Actress Helen Fraser looks back over a glittering career at Bungay’s Fisher Theatre

Helen Fraser

Helen Fraser - Credit: Archant

For a Lancashire lass actress Helen Fraser is happy to be called a Suffolk girl as she has lived in the county for the past 43 years.

Next Saturday, August 24, the original “Bad Girl” is staging her one woman show at the Fisher Theatre in Bungay.

With a successful career stretching back more than five decades Helen has many anecdotes, stories and songs to choose from.

She said: “It’s going to be a fun evening with me talking about some of the things I’ve done and people I have met over the years. I shall be accompanied by my friend and pianist Stephen Lade and together we shall be re-visiting some songs from my Vesta Victoria and Cicely Courtneidge shows as well as talking about my time on Bad Girls, Bad Girls in the West End and also what it was like working with Dick Emery during the 1970s.”

Helen will also be talking about working with her late husband, Oscar-winning soundman Peter Handford and how they met in a chilly Bradford cemetery during the filming of one of the era-defining films of the 1960s, Billy Liar.

Helen is probably best known for her role as tough prison warden Sylvia “Bodybag” Hollamby in ITV’s “Bad Girls” but it was 50 years ago in 1963 that she got her big break starring as Tom Courtenay’s long-suffering girlfriend, Barbara, in John Schlesinger’s classic Billy Liar.

“I have lots of very fond memories of Billy Liar. It was a wonderful film and we were all so young, Tom, Julie Christie and myself. It really captured the spirit of the age.”

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But there are also personal memories as well as professional ones. It was on Billy Liar that Helen fell in love with the film’s sound-recordist, Peter Handford.

Helen will also be talking about working with her late husband, Oscar-winning soundman Peter Handford and how they met in a chilly Bradford cemetery during the filming of Billy Liar.

The film is still popular today and has recently been released on a Blu-ray dvd.

Helen’s highly acclaimed one-woman show “Vesta”, which tells of the music hall artiste Vesta Victoria, played over 90 performances throughout the UK and in America.

More recently Helen has starred in Coronation Street as Doris, the wife of Gloria Price’s fancy man Eric.

“I wasn’t really looking for anything at that point but my agent rings and says they want you for Coronation Street. The icing on the cake was that my scenes were with Sue Johnston, who I knew from my guest role on The Royale Family.

“Her character had been going out with Eric, played by Timothy West, who had just died, and she knew he had a bit of money because he was in vinyl flooring.

“The solicitor tells her he wants to meet her in The Rover’s Return and she thinks she’s come into some money. However, when he arrives, he says: ‘Sorry I’m late; I had to pick up Doris,’ and steps aside and I’m standing there.

“She says: ‘Are you a relative?’ I just smile and say: ‘You could say that, luv. I’m his wife.’ It was a lovely scene to do. It is what Coronation Street does so well and it was lovely for me because I got such wonderful feedback from being on it.”

Last year Helen was in the touring production of Calendar Girls which was a big hit all over the country including sell-out performances at Lowestoft’s Marina Theatre.

“It was a lovely show to do and all the actresses got on so well.

“We all met up and had dinner together after the show had completed its run to look back on what had been a wonderful time for all of us,” recalled Helen.

• An Evening with Helen Fraser _ a miscellany of memories from stage and screen past and present, is at the Fisher Theatre, Bungay, on Saturday, August 24. To book tickets call in at the box office in Broad Street, Bungay, which is open Monday to Saturday, 10am to 3pm, telephone 01986 897130 or visit

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