08 March 2010

Janine Duvitski

Janine Duvitski was born in 1952 and is an English actress. She had an English mother and a Polish father; her original name of Drzewicki was probably abandoned as a stage name because the British public are still too lazy to figure out how to pronounce Polish. Duvitski moved to London early in life to train as an actress, and made her first forays into success with a couple of small television drama roles. Her first 'proper' role came about after she placed an advertisement and photograph in Spotlight magazine, and was invited to audition for a short play about incest. Although twenty years old, her audition was apparently convincing enough for her to win the role of the 13 year old girl. Further success followed, and after a few stage roles Mike Leigh spotted her and offered her the part of Angela in Abigail's Party - first the stage version, then the later television version.

That first role, with the incest and so on, is something of an oddity, being rather more serious than Duvitski's later roles. You see, over the years, beginning with Abigail's Party, Duvitski has cultivated a kind of dopey, naive charm and turned it into an art form. I've no doubt that in real life she's as sharp as a button but the character in Abigail's Party is a perfect example of Duvitski's metier. Mike Leigh's playscript calls for a meek and mundane character, and Duvitski plays it perfectly: she sits, completely out of place admidst the hostess, Beverly's, 'finery', and certainly is no match for the sophistication of the Sue character. 'I have very beautiful lips,' she goofily drools at Beverly, on command, while for most of the play her husband regards her with an expression of utter contempt. If you haven't seen Abigail's Party, of course, you have no idea what I'm talking about, so let's move swiftly on to Dennis Potter's 'Blue Remembered Hills'.

This excellent, deceptively cheerful play offers another chance for Duvitski to shine. Here she plays Audrey, a young girl clutching a dolly who is clearly as bright as a box of hair. Brilliant performances all round, of course, for the cast of this one; do try and see it.

Duvitski is also famous for her roles in Waiting For God, where she plays a rather dull-witted and simple woman, as Pippa Tench in One Foot In The Grave where she plays - wait for it - a rather dull-witted and simple woman. But please, don't be put off - she's brilliant at it. In fact, it would be a mistake to assume that Duvitski can only perform as a simple, dull-witted woman; her roles in the recent English National Opera production of On The Town and in Alan Bleasdale's Boys From The Black Stuff prove her versatility. The possibility of becoming typecast must always be a risk for any actor or actress... Duvitski flirts with it perhaps a little more than most, having accepted roles in The Madness Of King George and the 1979 version of Dracula, both of which involved playing mad women. But really, she's so good at it! There probably ought to be a separate category in the BAFTAs.

Duvitski is currently married to the actor Paul Bentall, with whom she has four children. That's not him in the picture; that's taken from the comedy series 'Benidorm', and she's standing next to actor Kenny Ireland.

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