Sheila Hancock

Sheila Cameron Hancock, CBE (born 22 February 1933) is an English actress and author. Hancock trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art before starting her career in repertory theatre. Hancock went on to perform in plays and musicals in London, and her Broadway debut in Entertaining Mr Sloane (1966) earned her a Tony Award nomination for Best Lead Actress in Play. She won a Laurence Olivier Award for Best Performance in a Supporting Role in a Musical for her role in Cabaret (2007) and was nominated at the Laurence Olivier Awards four other times for her work in Sweeney Todd (1980), The Winter's Tale (1982), Prin (1989) and Sister Act (2010).

Sheila Hancock

Sheila Hancock 2014
Hancock at a book signing in 2014
Born22 February 1933 (age 86)
OccupationActress, theatre director, author, panellist
Years active1953–present
Alec Ross
(m. 1954; died 1971)

John Thaw
(m. 1973; died 2002)

Children3, including stepdaughter Abigail[1]

Early life

Sheila Hancock was born in Blackgang on the Isle of Wight, the daughter of Ivy Louise (née Woodward) and Enrico Cameron Hancock,[2] who was a publican.[3] Her sister Billie is nine years older and worked as a variety artist until retiring to Antibes in 2003 at the age of 79.[4] After wartime evacuation, Hancock attended the Dartford County Grammar School and the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art.


Hancock worked in repertory during the 1950s and made her West End debut in 1958, replacing Joan Sims in the play Breath of Spring. She then appeared in Joan Littlewood's Theatre Workshop production of Make Me An Offer in 1959, and her other early West End appearances included Peter Cook's revue One Over the Eight with Kenneth Williams in 1961, and starring in Rattle of a Simple Man in 1962. She recalled that in One over the Eight she had been egged on by Irving Davies's exhortation as dance captain, "Eyes, teeth, and tits, darlings - and sparkle, sparkle, sparkle!"[5]

In 1965, she made her Broadway debut in Entertaining Mr Sloane. In 1978, she played Miss Hannigan in the original London cast of the musical Annie and two years later, she played Mrs Lovett in the original London production of the musical Sweeney Todd.

Hancock has appeared in The Winter's Tale, Titus Andronicus and A Delicate Balance for the Royal Shakespeare Company. At the National Theatre she has appeared in The Cherry Orchard and The Duchess of Malfi. She also directed A Midsummer Night's Dream for the RSC on tour and directed The Critic at the National Theatre. She was also associate artistic director of the Cambridge Theatre Company.

In 2006, Hancock played the role of Fraulein Schneider in the West End revival of the musical Cabaret at the Lyric Theatre. She won the Laurence Olivier Award for Best Performance in a Supporting Role in a Musical. In 2009, she spent over a year playing Mother Superior in Sister Act the Musical at the London Palladium.

In 2013, Hancock starred alongside Lee Evans[6] and Keeley Hawes in the comedy Barking in Essex at Wyndham's Theatre.[7]

In 2016, Hancock starred with Jenna Russell in the UK premiere of the musical Grey Gardens at the Southwark Playhouse.

In 2019, Hancock starred in This Is My Family at the Minerva Theatre, Chichester.


Hancock's first big television role was as Carol in the BBC sitcom The Rag Trade in the early 1960s. She also played the lead roles in the sitcoms The Bed-Sit Girl, Mr Digby Darling, The Secretary Bird and Now Take My Wife. Her other television credits include Doctor Who, Kavanagh QC (opposite her husband, John Thaw), Gone to the Dogs, Brighton Belles, EastEnders, The Russian Bride, Bedtime, Fortysomething, Feather Boy, Bleak House, New Tricks, Hustle and The Catherine Tate Show. In 2008, she played the part of a terminally ill patient who travelled to Switzerland for an assisted suicide in one of The Last Word monologues for the BBC. In 2009, she played Liz in The Rain Has Stopped, part of the BBC daytime mini-series Moving On.

Hancock has also presented several documentaries. In 2010, she presented Suffragette City (part of A History of the World series), telling the story of the suffragette movement through objects from the Museum of London's collection.[8] In 2011, she presented Sheila Hancock Brushes Up: The Art of Watercolours, exploring the history of watercolour via beautiful yet little-known works of professional and amateur artists.[9] In 2013 she presented, as part of the ITV Perspectives documentary series, Perspectives: Sheila Hancock – The Brilliant Brontë Sisters,[10] examining the writers' upbringing and the sources of their inspiration.

In December 2012, Hancock took part in a Christmas special edition of the BBC programme Strictly Come Dancing.[11]

In January 2016 she made a guest appearance in an episode of the BBC medical drama Casualty. In December 2016 she began starring alongside Dawn French, Emilia Fox and Iain Glen in the Sky One comedy drama series Delicious.

Other work

In March 1963, Hancock made a comedy single record, "My Last Cigarette".[12] The song is about someone trying to give up smoking: however, every good intention is dependent on her having "just one more cigarette".

Hancock starred as Alice Foster in the BBC Radio 2 comedy series Thank You, Mrs Fothergill, in 1978-79, alongside Pat Coombs. She has made guest appearances on television shows like Grumpy Old Women, Room 101 and Have I Got News for You. On radio, she has been a semi-regular contestant on the BBC Radio 4 panel game Just a Minute since 1967. From 2007 to 2012 Hancock was Chancellor of the University of Portsmouth.[13] From March to May 2010, she appeared as a judge on the BBC show Over the Rainbow, along with Charlotte Church, Andrew Lloyd Webber and John Partridge.

Hancock regularly works in radio and appeared in the BBC Radio Four series North by Northamptonshire in 2011, alongside Geoffrey Palmer.[14].

In 1995 Hancock provided the voice of Granny Weatherwax in BBC Radio 4's adaptation of Sir Terry Pratchett's Discworld novel Wyrd Sisters.

Hancock was the subject of This Is Your Life in 1977 when she was surprised by Eamonn Andrews at the curtain call of the play The Bed Before Yesterday at the Lyric Theatre, London.

Personal life

Hancock was married to actor Alec Ross from 1954 until his death from oesophageal cancer in 1971. They had one daughter, Melanie, born in 1964. In 1973, Hancock married actor John Thaw. He adopted Melanie and they had another daughter, Joanna. Thaw's daughter Abigail, from his first marriage, also joined their family. All three of their daughters have become actresses.

Hancock was married to Thaw until his death (also from oesophageal cancer) on 21 February 2002. Hancock herself was diagnosed with breast cancer during the late 1980s, but made a full recovery. Her 2004 book, The Two of Us is a dual biography, which gives accounts of both their lives, as well as focusing on their 28-year marriage. This was followed by the 2008 book, Just Me, an account of coming to terms with widowhood. In 2014 she published her debut novel, Miss Carter's War.

Hancock is a member of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers). She is a patron of the London HIV charity, The Food Chain and worked with the London children's charity Kids Company until its dissolution on the 5th of August 2015.[15]

Hancock was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 1974 Birthday Honours and Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 2011 New Year Honours.[16]

Hancock is a friend of Sandi Toksvig and read Maya Angelou's poem "Touched by an Angel" at the "I Do To Equal Marriage" event which celebrated the introduction of same-sex marriage in England and Wales.[17]

In 2016, during the filming of the British 2017 film Edie, Hancock became the oldest person to climb Mt. Suilven.

Honours and awards



  1. ^ Hancock, Sheila. The Two of Us, my life with John Thaw.
  2. ^ Film reference Hancock Biography accessed 9 March 2010
  3. ^ Revoir, Paul (17 March 2011). "Actress Sheila Hancock admits loving drama of 'vile and wonderful' drinking men". Daily Mail. London.
  4. ^ Daily Mail Profile of Sheila Hancock 16 September 2008 accessed 9 March 2010
  5. ^ Sheila Hancock, Ramblings of an Actress (1987), p. 4
  6. ^ "Lee Evans and Sheila Hancock star in new stage comedy". BBC News. 30 November 2012. Retrieved 10 June 2013.
  7. ^ "Lee Evans – 'I really wanted to get back into theatre'". Whats on Stage. 3 May 2013. Retrieved 10 June 2013.
  8. ^
  9. ^
  10. ^ "Perspectives: Sheila Hancock – The Brilliant Brontë Sisters". Series 3. Episode 3. 31 March 2013. ITV3. Retrieved 31 March 2013. Missing or empty |series= (help)
  11. ^ "Strictly Come Dancing". Series 10. 25 December 2012. Retrieved 25 December 2012. Missing or empty |series= (help)
  12. ^ Songfacts accessed 17 March 2014
  13. ^ University of Portsmouth News Archived 25 July 2011 at the Wayback Machine accessed 19 March 2010
  14. ^ BBC. "North by Northamptonshire". BBC. Retrieved 5 January 2012.
  15. ^ a b Guardian (4 October 2008). "Guardian Profile of Hancock Saturday 4 October 2008". The Guardian. London.
  16. ^ "No. 59647". The London Gazette (Supplement). 31 December 2010. p. 7.
  17. ^ "Thousands help comedian Sandi Toksvig renew vows after introduction of gay marriage". Herald Scotland. 29 March 2014. Retrieved 1 April 2014.
  18. ^ "Sheila Hancock receives Women in Film and TV Award". BBC News.

External links

After Thomas

After Thomas is a one-off drama, first broadcast in the United Kingdom on 26 December 2006, on ITV. It was produced by Beryl Vertue and Elaine Cameron, directed by Simon Shore, and written by Lindsey Hill.

The film centres on the severely autistic child Kyle Graham and the progress he makes when his parents adopt Thomas, a golden retriever. It is based on the true story of Scottish child Dale Gardner and his dog Henry.

Alec Ross (disambiguation)

Alec Ross (1881–1952) was a Scottish golfer.

Alec Ross may also refer to:

Alec Ross (author) (born 1971), advisor to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton

Alec Ross (actor) (1922–1971), actor and first husband of Sheila Hancock

Alec Ross (tour guide) (1936–2017), Australian tour guide

Andrée Melly

Andrée Melly (born 15 September 1928) is an English actress.

Born in Liverpool, Lancashire, she appeared in many British films, including the comedy The Belles of St Trinian's (1954) and the Hammer Horror film The Brides of Dracula (1960). In between, she played Tony Hancock's girlfriend in two series of Hancock's Half Hour (1955–56) radio series. In 1958 she appeared with the Jamaican actor Lloyd Reckord in the Ted Willis play Hot Summer Night, a production which was later adapted for the Armchair Theatre series in 1959. She continued to appear on British television until 1991.In the early years of the long-running BBC radio comedy Just a Minute she was a regular panellist. Along with Sheila Hancock, she was one of the most regular female contestants, appearing in fifty-four episodes between 1967 and 1976. In 1972, she chaired an episode. She was the first panellist to win points for talking for the prescribed 60 seconds without hesitation, repetition or deviation.

She also appeared in several episodes of The Benny Hill Show.Her brother, George Melly, was a jazz singer. She now lives in Ibiza with her husband Oscar Quitak.

Buster (film)

Buster is a 1988 British romantic crime comedy based on events from the Great Train Robbery. It stars musician Phil Collins, Julie Walters, Larry Lamb and Sheila Hancock. The soundtrack featured two singles from Collins which topped the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart.

Dangerous Lady

Dangerous Lady was a four-part British mini-series TV drama, which aired on ITV and was based on Martina Cole's first published novel of the same name. The series premièred in 1995 and starred Sheila Hancock, Jason Isaacs, Susan Lynch and Owen Teale. Each episode lasted 60 minutes and was a Warner Sisters production for the ITV network.

Edie (film)

Edie is a 2017 British drama film directed by Simon Hunter and written by Elizabeth O'Halloran. The film stars Sheila Hancock, Kevin Guthrie and Paul Brannigan. The soundtrack was written by Debbie Wiseman. Principal photography began in the Scottish Highlands in 2016.

Herbert Wise

Herbert Wise (31 August 1924 – 5 August 2015) was an Austrian-born film and television producer and director.

He was born as Herbert Weisz in Vienna, Austria, and began his career as a director at Shrewsbury Repertory Company in 1950. He was at Hull Rep and then as Director of Productions at Dundee Rep (1952–55). He directed So what about Love in the West End at the Criterion Theatre in a 1970 production with Sheila Hancock in the lead.

Wise began his television career in 1956 and directed adaptations of I, Claudius (1976) and Alan Ayckbourn's play cycle The Norman Conquests (1977), the BBC Television Shakespeare production of Julius Caesar (1979), Tales of the Unexpected, 10th Kingdom, The Woman in Black (1989), and episodes of Cadfael and Inspector Morse. He also directed several episodes of the Thames Television series Rumpole of the Bailey.

Wise also directed two films, an entry in the Edgar Wallace Mysteries second feature series, a thriller entitled To Have and to Hold (1963), and the film version of the television sit-com The Lovers (1973). He also directed the made-for-TV film Skokie (1981), and other made-for-TV films such as Breaking the Code (1996), adapted from the Hugh Whitemore play about Alan Turing.

He was married twice, firstly to the actress Moira Redmond (1963–1972), and after their divorce, to actress Fiona Walker in 1988. Wise and Fiona Walker had two children; Susannah Wise and Charlie Walker-Wise.

John Thaw

John Edward Thaw, (3 January 1942 – 21 February 2002) was an English actor who appeared in a range of television, stage, and cinema roles, his most popular being television series such as Inspector Morse, Redcap, The Sweeney, Home to Roost and Kavanagh QC.

Love and Death on Long Island

Love and Death on Long Island is a 1997 UK / Canadian film directed by Richard Kwietniowski and starring Jason Priestley, John Hurt, Fiona Loewi, Sheila Hancock and Anne Reid. The storyline of obsession somewhat resembles that of Death in Venice. The title includes a pun: Death/De'Ath.

Mr. Digby Darling

Mr. Digby Darling is a British television sitcom made by Yorkshire Television and broadcast by ITV between 1969 and 1971, and starring Sheila Hancock and Peter Jones which ran for 3 series and 19 episodes.

Now Take My Wife

Now Take My Wife was a BBC situation comedy which ran for only one series of 14 episodes in 1971.

It starred Sheila Hancock and Donald Houston as a suburban middle-class couple, Claire and Harry Love. He would start each episode by turning to the camera and saying "Now ... take my wife" (except for one episode where they were supposed to be very drunk when he said "Now wake my tife").

They had a teenage daughter, played by Liz Edmiston (in real life in her mid-20s). Their next-door neighbour was an eccentric German woman (played by Ruth Kettlewell), who also had a daughter (played by Kate Brown).

Of the 14 episodes, two are currently missing from the BBC archives; they were either wiped to reuse the tapes or possibly lost at one stage after their first broadcast.

Several years later, in a Guardian interview, Hancock indicated that she was not very happy with the programme, seeing it as an example of the sort of stereotyped role for women actors she landed. However, her character often got the better of her husband during each episode.

Story Teller (magazine)

Story Teller (sold as Story Time in Australia and New Zealand) was a magazine partwork published by Marshall Cavendish between 1982 and 1985.

The Anniversary (1968 film)

The Anniversary is a 1968 British black comedy film directed by Roy Ward Baker for Hammer Films and Seven Arts. The screenplay, by Jimmy Sangster, was adapted from Bill MacIlwraith's 1966 play.

The Bed-Sit Girl

The Bed-Sit Girl was a British sitcom that aired on BBC1 from 1965 to 1966. Created by Chesney and Wolfe for Sheila Hancock, The Bed-Sit Girl aired for two series.

Hancock played Sheila Ross, a typist who lives in a bedsit and wishes for more in life. In the first series, Dilys Laye played her air hostess neighbour Dilys, and in the second Hy Hazell played Sheila's friend Liz. Derek Nimmo also appeared as her neighbour and boyfriend David in Series Two. All twelve episodes are missing from the archives and are thought to have been destroyed.

The Happiness Patrol

The Happiness Patrol is the second serial of the 25th season of the British science fiction television series Doctor Who, which was first broadcast in three weekly parts on BBC1 from 2 to 16 November 1988.

The serial is set on the Earth colony world Terra Alpha. In the serial, the alien time traveller the Seventh Doctor (Sylvester McCoy) starts a rebellion against the planet's ruler, Helen A (Sheila Hancock), a woman who seeks to eliminate all unhappiness on the planet.

This Beautiful Fantastic

This Beautiful Fantastic is a 2016 British romantic drama film directed and written by Simon Aboud and starring Jessica Brown Findlay, Tom Wilkinson, Andrew Scott, Jeremy Irvine, Anna Chancellor, Eileen Davies and Sheila Hancock.

Yes (film)

Yes is a 2004 film written and directed by Sally Potter and starring Joan Allen, Simon Abkarian, Samantha Bond, Sam Neill, Shirley Henderson, Raymond Waring, Stephanie Leonidas, and Sheila Hancock.

The film's dialogue is almost entirely in iambic pentameter and usually rhymes. This artistic choice polarized film critics.



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