BEHIND THE LENS
Judy Buxton was born in Croydon and spent her childhood growing up in Surrey alongside her sister, Jane.
For Judy, acting became a way of life from a very early age. She began receiving elocution lessons along with all the other youngsters, upon starting nursery school at the tender age of two and a half. By the time she had reached the mature age of three, she had already made her stage debut in a drama festival reciting a poem entitled ‘The Dustman’ and causing quite an impact! It was the first of many such events for Judy who went on to attend Saturday drama classes throughout her childhood where she was taught by teacher Vera Mitchell, a former graduate of RADA. The festivals proved highly successful with Judy winning numerous medals and trophies to her credit and although it wasn’t always easy for the aspiring young actress to watch her friends out having fun while she was studying extra weekend drama, it undoubtedly served to develop the self discipline and commitment required to go on and succeed as a professional performer.
The weekend lessons continued until Judy entered formal training at The Rose Bruford College on completion of her compulsory education. Following graduation which also saw her gain a diploma in drama teaching, she joined Chesterfield Repertory Theatre where she made her professional stage debut in the play ‘Dance of Death’, in which she portrayed Jenny (a maid) in Act 1, before donning a false nose and transforming into an old village hag for Act 2. Also in the cast was a young Lewis Collins who went on to star in the cult series The Professionals.
Judy remained with the company for nine months gaining a vast amount of experience in a wide variety of roles in addition to cultivating her skills as an assistant stage manager. Among her earliest portrayals were the impudent and psychic maid Edith in Noel Coward’s Blithe Spirit, Peggy in Roland Pertwee’s drama Pink String and Sealing Wax, Maria in Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, Corrie Bratter in Neil Simon’s Barefoot in the Park, The Woman in Robert Bolt’s A Man for all Seasons and a number of roles in Dylan Thomas’ Under Milk Wood and Joan Littlewood’s Oh What A Lovely War, the latter offering Judy a rare opportunity to stretch her vocal chords in song.
Following her season in Rep, Judy’s career began to gain momentum. She made her television debut in the popular, long running police drama Dixon of Dock Green before landing the role of Student Nurse Katy Shaw in the hugely successful daytime series General Hospital. It was a programme that proved to be of major significance to Judy as not only did it bring her very much into the public eye but it was while working on the show that she was to meet actor James Kerry (playing the role of Dr Martin Baxter) who was to become her long term partner for the next twenty two years. Sadly the relationship was to end when James lost his battle with cancer in the early 90’s.
Judy stayed with General Hospital until it transferred to its evening slot some eighteen months later when she left the series primarily to return to the theatre. This heralded the beginning of a very busy period for her working in both theatre and on television. She played leading roles in Boeing Boeing, The French Mistress, Relatively Speaking and Tartuffe at the Theatre Royal, Windsor and Thorndike Theatre, Leatherhead respectively before making her West End debut in the Lee Langley comedy, Baggage with Hannah Gordon, Gerald Harper, Prunella Gee and Una Stubbs at the Vaudeville Theatre. This was followed by an equally long run as Julia Simmons in the Agatha Christie whodunit, A Murder is Announced alongside Dinah Sheridan also at The Vaudeville and an appearance at The Old Vic as Peggy Murdoch in Arnold Ridley’s Ghost Train. Other stage productions of note during this period included; A Man for All Seasons playing the role of Margaret, Dear Brutus as Joanna Trout, Habeas Corpus as Felicity Rumpers and On Approval as Helen Hale.
Meanwhile, on the television front, offers of work continued to pour in seeing Judy make guest appearances in such cult and iconic series as; Justice, Public Eye, Wodehouse Playhouse; The Sweeney, Blakes 7, Rising Damp, How’s Your Father and Diary of a Nobody.
Then, quite suddenly out of the blue, Judy was offered an audition that was to change the course of her career for the next three years. Despite having very little time to prepare, she successfully completed the number of rigorous recalls required to be accepted into The Royal Shakespeare Company and was immediately offered the role of Iphegenia in The Greeks at The Aldwych. It was to be the beginning of one of the happiest and most demanding periods of her working life with Judy flourishing amidst the atmosphere of being part of such a company. Incredibly while still in rehearsal for The Greeks, Judy was invited to audition for the role of Juliet in Romeo and Juliet opposite Anton Lesser and thus, ultimately having opened in The Greeks, found herself performing by night and rehearsing Juliet by day in addition to understudying a third role. With her portrayals of Iphegenia and Juliet described by critics as ‘exceptional and unforgettable’ Judy went on to add the roles of Jessica in The Merchant of Venice, the Sweet Girl in La Ronde, The Whore in Timon of Athens and Kit the Glovemaker in The Swandown Gloves to her repertoire during her time with the RSC. In fact, it was in an abridged version of the latter that Judy performed before Her Majesty The Queen in the company’s inaugural season at The Barbican in London.
Next came a return to television in which Judy played the role of Susan Protheroe in the BBC’s historical drama set in the mid 17th Century, By The Sword Divided. The series ran for two seasons with Judy appearing in both before returning to more theatre. Among her most notable performances at this time were; Lady Teazle in School for Scandal at The Haymarket with Sir Donald Sinden, as Sarah in The Lover at The Vienna English Theatre transferring to The Young Vic, Elaine Navazio in Last of the Red Hot Lovers at The Strand Theatre and as Mary Smith in the Ray Cooney farce Run for Your Wife at The Whitehall. She also made her debut as Princess Flavia in The Prisoner of Zenda at The Chichester Festival during this period all of which were interspersed with guest appearances on such television programmes as Bergerac and Lovejoy.
As can often be the way in life, Judy’s next major break came purely by a twist of fate. Encouraged by a friend to attend a reunion at Rose Bruford College, which she otherwise may not have done, Judy bumped into a past colleague who just happened to be looking for an actress to play the leading female role in a new TV sitcom. Invited to audition, Judy was subsequently cast as Ruth, the upper class, temperamental wife of Tony Carpenter (played by Dennis Waterman) in the hit BBC series On The Up. It was a role she portrayed for all three seasons and which provided her with some very happy memories, not least of hysterical rehearsals alongside the legendary Joan Sims. Judy’s most recent TV roles have seen her appear in Next of Kin and Close Relations.
In the early 90’s, Judy was cast as Toby Landau in Neil Simon’s The Gingerbread Lady in which she met and worked with the actor Jeffrey Holland for the first time. It was an encounter that despite displaying an obvious onstage chemistry, gave neither party at the time any indication of the life changing events to follow. It was to be almost two years before their paths crossed professionally again, this time with the relationship blossoming on a personal level and resulting in the couple marrying in 2004.
Away from theatre and television Judy has appeared in a number of films, the earliest of which were the big screen version of the popular television comedy The Likely Lads with James Bolam, Rodney Bewes and Bridget Forsyth and The Bawdy Adventures of Tom Jones with Joan Collins and Trevor Howard. She followed this with a role in the Michael Winner remake of The Big Sleep with Robert Mitchum and Oliver Reed. Next came Aces High in which she joined a cast of illustrious names including; Ray Milland, Sir John Gielgud and Christopher Plummer. She also starred in the film Get Real playing the mother of a young boy coming to terms with his homosexuality.
In recent years, much of Judy’s work has remained largely in the theatre. She received much critical acclaim for her role as Marie Louise in The Constant Wife, a role she played both at the Vienna English Theatre and on UK tour. Other major UK tours of note include roles in the farces Wife Begins at Forty, Caught in the Net and It Runs in the Family, as Marion Blake in Star Quality, Liz Walford in The Secretary Bird and Lady Carmoyle in Come On Jeeves. Judy starred as Michelle of the Resistance in the 25th Anniversary Stage Production of the Croft and Lloyd classic television comedy Allo Allo. She appeared alongside husband Jeffrey Holland as the unlikely war hero café owner Rene Artois and Vicki Michelle reprising her original TV role as waitress Yvette Carte-Blanche. Receiving rave reviews and selling out at numerous venues, the show took the country by storm. Judy has since worked with Jeff three times, firstly in the brilliantly crafted Ron Aldridge play, It’s Never Too Late, followed by Bill Naughton’s Spring and Port Wine, in which she played Daisy Crompton at The Mill at Sonning and last year in a No. 1 UK tour of Arnold Ridley’s The Ghost Train.
Other more recent stage portrayals have been as Lady Glenmire in Cranford, Jacqueline in Changing Rooms, Vera Rattigan and Aunt Edna in The Art of Concealment:The Life of Terrence Rattigan, Mrs Erlynne in Lady Windermere’s Fan, Lalla Kershaw in Double Death and as Julie Tate in Blast From The Past.
The last couple of years have also seen Judy appear in a number of new film productions, among them; Ray Cooney’s film version of Run For Your Wife, Game of Maids, Dream Date, Once A Man and as Stella Pullman in Art Ache.
At Christmas time, Judy has been known to cast her magic charms and spells in such pantomimes as Cinderella, Jack and the Beanstalk, Dick Whittington and Peter Pan. Although generally seen as the Good Fairy, she does confess to aspirations of being ‘wicked’ if the opportunity arises!
Early 2016 will see Judy star in the Talking Scarlet UK theatre tour of Secondary Cause of Death in which she will play the role of Cynthia Maple.
On the rare occasions Judy is not working, she likes nothing better than to escape with Jeff on short breaks around Europe or enjoying long relaxing walks together in the beautiful National Trust Parks and places of interest around the UK. Judy’s other interests include pilates and Latin American dancing.