It’s hard to believe that June Whitfield is in her eighties. For even though she was a pioneering performer during the golden age of radio and TV comedy working with everyone from Wilfred Pickles and Arthur Askey to Tony Hancock and Morecambe and Wise, she has managed to remain a constant presence on our screens. What’s more she’s bright, witty and razor-sharp.
She may be in the archives as one half of Terry and June, a happy memory from the Carry On films, a much loved performer in classic comedies starring Frankie Howerd, Benny Hill and Dick Emery but in the second decade of the 21st century she is still a force to be reckoned with.
The last time I met her I was wearing Tony Hancock’s old Homburg hat and she was singing me “Coughs and sneezes spread diseases” refrain from The Blood Donor sketch. But that, as they say, is another story.
In recent years June has of course appeared regularly in the Jennifer Saunders/Joanna Lumley sit-com Absolutely Fabulous as Edina’s superbly resilient mother and a few short Christmas’s ago she even did her bit to help Doctor Who fight intergalactic evil. Only last month she starred in a BBC Radio 4 drama as Dame Margaret Rutherford.
The story of Whitfield’s extraordinary 60 plus year career which started with a RADA training and propelled her straight into the heady postwar world that produced radio hits like Take It From Here and then embraced the arrival of nationwide TV is the utterly absorbing subject of her occasional An Audience With… presentations.
Yesterday morning found her at the super-luxury Chewton Glen Hotel in the New Forest regaling guests with wonderful anecdotes about her encounters with some of the great characters from the world of showbusiness and believe me she has some astonishing tales to tell.