Alison Steadman is an English actress who has made her mark in films, television, and theater. Her rich oeuvre includes several successful projects with writer, director and her ex-husband, Mike Leigh. The works include the tragicomedy film ‘Life is Sweet,’ which won her the ‘National Society of Film Critics Award for Best Actress’; the play ‘Abigail's Party’ and its television version; and the television film ‘Nuts in May.’ She also won the ‘Olivier Award for Best Actress’ for her performance in the play ‘The Rise and Fall of Little Voice.’ Her performances in the television series ‘Fat Friends’ and ‘The Singing Detective’ fetched her ‘BAFTA TV Award’ nominations. She is also a talented mimicry artist and has performed in programs like ‘Week Ending’ and ‘Castle's on the Air.’ She was honoured with invested as ‘Officer of the Order of the British Empire,’ in 2000.
Childhood & Early Life
Alison Steadman was born on August 26, 1946, in Liverpool, England, to George Percival Steadman and Marjorie (née Evans) as their youngest daughter. Her father served ‘Plessey’ as a production controller.
She first attended a state grammar school ‘Childwall Valley High School for Girls.’ Thereafter she studied at ‘East 15 Acting School (East 15)’ in Loughton, Essex, and obtained a rank in autumn 1966. While in her second year there, Alison met Mike Leigh.
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After her education at East 15, Alison had a stint as a secretary at the ‘Liverpool Probation Service’ before she resolved to pursue full-time acting. In 1968, she made her stage debut. She first performed at Lincoln, as a seductive schoolgirl ‘Sandy’ in the play ‘The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie.’ This was followed by appearances in several other regional repertory theatres.
She played the ex-department store cosmetics demonstrator ‘Beverly Moss’ in the play ‘Abigail's Party,’ which was Devised and directed by Mike Leigh. It was produced on-stage in April 1977 at the ‘Hampstead Theatre.’ It returned during the summer of that year and had 104 performances. Alison reprised her role of ‘Beverly’ in television adaptation of the play.
She starred as ‘Elmire’ in the Bill Alexander directed 1983 ‘Royal Shakespeare Company’ production of the famous theatrical comedy ‘Tartuffe’ by Molière. The play was produced at ‘The Pit’ in the Barbican Centre, London, with Antony Sher essaying the lead character. It was later videotaped for television viewing.
The 1992 West End cast of the play ‘The Rise and Fall of Little Voice,’ featured Alison in the character of ‘Mari Hoff.’ It won her the 1993 ‘Olivier Award for Best Actress.’
She got an ‘Olivier award’ nomination for ‘Best Actress,’ in 1998 for ‘The Memory of Water.’
In 2010, she appeared in a revival of Noël Coward's comic play ‘Blithe Spirit’ as ‘Madame Arcati.’ It began as a UK tour and shifted to the ‘Apollo Theatre’ in London where it was staged from March 2011 to June 2011.
She played ‘Madame Raquin’ in the 2014 stage production of Emile Zola's ‘Therese Raquin’ adapted by Helen Edmundson. Over the years, Alison has acted in several other plays, including ‘Entertaining Mr Sloane’ and ‘Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.’ She has performed in different theatres, such as the ‘National Theatre,’ the ‘Everyman Liverpool,’ the ‘Nottingham Playhouse,’ the ‘Royal Court,’ the ‘Old Vic,’ the ‘Theatre Royal,’ and the ‘Hampstead Theatre.’
Television plays ‘Nuts in May’ (1976) and ‘Abigail's Party’ (1977) gave her recognition on the small-screen. She fetched two BAFTA TV Award nominations in 1987 and 2001 for her performances in the BBC television serial drama ‘The Singing Detective’ (1986) and the British drama series ‘Fat Friends’ (2000–05) respectively.
Other television productions featuring Alison include ‘Pride and Prejudice’ (1995), ‘The Worst Week of My Life’ (2004-06), ‘Fanny Hill’ (2007), ‘Gavin & Stacey’ (2007–10, 2019), and ‘Orphan Black’ (2015–16); she has also featured in television films ‘The Missing Postman’ (1997) and ‘The Life and Death of Peter Sellers’ (2004).
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Alison’s role of ‘Wendy’ in the 1990 British Tragicomedy film ‘Life Is Sweet’ won her the ‘National Society of Film Critics Award for Best Actress,’ in 1991.
She has also featured in several other big-screen flicks in her career. These include films like ‘A Private Function’ (1984), ‘The Adventures of Baron Munchausen’ (1988), ‘Secrets & Lies’ (1996), ‘Topsy-Turvy’ (1999), and ‘Burn Burn Burn’ (2015).
She was ranked 42 by other actors in a ‘Channel 4’ poll conducted in 2007 for its list of "50 Greatest Actors."
Alison has displayed her mimicry talent and also played character voices in several radio programs, including ‘The Worst Show on the Wireless’, ‘Week Ending,’ and ‘Castle's on the Air.’
She worked with Eli Woods and Eddie Braben in thirteen episodes of the UK radio show ‘The Show with No Name,’ from 1982 to 1984. It is elucidated as an updated version of the popular BBC Radio comedy programme ‘Round the Horne’.
She has also performed in many ‘BBC Radio 4’ programs, including the series ‘Hamish and Dougal,’ and ‘My Mad Grandad.’.
Family & Personal Life
Alison was married to Mike Leigh from August 15, 1973, to 2001. Together they have two sons, Toby, born on February 3, 1978, and Leo, born on August 15, 1981.
She is presently romantically involved with Welsh actor Michael Elwyn and resides with him in Highgate, London.
Charitable endeavours of the actress include designing and signing cards for ‘Thomas Coram Foundation for Children.’ She was inducted as an ambassador for ‘London Wildlife Trust,’ in November 2016.