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Theatre Collection Stephanie Cole

Stephanie Cole

Stephanie Cole, OBE is an English stage, television, and film actress. Cole was born in Solihull, then Warwickshire, now West Midlands. She trained at the world famous Bristol Old Vic Theatre School 19581960 and like most actors of that time went on to consolidate her acting skills in repertory theatres around the United Kingdom. She made her stage debut at the age of seventeen playing the 90-year-old Madame Arcati in Noel Coward's Blithe Spirit. At the age of 63 she returned to the same role when the play was revived at the West End's Savoy Theatre in 2004.

One of her most recognised and popular roles was of Dr Beatrice Mason in the hugely popular series Tenko, a drama which chronicled the lives of British women in Singapore after the Japanese invasion and their consequent confinement in a Japanese Prisoner of War camp. Known by many of the women as 'Big Bea', Cole played the role of the stern, officious yet kindly doctor over three series and a one off special between 1981 and 1985. During this same period, and by now in her very early forties, she also played the elderly paranoid and morose customer Delphine Featherstone (nicknamed "The Black Widow") in the BBC comedy Open All Hours. Mrs Featherstone was the only rival to Nurse Gladys Emmanuel for shopkeeper Arkwright's affections; though she was only attracted to him because she liked his stingy ways. Arkwright was scared of her advances and often hid when he saw her approaching the shop.

In 1988 Cole joined the likes of Thora Hird, Maggie Smith, Julie Walters and Patricia Routledge in the ground breaking, award winning first series of Talking Heads, a series of dramatic monologues written for BBC television by the acclaimed British playwright Alan Bennett. Cole performed the role of 'Muriel' to great acclaim during the 30-minute monologue "Soldiering On". In later years Cole would repeat her performance of this now famous monologue on both the London stage and for BBC radio.
Another of Cole's famous roles was of the crabby ex-photojournalist Diana Trent in the sitcom Waiting for God which ran from 1990 to 1994.Cole received the 1992 Best TV Comedy Actress award at the British Comedy Awards for the role.
In 2006 Cole starred along side Victoria Wood in the Bafta award winning drama Housewife 49 as Mrs Waite, the local head of the WRVS (Women's Voluntary Service).
Cole currently stars as Joan Norton, alongside Martin Clunes and Caroline Catz in the popular ITV comedy-drama, Doc Martin. She plays the aunt of Clunes's character Dr. Martin Ellingham.

Aside from television, Cole's best work can also be seen on stage where she has been active for almost forty years. On the West End stage she has featured in Noises Off in 1986 (Savoy Theatre), Steel Magnolias in 1989 (Lyric Theatre) and Quartet in 1999 (Albery Theatre). Her most prominent stage role was as Betty in the hit comedy 'A Passionate Woman' written by Kay Mellor. Directed by Ned Sherrin the play opened at the Comedy Theatre in 1994 and had a nine month extended run. On the West End's production's last curtain call Cole was surprised by Michael Aspel carrying the 'big red book' and was made the subject of This Is Your Life.

Cole was awarded an honorary Masters of Arts degree from the University of Bristol in 2002 and in 2005, she was made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire in the Queen's Birthday Honours for her services to Drama, Elderly People, and to Mental Health Charities.

View a list of accessioned items in the Stephanie Cole Archive


For further information about the Theatre Collection please tel. 0117 331 5086 (daytime) or email theatre-collection@bristol.ac.uk.