Book Review – Barmy by Victoria Wood

First published, 1987

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

I’ve always loved Victoria Wood, and in this collection of sketches, there’s plenty to make you smile. My favourites can be found among the several episodes of Acorn Antiques in this volume. A lovely selection, with some classic laughs and great characters. Victoria Wood had such a great ear for a turn of phrase and her timing was second to none. Of course, she’s much missed, I can’t think there are many writers or entertainers who’ve felt like family to so many of us, but at least we have her writing.

For the uninitiated, Acorn Antiques was a soap opera within a comedy show, rather in the style of Crossroads – wobbly sets, shocking storylines, and made to a tight schedule and budget. It was both night and day to its fans, but it was, in its way, comedy gold.

Here are a couple of my favourite scenes from the book:

Episode Seven

Film. Ext. Day. Village High Street. Small van labelled ‘Acorn Antiques’ pulls up in front of a shop bearing no resemblance to the one in the studio. The shop has been hastily and badly re-named ‘Acorn Antiques’, but the real name of the shop can be seen underneath. Miss Babs gets out of the van, holding an antique, goes over on her ankle as she steps down, and goes into the shop. Small group of interested onlookers nearby stare at the camera throughout.

Scene One. Shop as before. Babs selling an antique to our extras as before. She hands over a large paper bag (printed with ‘Acorn Antiques’) and some change.

Babs: And fifty-three change. Bye!

Extras leave. Phone rings.

Babs: Acorn Antiques, can I help you? Gainsborough’s Blue Boy? Yes, I think we have it in mauve, I’ll just check.

Flips over blank bits of paper.

Babs: Yes, we do; shall I pop it under the counter for you? Not at all, bye!

Puts phone down. Enter Mrs Overall with a tray of coffee.

Mrs Overall: Here’s your coffee, Miss Babs.

Babs: Thanks Mrs O, no poison this time I hope.

Mrs Overall: Yes, I’m sorry about that – attempting to murder you was just a silly way of trying to draw attention to myself. I shan’t need to do it again now you’ve bought me this lovely blouse.

Babs smiles absently and then sighs. Mrs Overall misses the cue, Babs sighs again, more obviously.

Mrs Overall: Why, whatever’s the matter, Miss Babs? Have you got an incurable disease, or is it just the sterilized milk?

Babs: I wish it were.

Mrs Overall: Then what on earth —

Babs: I won’t beat about the bush, Mrs O. Ever since Mr Kenneth left to become a follower of that weird religious sect, Acorn Antiques has been losing money. And this letter you were just asking about is to Dorcas and Hincaster.

Mrs Overall: The Manchesterford estate agents?

Babs: Yes. Pop it in the pillar box on the corner immediately, Mrs O – Acorn Antiques is going up for sale!

Mrs Overall goes out of the door.


Cut to film. Ext. Day. Street. Mrs Overall, now miraculously attired in coat and hat, comes out of the shop, walks to the post box, takes from the pocket of her coat an entirely different-looking letter, stares at it meaningfully and puts it back in her pocket. All this is watched by gawpers in distance.

p77-78, Acorn Antiques, Barmy by Victoria Wood

And then, there’s this absolute belter of stage direction:

‘Film. Ext, day. Hospital. Berta comes out, sees a crawling mini-cab, hails it and gets in.

Int. Back of cab. Berta is actually saying something like ‘I’ll just pretend to be saying something’.

Berta: (dubbed on later) Acorn Antiques, please.

p85, Acorn Antiques, Barmy by Victoria Wood

An absolute delight. Go. Read. Love