Sally Hawkins is such a formidable actor. She is likeable, bright, and funny; possessing an expert ability to bring pathos and emotion to every role. Having first really noticed her in Mike Leigh’s compelling period drama Vera Drake (2004), it’s mainly in the last decade she’s getting the leading roles her talent demands. Thus, here are five of Sally Hawkins most impressive performances that are well worth watching again and again.



Yes, I know it says “cinematic romance” and Fingersmith was a two-part British TV programme, however, Sarah Waters’ novel was also made into a film by Park-Chan Wook called The Handmaiden (2016), so it kind of counts.  Hawkins portrays Sue Trinder, raised to be a thief in Victorian England, who enters into a scam to rob an heiress. However, her relationship with the ‘mark’ becomes very complex indeed as the twisting complex plot becomes a veritable joy. Hawkins is a sympathetic criminal faced dealing with the sexist oppression of the day and she delivers thoughtful acting combining vulnerability and romance. One of Hawkins early starring performances shows what a great talent she is and will become.


When I first saw this film I really did not enjoy it. Perhaps I was in a bad mood or just not up for any kind of positivity. I was also surprised Mike Leigh had delivered something, in comparison to Vera Drake (2004), a film so inconsequential. However, having re-watched it in the last year I must admit I was a total fool and wrong. Sally Hawkins character work and acting as Poppy Cross is a joy. Her character is very natural, optimistic and care-free. She enjoys her job as a primary school teacher and drifts through life happily. Hawkins imbues Poppy with a light comedic touch and her timing of a look, little giggle and innocence gags just make you feel better about life. If everyone was like Poppy the world would be a far better place.


While Woody Allen’s work has been re-evaluated in light of his very questionable personal choices, there’s no doubting his casting selections are absolute quality. It’s becoming more and more difficult to separate the creative from his apparent sins this in no way impacts on the sterling work of Cate Blanchett and Sally Hawkins in an excellent family comedy full of barbed wit and conflict. Hawkins performance as Ginger, an every person just trying to get by, sparks and conflicts with Blanchett’s neurotic socialite in effervescent comedic fashion. The two actors excel and Hawkins was nominated for an Academy award for ‘Best Supporting Actress’ as Blanchett took away the main prize.

MAUDIE (2016)

Perhaps overshadowed by the success of the big budget monster/love story The Shape of Water (2017), the low-budget Maudie features another stunning Hawkins turn. She is quietly powerful in the role of Nova Scotia painter Maud Dowling who came to prominence for her painting in the late 1960s and became somewhat of a cult treasure. Hawkins and Ethan Hawke steal the acting honours as the unlikely husband and wife, as Aisling Walsh directs a fine tribute to a small woman with a massive artistic talent. Hawkins is just brilliant though as the bullied and beaten women who refuses to break as the performance demonstrates a human being small of stature but big in spirit.


Sally Hawkins plays mute cleaner Elisa Esposito, who works at a top secret U.S. army base. Silent from birth, what she lacks in voice, Elisa more than makes up for in courage, compassion and confidence. When a mysterious “Asset” is delivered to Elisa’s place of work she suddenly becomes entwined in an incredible story of sacrifice and love. Hawkins and Doug Jones performances are entrancing as two silent characters are able to say more with a look, hand signal and touch than a thousand words could achieve.  In any other year Sally Hawkins would have walked away with all the Best Actress honours; yet she was up against the incredible Frances McDormand. Nonetheless, Hawkins gives us such a nuanced and heart-rending performance you forget that she cannot speak.



In January 2008 I first ventured onto the stage of a comedy night about to tell some ill-prepared jokes for five minutes in a Shepherd’s Bush pub beautifully named the Defectors Weld. Well, there was no stage and just a microphone and darkly carpeted floor and some twenty or so people and I was awful. I was nervous and drunk and goddamned awful. My good friend Alan Wood actually gave me this one-line review:

“Paul! You were pissed; slurring your words; but you still got some laughs. I couldn’t believe it!”

Damning praise indeed; yet that night spurred me on to an incredibly average comedy career/hobbyist pursuit which reached the “dizzy” heights of the some lowly paid in-town and out-of-town gigs, open spots at the London Comedy Store and Banana Cabaret plus the deep respect of my peers in the comedy world. Okay, the last one is a lie!

But writing and performing comedy has been a wonderfully creative experience for me. The highs are tremendous, notably: writing and telling jokes that get laughs; the long drives to far flung beauty spots of broken Britain such as Wellingborough, Portsmouth, Birmingham and Ipswich; and not forgetting my unerring ability to partially fill small rooms at the Brighton and Camden Fringe (#sarcasm). Jokes aside, the most joy has derived from the multi-talented individuals I have met on the comedy circuit.  These writers, actors, clowns, filmmakers, musicians, photographers, promoters and other general lunatics have provided a healthy course of rich fulfilment to the last eight years of my social life.

On that fateful night in 2008 when I burst my comedy hymen I first experienced the musings of one such artist: the verbose vim of Doctor George Ryegold.  Here was a recently struck-off quack now venturing into the world of entertainment regaling tales of run-ins with the General Medical Council; his flailing relationship with his mother; scaring women, children and the elderly with his unorthodox procedures; plus intriguing medical advice for somewhat gross ailments. Indeed, Ryegold’s set of anecdotes about malignant tumours, rotting ball-bags, matted pubic excrement, emergency maternal fellatio and the joys of narcosis made an episode of Embarrassing Bodies seem like an episode of Peppa Pig. It was dirty, disgusting, low-down eloquent filth and I loved it!

Of course, you may know the Doctor is not actually a Doctor but the comedy creation of brilliantly talented actor Toby Williams. His career has deservedly progressed from performing his carnal comedy creation to winning awards for Ryegold, including: ‘Amused Moose Laughter Award Top 10 Comedy Show’ at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2013, ‘Scotsman’s Top Five Comedy Shows at the Fringe’ 2012, winner of ‘Best Show’ at The Leicester Comedy Festival 2011 etc. He has also carved out career acting in many short films, adverts, television shows and now feature films including the recent cult hit High Rise (2016).

So, flash forward eight years and there Dr Ryegold was, for apparently the last time, on stage at the Museum of Comedy in Bloomsbury doing his most beautiful worst; delivering an hour of lurid, loquacious and lovely smut with that smooth, deep voice; like Richard Burton reading Roger’s Profanisaurus. If it was his last show it was a wonderful send-off and hearing those sordid stories again took me back to those moments when I either shared a bill or went specifically to see the Doctor’s fantastic filth-laden hour shows.

The comedic power of the act is in the exquisite writing, rich voice and chronographic timing of delivery. But it’s not shock-for-shock’s case as there is a pathos to the character plus dark reflection on the monstrous nature of humanity which breeds murderers such as Ian Huntley, Fred West and Harold Shipman; all of whom are box-ticked by Ryegold during this fine wrap of comedic cocaine.  Ultimately, Ryegold racked up a succession of hilarious lines and crossed too many boundaries to mention, as the Doctor administered his final stroke of genius to an adoring crowd of patients. I for one was glad to be there and make it out very much alive.

Check out Toby Williams at his website – https://tobywilliamscomedy.wordpress.com/

Here’s some examples of his work: