Harriet Walter on authenticity & ageing
Glorious, glorious Harriet Walter. One of the finest British actors appeared on our screens this week in Alan Bennett’s updated Talking Heads series. This is not binge-watching material – some episodes ( particularly the one with Imelda Staunton) are excruciating – so I’m taking it slowly, one monologue at a time. In Soldiering On, Walter is magnificent as Muriel, a woman whose life starts to unravel after the death of her husband. The always brilliant actor also stars in the latest series of Killing Eve, playing Dasha the former Russian gymnast who taught Villanelle how to be an assassin. And frankly she’s the best thing about it. Can’t help thinking the BBC should’ve killed this off after season one.
In 2011, Harriet Walter published a short book Facing It: Reflections on Images of Older Women and I went along to listen to her in conversation at London College of Fashion. She spoke eloquently about ageing, her profession and the pressure to look young. Now nearly 70, she reiterated her feelings in an interview with The Times to publicise the third series of Killing Eve:
‘I’m not unsympathetic, but my argument is that there’s nothing as beautiful as authenticity, and there’s some kind of barrier put up when someone has worked their face against nature,’ going on to explain why staying natural has worked in her favour, Walter adds, ‘ Part of the reason I think I’m getting interesting parts [now] is that I haven’t done anything to my face. Because I’m not frightened to play “old”.’
First broadcast in 1988, the 10 new episodes of Talking Heads are on iPlayer. There’s a wonderful YouTube clip of Walter in lockdown ‘sharing her Shakespeare’ – an adaptation of the Seven Ages of Man. And a chance to see the seven ages of Harriet Walter, in the Lord Peter Wimsey TV adaptation from the 1970s HERE.