TV film
1984 Champions Mary Hussey
A Private Function Mrs. Allardyce
Number One Doreen TV film
1985 The Caucasian Chalk Circle Kato/Natella/Aniko TV film
1986 Clockwise Gwenda Stimpson
1987 The Finding Mum TV film
1988 Coming Through Kate TV film
Stormy Monday Mayor
The Adventures of Baron Munchausen Daisy
1989 Shirley Valentine Jane
Wilt Eva Wilt
1990 Life Is Sweet Wendy
1992 Blame It on the Bellboy Rosemary Horton
1996 Secrets & Lies Dog Owner
The Snow Queen's Revenge Pearl Voice role
1997 The Missing Postman Christine Peacock TV film
The Ugly Duckling The Hen Voice role
1999 Topsy-Turvy Madame Leon
2001 Chunky Monkey Beryl
Happy Now? Bronwyn Race
Bob the Builder: A Christmas to Remember Bunty Furguson (Voice; UK dub) Direct to Video; Animated film;
2003 Philip Larkin: Love and Death in Hull Narrator Voice role
Hans Christian Andersen: My Life as a Fairytale Mrs. Meisling
2004 Bosom Pals Joan TV film, voice role
The Life and Death of Peter Sellers Casting Agent TV film
2006 Confetti Sam's Mum
Loony in the Woods Crazy Butcher
2007 The Dinner Party Juliet TV film
Who Gets the Dog? Jenny Evans TV film
2010 Come Rain Come Shine Dora Mitchell TV film
2014 Peterman Auntie Jean
2015 Burn Burn Burn Diana
2016 Dad's Army Mrs. Fox
2017 We Can Be Heroes Granny Evans
2018 Care Mary TV film
2020 23 Walks Fern
Roald & Beatrix: The Tail of the Curious Mouse Dora TV film
2021 The King's Man Rita


Year Title Role Notes
1971 Bel Ami Fencer Episode: "Madeleine"
1973 Z-Cars WPC Bayliss 2 episodes
1973–1974 Frost's Weekly Various roles Series regular
1973–1981 Play for Today Various roles Series regular
1974 Crown Court Mary Chatham Episode: "Good and Faithful Friends: Part 1"
Second City Firsts Jackie Episode: "Girl"
1975 Helen Episode: "Early to Bed"
Tarbuck and All That! Series regular
Oil Strike North Paula Webber Episode: "First Lion"
The Wackers Bernadette Clarkson Series regular
1976 Crown Court Cheryl Baker Episode: "Scard: Part 1"
Red Letter Day Margaret Hudson Episode: "Bag of Yeast"
1977 Esther Waters Sarah 3 episodes
1978 ITV Playhouse Norma Hardy Episode: "Ten Days That Shook the Branch"
1979 Two's Company Pamela Episode: "The Silence"
1986 The Singing Detective Mrs. Lili Marlow Mini-series
In Sickness and in Health Mother Episode: "Christmas Special"
1989 Screen Two Brenda Ogdon Episode: "Virtuoso"
The Jim Henson Hour Perriwinkle Episode: "Monster Maker"
Screenplay Marjorie Episode: "A Small Mourning"
1990 Screen One Jackie Johns Episode: "News Hounds"
1991 Selling Hitler Edda Goering Mini-series
Gone to the Dogs Lauren Patterson Mini-series
1992 Gone to Seed Hilda Series regular, 6 episodes
1994 The Wimbledon Poisoner Elinor Farr Mini-series, 2 episodes
1995 Kavanagh QC Evelyn Marie Kendall Episode: "Nothing But the Truth"
Pride and Prejudice Mrs. Bennet Mini-series, 6 episodes
Coogan's Run Annette Episode: "The Curator"
1995–1998 Crapston Villas Marge Stenson Series regular
1996 Karaoke Mrs. Haynes 2 episodes
Cold Lazarus Mrs. Haynes 1 episode
No Bananas Evelyn Hamilton Series regular
1998–2000 Stressed Eric Mrs. Perfect Series regular, voice role
1999 Let Them Eat Cake Madame de Plonge 4 episodes
2000–2005 Fat Friends Betty Simpson Series regular
2001 Adrian Mole: The Cappuccino Years Pauline Mole Series regular
2002 Celeb Grandma Episode: "The Love Child"
2003 Lenny Henry in Pieces 4 episodes
Comic Relief Professa Minerva McGonagall Sketch: Harry Potter and the Chamberpot of Azerbaijan
2004 Dalziel and Pascoe Marion Mattis Episode: "Soft Touch"
2004–2005 The Lenny Henry Show Mrs. Twelvetrees 2 episodes
2004–2006 The Worst Week of My Life Angela Cook Series regular, 17 episodes
2005 Twisted Tales Margery Faversham Episode: "Fruitcake of the Living Dead"
Bob the Builder Bunty Furguson (UK) Episode: "Bob's Big Plan"
2007 The Last Detective Karen Horner Episode: "The Man from Montevideo"
Agatha Christie's Marple Kirsten Lindstrom Episode: "Ordeal by Innocence"
Fanny Hill Mrs. Brown 2 episodes
The Omid Djalili Show Mrs. Dashett 1 episode
2007–2010, 2019 Gavin & Stacey Pamela Shipman Series regular
2012 Playhouse Presents Tina Episode: "King of the Teds"
Inspector George Gently Esther Dunwoody Episode: "The Lost Child"
Little Crackers 2 episodes
2013 Lewis Rev. Martha Seager Episode: "Intelligent Design"
The Syndicate Rose Wilson Series regular
Love and Marriage Pauline Paradise Series regular
2014 The Great War: The People's Story Hallie Miles 3 episodes, documentary
The Secrets Angela Episode: "The Dilemma"
2014–2016 Boomers Joyce Series regular
2015 Inside No. 9 Madam Talbot Episode: "Seance Time"
2015–2016 Orphan Black Kendall Malone 5 episodes
2016 Midsomer Murders Abigail Tonev Episode: "The Incident at Cooper Hill"
Yonderland Barbara Maddox Episode: "It's The Thought That Counts"
Comedy Playhouse Brenda Episode: "Broken Biscuits"
2017 Cath Episode: "Static"
We Have Been Watching Narrator Series regular
Yours Faithfully Edna Welthorpe (Mrs) Edna Welthorpe Short
2018 Butterfly Barbara Miniseries
The Reluctant Landlord Debbie Episode: "Mama's Boy"
2018–2019 Hold the Sunset Edith Series regular
2019 Moominvalley Emma the Stage Rat Voice; 2 episodes
2020 Life Gail Reynolds Series regular
Roald & Beatrix: The Tail of the Curious Mouse Dora
Pandemonium Sue BBC One comedy (pilot episode of Here We Go)[16]
2022 Rules of the Game Anita Jenkins TV mini-series[17]
Here We Go Sue BBC One comedy[18]

Awards and nominations[edit]

Year Work Award Category Result
1987 The Singing Detective BAFTA TV Award Best Actress Nominated
1991 Life Is Sweet Taormina International Film Festival Golden Mask Won
1992 Life Is Sweet National Society of Film Critics Awards Best Actress Won
1993 The Rise and Fall of Little Voice Olivier Award Best Actress Won
1996 Pride and Prejudice CableACE Award Supporting Actress in a Movie or Miniseries Nominated
1998 The Memory of Water Olivier Award Best Actress Nominated
2001 Fat Friends BAFTA TV Award Best Actress Nominated
2016 N/A British Independent Film Award Richard Harris Award Won


  1. ^ "The Stage Talk". The Stage. Retrieved 17 September 2014.
  2. ^ "Alison Steadman" Liverpool John Moores University Honorary Fellowship Award speech July 2010 Archived 16 October 2011 at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved 7 June 2011
  3. ^ "Alison Steadman Biography (1946-)".
  4. ^ Michael Coveney, The World according to Mike Leigh, p.90
  5. ^ "Theatre Royal Bath - Main House". Theatre Royal Bath. Archived from the original on 23 February 2017. Retrieved 30 October 2015.
  6. ^ Cavendish, Dominic (8 August 2014). "Thérèse Raquin, Theatre Royal Bath, review: 'rudimentary'". The Daily Telegraph. Archived from the original on 12 January 2022.
  7. ^ "Alison Steadman: Britain's lady-in-waiting", The Sunday Times, 30 November 2008
  8. ^ "My Mad Grandad", BBC, 28 December 2009
  9. ^ Coveney, p. 90
  10. ^ Michael Coveney, p. 18
  11. ^ "Profile: Mike Leigh". The Guardian. 19 October 2002. Retrieved 12 November 2021.
  12. ^ Alison Steadman. "The Alison Steadman Page". Archived from the original on 16 July 2007. Retrieved 23 May 2012.
  13. ^ Woods, Judith (23 October 2016). "Alison Steadman: How my mum was mistreated by the NHS". The Daily Telegraph. ISSN 0307-1235. Archived from the original on 12 January 2022. Retrieved 27 October 2019.
  14. ^ Kellaway, Kate (22 November 2009). "'To a birdwatcher, one glimpse, one moment is happiness enough'". The Observer. Retrieved 27 May 2020.
  15. ^ "Actress Alison Steadman is standing up for London's wildlife as our latest ambassador".
  16. ^ "Here We Go: Meet the cast of the new BBC comedy series". Retrieved 21 April 2022.
  17. ^ "Rules Of The Game". Retrieved 3 January 2022.
  18. ^ "Here We Go: Meet the cast of the new BBC comedy series". Retrieved 21 April 2022.

External links[edit]