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24 September 2014

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Prunella Scales

Prunella Scales

It's a tragic fact that Prunella Scales' appearance as Dottie in Tescos has almost pushed her out of our minds as an actress. Only almost, however.

On radio, Scales is a huge contributor to some classics of the last few years - the radio version of After Henry, and perhaps most wonderfully partnering with Patricia Routledge in Ladies of Letters.

A commanding stage performer who's taken on no less a role than Queen Victoria, she's also starred in Mapp and Lucia (which in a way is a kind of thematic partner to Ladies of Letters, with more overt bitchery).

If we're honest, though, Scales will always be one woman to most people.  Beehived, possessed of a laugh like a seal being machine-gunned, she will ever be frozen, smoking, in Torquay as Sybil, the horrible but understandable wife of Basil Fawlty.

John Cleese might have got the big laughs, but Scales held everything together as a real engine of comedy and tension.

Even now, it's Scales' Sybil who makes us dance between wanting to slap Basil and wanting him to win through, and it's her who makes him fear - and thus makes us laugh.

Appearances by Prunella Scales
Start YearAliasProgramme BrandCountry

As an Actor

Fawlty Towers 1975
After Henry 1988
Marriage Lines 1963

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