Kirsty Young’s castaway this week is the actress Liz Smith. Her story is a triumph of talent and perseverance over circumstance. Her mother died when she was tiny, her father walked out of her life and for many years she was brought up by her grandmother who was in mourning for her only child and her own husband. For Liz, acting and making people laugh was an escape from the often harsh realities of life, but she had to wait until she was 50 for her first real break – a role in Mike Leigh’s film Bleak Moments. By that time, she’d raised her two children on her own with very little money and knew that this was her opportunity to prove what she could do.
She won critical acclaim and was later awarded a Bafta for her appearance in Alan Bennett’s A Private Function and finally, when she was in her 70s, she became a household name through her roles in The Vicar of Dibley and The Royle Family. She’s now 86 years old and, although she concedes the characters she plays have a habit of dying o