Katherine Patricia Routledge
17 February 1929
Dame Katherine Patricia Routledge, DBE (/ˈraʊtlɪdʒ/ ROWT-lij; born 17 February 1929) is an English stage, TV and film actress and singer.
Routledge is best known for her comedy role as Hyacinth Bucket in the BBC sitcom Keeping Up Appearances (1990–1995), she was nominated for the BAFTA TV Award for Best Light Entertainment Performance in 1992 and 1993. Her film appearances include To Sir, with Love (1967) and Don't Raise the Bridge, Lower the River (1968).
Routledge made her professional stage debut at the Liverpool Playhouse in 1952 and her Broadway debut in How's the World Treating You in 1966. She won the 1968 Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical for her role in Darling of the Day, and the 1988 Olivier Award for Best Actress in a Musical for Candide.
On television, Routledge came to prominence during the 1980s in monologues written by Alan Bennett and Victoria Wood; appearing in Bennett's A Woman of No Importance (1982), as Kitty in Victoria Wood: As Seen on TV (1985–1986), and being nominated for the BAFTA TV Award for Best Actress for Bennett's Talking Heads: A Lady of Letters (1988). She also starred as Hetty Wainthropp in the British television series Hetty Wainthropp Investigates (1990, 1996–1998). In 2017, she was made a dame by Queen Elizabeth II for her services to entertainment and charity.
Routledge was born on 17 February 1929 in Tranmere in Cheshire. Her father was a haberdasher and gentlemen's outfitter. She was educated at Birkenhead High School, and the University of Liverpool. She gained a degree with honours in English Language and Literature. She was involved in the University's dramatic society, where she worked closely with the academic Edmund Colledge, who both directed and acted in several of the society's productions. It was Colledge who persuaded her to pursue an acting career. After graduating, she trained at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School and returned to Liverpool to begin her acting career at the Liverpool Playhouse.
Routledge has had a long career in theatre, particularly musical theatre, in the United Kingdom and the United States. Her vocal range was labelled as a mezzo-soprano and a contralto. She has been a long-standing member of the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC), appearing in such acclaimed productions as the 1984 Richard III, which starred Antony Sher in the title role. Her West End credits include Little Mary Sunshine, Cowardy Custard, Virtue in Danger, Noises Off, The Importance of Being Earnest, and The Solid Gold Cadillac, as well as a number of less successful vehicles. She was nominated for the Laurence Olivier Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role for her work in And a Nightingale Sang in 1979. A classically trained singer, she has occasionally made forays into operetta including taking the title role in an acclaimed production of Jacques Offenbach's La Grande-Duchesse de Gérolstein at the 1978 Camden Festival; "As the Grand Duchess she invested every phrase, spoken or sung [...] with wit and meaning, and coloured her tone to express a wide variety of emotions. Never did she resort to the hoydenish behaviour that this role – in British productions at least – seems to invite."
Routledge made her Broadway debut in Roger Milner's comedy How's the World Treating You? in 1966, returning in the short-lived 1968 musical Darling of the Day, for which she won the Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical, sharing the honour with Leslie Uggams of Hallelujah, Baby! Following this, Routledge had roles in several more unsuccessful Broadway productions including a musical called Love Match, in which she played Queen Victoria; the legendary 1976 Leonard Bernstein flop 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, in which she portrayed every U.S. First Lady from Abigail Adams to Eleanor Roosevelt; and a 1981 musical, Say Hello to Harvey – based on the Mary Coyle Chase play Harvey (1944) – which closed in Toronto before reaching New York City.
In 1980, Routledge played Ruth in the Joseph Papp production of The Pirates of Penzance, co-starring American actor Kevin Kline and pop vocalist Linda Ronstadt, at the Delacorte Theatre in New York City's Central Park, one of a series of Shakespeare in the Park summer events. The show was a hit and transferred to Broadway the following January, with Estelle Parsons replacing Routledge. A DVD of the Central Park production, with Routledge, was released in October 2002. She also performed in Façade at New York's Carnegie Recital Hall.
Routledge won a Laurence Olivier Award in 1988 for her portrayal of the Old Lady in Leonard Bernstein's Candide in the London cast of the critically acclaimed Scottish Opera production. One critic noted "She stopped the show with 'I am so easily assimilated', and her long narration worked on at least two levels – it was both hilarious and oddly moving." She also played the role of Nettie Fowler to great acclaim in the 1993 London production of Carousel. In a 2006 Hampstead Theatre production of The Best of Friends, she portrayed Dame Laurentia McLachlan. In 2008, she played Queen Mary in Royce Ryton's play Crown Matrimonial. More recent work includes the narrator in The Carnival of the Animals with the Nash Ensemble in 2010, the role of Dame Myra Hess in the play Admission: One Shilling in 2011, and Lady Markby in An Ideal Husband at the Chichester Festival Theatre in 2014.
Since 2009, Routledge has toured with a show entitled Facing The Music. The show features insights into her musical theatre career.
Film and television
Routledge's screen credits include To Sir, with Love (1967), Pretty Polly (1967), 30 Is a Dangerous Age, Cynthia, The Bliss of Mrs. Blossom, Don't Raise the Bridge, Lower the River (all 1968), If It's Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium (1969) and Girl Stroke Boy (1971).
Routledge's early television appearances included a role in Steptoe and Son, in the episode "Seance in a Wet Rag and Bone Yard" (1974), as a clairvoyant called Madame Fontana. She also appeared in Coronation Street (1961), and as a white witch in Doctor at Large (1971). Routledge played Mrs. Jennings in the BBC mini-series production of Sense and Sensibility (1971). However, she did not come to prominence on television until she featured in monologues written for her by Alan Bennett and later Victoria Wood in the 1980s. She first appeared in A Woman of No Importance, the second installment of Bennett's anthology, Objects of Affection in 1982. She then played the opinionated Kitty in Victoria Wood: As Seen on TV in 1985. She performed two further monologues in Bennett's Talking Heads in 1988 and 1998. Routledge was nominated for a British Academy Television Award for Best Actress for the monologue "A Lady of Letters".
In 1989, Routledge accepted the lead role of Hetty Wainthropp in an ITV mystery drama, Hetty Wainthropp: Missing Persons. ITV opted not to pursue a series after the pilot episode, but in 1996 the BBC produced the first series of Hetty Wainthropp Investigates, with Routledge again in the lead role. The show co-starred Dominic Monaghan as her assistant and Derek Benfield as her husband. It was first aired in January 1996, and ran until the autumn of 1998, with a special episode in 1999. Monaghan, who went on to enjoy a Hollywood career, has since credited Routledge as "an amazing teacher" who taught him some "very valuable lessons" in acting.
In 1990, Routledge was cast as Hyacinth Bucket in the comedy series Keeping Up Appearances. She portrayed a formerly working-class woman with social pretensions (insisting her surname be pronounced "bouquet") and delusions of grandeur (her oft-mentioned "candlelight suppers"). Routledge delighted in portraying Hyacinth, as she claimed she "couldn't stand people like her" in real life. In 1991, she won a British Comedy Award for her portrayal, and she was later nominated for two BAFTA TV Awards in 1992 and 1993. Routledge left the role in 1995, despite the series' ongoing popularity, as she wished to pursue other roles as an actress. During an interview on Australian television, Routledge said: "I'd much rather people look back and say 'I remember that' than say 'Oh, is that still on?'" Another reason she wished to leave the role was that she felt that the writer Roy Clarke, was "rewriting old scripts".
Routledge has also played several real-life characters for television, including Barbara Pym and in a dramatised BBC Omnibus biographical documentary of 1994, Hildegard of Bingen.
In 2001, Routledge starred in Anybody's Nightmare, a fact-based television drama in which she played Sheila Bowler, a mother and piano teacher who served four years in prison for murdering her elderly aunt, but was later acquitted following a retrial.
Radio and audio books
In 1966, Routledge sang the role of Mad Margaret in Ruddigore, the title role in Iolanthe, and Melissa in Princess Ida, in a series of BBC Radio Gilbert and Sullivan recordings. She took part in a studio broadcast of Tchaikovsky's opera Vakula the Smith (narrating excerpts from the work by Gogol) in 1989. In 2006, she was featured in an episode of the Stage and Screen series on Radio 3.
Routledge's extensive radio credits include several Alan Bennett plays and the BBC dramatisation of Carole Hayman's Ladies of Letters, in which she and Prunella Scales play retired women exchanging humorous correspondence over the course of several years. A tenth series of Ladies of Letters premiered on BBC Radio 4 in 2009.
Radio work prior to 1985 included Private Lives, Present Laughter, The Cherry Orchard, Romeo and Juliet, Alice in Wonderland and The Fountain Overflows.
Having a distinctive voice, Routledge has also recorded and released a variety of audiobooks including unabridged readings of Wuthering Heights and Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and abridged novelisations of the Hetty Wainthropp series.
Routledge has never married and has no children. In a 2001 interview, she said: "I didn't make a decision not to be married and not to be a mother. Life just turned out like that because my involvement in acting was so total". In the same interview, Routledge discussed two affairs she had been involved in: one with a married man whilst in her late 20s and the other being some years later with a man directing a play she was appearing in.
She has lived in Chichester since 2000 and regularly worships at Chichester Cathedral. In 2020, she helped raise £10,000 towards the restoration of the cathedral roof.
Routledge is a patron of the Beatrix Potter Society and an ambassador for the charity Royal Voluntary Service, previously known as WRVS.
Routledge was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 1993 Birthday Honours, Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 2004 Birthday Honours, and Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) in the 2017 New Year Honours for services to theatre and charity.
In 2008, Routledge received an honorary degree of Doctor of Letters from Lancaster University for her contribution to drama and theatre.
On 15 March 2019, Routledge received an honorary degree of Doctor of Letters from the University of Chester at Chester Cathedral for her contributions to theatre and television.
In 2022, the Royal Academy of Music conferred Routledge with honorary membership.
An honorary president of the Association of English Singers & Speakers (which exists to "encourage communication of English words in speech and song with clarity, understanding and imagination"), she has sponsored the annual AESS National English Song Prize from 2003 to the present.
Screen and stage work
|1967||To Sir, with Love||Clinty Clintridge||Directed by James Clavell|
|Pretty Polly||Miss Gudgeon||Directed by Guy Green|
|1968||30 Is a Dangerous Age, Cynthia||Mrs Woolley||Directed by Joseph McGrath|
|Don't Raise the Bridge, Lower the River||Lucille Beatty||Directed by Walter Shenson|
|The Bliss of Mrs. Blossom||Miss Reece||Directed by Joseph McGrath|
|1969||Lock Up Your Daughters||Nurse||Directed by Peter Coe|
|If It's Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium||Mrs Featherstone||Directed by Mel Stuart|
|1970||Egghead's Robot||Mrs Janice Wentworth||Directed by Milo Lewis|
|1971||Girl Stroke Boy||Pamela Hovendon||Directed by Bob Kellett|
|1956–66||ITV Play of the Week||Alice Clay/Maggie Hobson||3 episodes|
|1959||ITV Play of the Week||Dido Morgan/Kate Barclay/Louisa Lindley||6 episodes|
|1960||The Terrible Choice|
|1961||Hilda Lessways||Hilda Lessways||6 episodes|
|Coronation Street||Sylvia Snape||5 episodes|
|1961–70||Armchair Theatre||Miss Furling/New mother||2 episodes|
|1962||Z-Cars||Madge Kenton||1 episode|
|1964||Victoria Regina||Queen Victoria||Four part serial|
|1965||Not So Much a Programme, More a Way of Life||Irish Mother||2 episodes|
|No Hiding Place||Pat||1 episode|
|Gaslight Theatre||'Our Mary'|
|1967||Thirty-Minute Theatre||Beryl Turner|
|Seven Deadly Sins||Mrs Vealfoy in The Good and Faithful Servant|
|Androcles and the Lion||Megaera, Androcles' Wife||TV film|
|The Ed Sullivan Show||Performer, "Not on Your Nellie"||Soundtrack|
|1969||ITV Saturday Night Theatre||Hazel Day||1 episode|
|1970||Egghead's Robot||Mrs Janice Wentworth||Children's Film Foundation|
|ITV Playhouse||Fern/Rose||1 episode|
|1971||Sense and Sensibility||Mrs. Jennings||4 episodes|
|Doctor at Large||Audrey Watt||1 episode|
|Play of the Month: Tartuffe||Dorine||Videotaped drama|
|Vincent Price Is in the Country||Herself||TV film|
|1972||His and Hers||Myrtle Waller||1 episode|
|1973||Ooh La La!||Lucienne Homenides de Histangau|
|That's Life||On-screen Participant||BBC pilot programme|
|1974||Affairs of the Heart||Mrs. Meldrum||1 episode|
|Steptoe and Son||Madame Fontana|
|...And Mother Makes Five||Mrs. Fletcher||2 episodes|
|David Copperfield||Mrs. Micawber||3 episodes|
|1975||Play of the Month: When We Are Married||Annie Parker||Videotaped drama|
|More Awkward Customers||Cast member||Video Arts training film|
|1977||Nicholas Nickleby||Madame Mantalini||BBC mini-series|
|The Cost of Loving||Sarah Taplow|
|1978||BBC2 Play of the Week||Miss Protheroe|
|Doris and Doreen||Doreen Bidmead||TV film|
|1979||Crown Court||Rita Finch||1 episode|
|1980||The Pirates of Penzance||Ruth||TV film|
|Play for Today||ATS Officer||1 episode|
|The Curse of King Tut's Tomb||'Posh' Lady||TV film|
|1982||Objects of Affection: "A Woman of No Importance"||Peggy Schofield||1 episode|
|1983||The Beggar's Opera||Mrs. Peachum||TV film|
|Keep Off the Grass||Bag Lady||Short|
|The Two Ronnies||Madame Bultitude||1 episode|
|1984||Home Video||TV film|
|1985||Marjorie and Men||Marjorie Belton||6 episodes|
|1985–86||Victoria Wood: As Seen on TV||Kitty||5 episodes|
|1987||When We Are Married||Maria Helliwell||TV film|
|1988||Tales of the Unexpected||Milly Dobson||Episode (9/4) "The Verger"|
|Talking Heads||Miss Ruddock||1 episode, "A Lady of Letters"|
|Sophia and Constance||Mrs Baines||3 episodes|
|1989||First and Last||Ivy||TV film|
|Let's Face the Music||On-screen participant||Yorkshire TV (programmes on Noël Coward, Jerome Kern and Frederick Loewe)|
|1990||Missing Persons||Hetty Wainthropp||TV film|
|Alas Smith and Jones||1 episode|
|1991||Miss Pym's Day Out||Barbara Pym|
|1993||The World of Peter Rabbit and Friends||Cousin Ribby||2 episodes|
|1994||Hildegard of Bingen||Hildegard von Bingen||BBC TV Dramatisation/documentary|
|1990–95||Keeping Up Appearances||Hyacinth Bucket||Main role|
|1996–98||Hetty Wainthropp Investigates|
|Talking Heads 2||Miss Fozzard||1 episode, "Miss Fozzard Finds Her Feet"|
|2001||Anybody's Nightmare||Sheila Bowler||TV film|
|1952||A Midsummer Night's Dream||Hippolyta||Liverpool Playhouse, Liverpool|
|1954||The Duenna||Carlotta||Bristol Old Vic and Westminster Theatre, London|
|1956||The Comedy of Errors||Adriana||Arts Theatre, London|
|1957||Zuleika||Aunt Mabel||Saville Theatre, London|
|1959||The Love Doctor||Henrietta Argan||Piccadilly Theatre, London|
|1960||Follow That Girl||Mrs Gilchrist||Vaudeville Theatre, London|
|1961||Come As You Are||Guildford|
|Out of My Mind||Lyric Theatre, Hammersmith|
|1962||Little Mary Sunshine||Mary Potts ("Little Mary Sunshine")||Comedy Theatre, London|
|1963||Virtue in Danger||Berinthia||Mermaid Theatre and Strand Theatre, London|
|1964||Home and Beauty||Victoria||Croydon|
|1965||How's the World Treating You?||Violet/Nell/Rover||Arts Theatre and Wyndham's Theatre, London (1965) and Music Box Theatre, New York City (1966)|
|1968||Darling of the Day||Alice Challice||George Abbott Theatre, New York City|
|Love Match||Queen Victoria||Ahmanson Theatre, Los Angeles|
|1969||The Caucasian Chalk Circle||Mother-in-law||Chichester Festival Theatre|
|The Country Wife||Lady Fidget|
|The Magistrate||Agatha Posket||Chichester Festival Theatre and Cambridge Theatre, London|
|1971||First Impressions||Mrs Bennet||Birmingham Repertory Theatre|
|1972||Cowardy Custard||Mermaid Theatre, London|
|1973||Dandy Dick||Georgina Tidman||Chichester Festival Theatre and Garrick Theatre, London|
|1975||The Cherry Orchard||Madame Ranevskaya||Bristol Old Vic|
|Othello||Emilia||Chichester Festival Theatre|
|Made in Heaven||Martha Avon|
|1976||1600 Pennsylvania Avenue||All of the First Ladies||Mark Hellinger Theatre, New York City|
|The Rivals||Mrs Malaprop||Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester|
|1977||On Approval||Maria Wislack||Vaudeville Theatre, London|
|1978||The Grand Duchess of Gerolstein||The Grand Duchess||Collegiate Theatre, Camden, London|
|Gracious Living||Daisy Tuttle||Eisenhower Theatre, Washington, D.C.|
|1979||The Schoolmistress||Miss Dyott||Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester|
|And a Nightingale Sang...||Peggy Stott||Queen's Theatre, London|
|1980||The Pirates of Penzance||Ruth||Delacorte Theater, New York City|
|1981||Say Hello to Harvey||Toronto, Canada|
|1982||Noises Off||Dotty Otley||Lyric Theatre, Hammersmith and Savoy Theatre, London|
|1983||When the Wind Blows||Whitehall Theatre, London|
|1984||Richard III||Queen Margaret||Royal Shakespeare Company|
|1985||Henry V||Mistress Quickly||Royal Shakespeare Company|
|1986||When We Are Married||Maria Helliwell||Whitehall Theatre, London|
|1988||Candide||Old Lady||The Old Vic, London|
|1989||Come for the Ride||(one-woman show)||UK tour|
|1992||Talking Heads||Comedy Theatre, London|
|Carousel||Nettie Fowler||National Theatre, London|
|1994||Mr and Mrs Nobody||Carrie Pooter||Greenwich Theatre, London|
|The Rivals||Mrs Malaprop||Chichester Festival Theatre and Albery Theatre, London|
|The Schoolmistress||Miss Dyott||Chichester Festival Theatre|
|1997||Beatrix||Beatrix Potter||Minerva Theatre, Chichester and UK tour|
|1999–2001||The Importance of Being Earnest||Lady Bracknell||Chichester Festival Theatre and Theatre Royal Haymarket, London (1999),|
Australian tour (2000) and Savoy Theatre, London (2001)
|2002||Wild Orchids||Duchess||Chichester Festival Theatre|
|2004||The Solid Gold Cadillac||Mrs Laura Partridge||Garrick Theatre, London|
|2006||The Best of Friends||Dame Laurentia MacLachlan||Hampstead Theatre and UK tour|
|2007||Office Suite||Doreen/Miss Protheroe||Minerva Theatre, Chichester and UK tour|
|2008||Crown Matrimonial||Queen Mary||UK tour|
|2009–present||Admission: One Shilling||Myra Hess||UK and Australian tours|
|Facing the Music||UK tours|
|2014||An Ideal Husband||Lady Markby||Chichester Festival Theatre|
|1960||Follow That Girl||Original London Cast|
|1962||Little Mary Sunshine|
|1963||Virtue in Danger|
|1965||Hello, Dolly!||1965 London Studio Cast (Mrs Irene Malloy)|
|1966||The Sound of Music||1966 London Studio Cast (Mother Abbess)|
|1967||Androcles and the Lion||1967 Television Cast|
|Kiss Me, Kate||1967 London Studio Cast (Lily/Katherine)|
|1968||Darling of the Day||1968 Original Broadway Cast|
|1969||A Talent to Amuse: Noel Coward's 70th Birthday Concert||1969 Concert Cast|
|1972||Cowardy Custard||1972 Original London Cast|
|1976||Cole||1976 Studio Cast|
|1985||I Remember Mama||1985 Original Cast Members (Aunt Jenny)|
|1987||An Evening With Alan Jay Lerner||1987 Concert Cast|
|1973||Presenting Patricia Routledge||Re-released on CD in 1996|
Awards and nominations
|1966||Whitbread Award||Outstanding Musical Performance||How’s The World Treating You?||Won|
|1968||Tony Award||Best Actress in a Musical||Darling of the Day||Won|
|1979||Olivier Award||Best Supporting Actress||And a Nightingale Sang...||Nominated|
|1984||Broadcasting Press Guild Award||Best Actress||A Woman of No Importance||Won|
|1985||Olivier Award||Best Supporting Performance||Richard III||Nominated|
|1988||Best Actress in a Musical||Candide||Won|
|1989||BAFTA TV Award||Best Actress||Talking Heads: A Lady of Letters||Nominated|
|1991||British Comedy Award||Best TV Comedy Actress||Keeping Up Appearances||Won|
|1992||BAFTA TV Award||Best Light Entertainment Performance||Nominated|
|Olivier Award||Best Actress||Talking Heads||Nominated|
|1993||BAFTA TV Award||Best Light Entertainment Performance||Keeping up Appearances||Nominated|
|Variety Club of Great Britain Award||Personality of the Year||Keeping up Appearances||Won|
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- ^ "Up Among The Cuckoos". Evening Times. 8 June 1970. Retrieved 14 November 2013.
- ^ "TV transmission – Play of the Month: Tartuffe" Archived 20 September 2009 at the Wayback Machine, BFI Film & TV database.
- ^ Arthur Jacobs. At the Musical: Virtue in Danger. Mermaid Theatre, 16 April. Opera, June 1963, Vol.14, No.6, p429-430. "A musical version of Vanbrugh's The Relapse (1697)"; "In an able cast, dashingly directed by Wendy Toye, John Moffatt (Foppington) stood out for his acting and Patricia Routledge (Berinthia) for singing and acting combined."
- ^ McDermott, Ruth (6 July 1978). "'Gracious Living' is Packing 'em In". The Hour. Retrieved 14 November 2013.
- ^ Spencer, Charles (6 June 2002). "Routledge's doughty duchess rescues Anouilh from ennui". The Daily Telegraph. Archived from the original on 12 January 2022. Retrieved 14 November 2013.
- StackPath Archived 31 August 2019 at the Wayback Machine
- selected performances in Theatre Archive University of Bristol
- Interview January, 2015, in the Coeur d' Alene Press Archived 19 November 2015 at the Wayback Machine
- Patricia Routledge at the Internet Broadway Database
- Patricia Routledge at IMDb
- Patricia Routledge at the British Film Institute
- Patricia Routledge (Aveleyman)
- 1929 births
- 20th-century English actresses
- 20th-century English singers
- 20th-century English women singers
- 21st-century English actresses
- 21st-century English singers
- 21st-century English women singers
- Actresses awarded damehoods
- Actresses from Merseyside
- Alumni of Bristol Old Vic Theatre School
- Alumni of the University of Liverpool
- Audiobook narrators
- Dames Commander of the Order of the British Empire
- English Anglicans
- English film actresses
- English musical theatre actresses
- English radio actresses
- English stage actresses
- English television actresses
- English voice actresses
- Laurence Olivier Award winners
- Living people
- People educated at Birkenhead High School Academy
- People from Birkenhead
- Royal Shakespeare Company members
- Tony Award winners