Routledge returns to Mersey roots

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Patricia Routledge

At the tender age of five Patricia Routledge danced to Liverpool through the Mersey Tunnel, to mark its opening. She had learnt, it seems, from an early age how to make an entrance. Throughout a career spanning six decades she has also learnt to leave a lasting impression.

The Scouse star – an honorary fellow of LJMU – has certainly earned her title as one of the nation’s favourite actresses; entertaining and enthralling as Hyacinth Bucket, Hetty Wainthrop and some of Alan Bennett’s most memorable characters.

Routledge returned to Liverpool, where she first began her career at The Playhouse, firstly for LJMU’s ‘In Conversation With…’ event to talk with journalist and broadcaster Edward Seckerson about the highs, and lows, of her career, and then to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the theatre where she first worked. “It was a wonderful year and a wonderful opportunity to work at the Playhouse. What a happy memory,” she says.

But it was never Routledge’s ambition to be an actress: “It was my intention to be an English teacher, because I love this language so much. My ambition was to be a very avant garde headteacher.”

Routledge grew up in Birkenhead and speaks fondly of her childhood. Of her singing teacher Mrs Snee and  “Uncle George, Uncle Ken and dad” making music around the piano: “My family were wonderfully theatre orientated.”

She crossed the Mersey to read English at the University of Liverpool and has been keen to support the city’s universities ever since.

The ‘In Conversation With’ evening was held to raise money for LJMU’s Michael Brown scholarship fund. “I’m proud to be an honorary fellow of LJMU.  Tonight is saluting the scholarship fund,” she says with a little salute.

She is certainly a character, and of the highest calibre, able to not just pick and choose her projects, but have them specially written for her.

Her close friend Alan Bennett scripted A Visit From Miss Protheroe and A Woman Of No Importance for Routledge, roles which were critically acclaimed.

But despite turning her hand, seemingly effortlessly, to stage, screen and radio, she still admits to occasional nerves. Of singing You’ll Never Walk Alone as Nellie in Carousel: “I used to be terrified if anyone was in from Liverpool!”

About Katie Upton, JMU Journalism