Lesley Sharp and the alternative geographies of Northern English Stardom

David Forrest, Beth Johnson
2016 The Journal of Popular Television  
Historically, ÔNorthÕ (of England) is a byword for narratives of economic depression, post-industrialism and bleak and claustrophobic representations of space and landscape. These impulses often manifest themselves in aesthetic or structural frameworks, which in turn speak to gendered authorial discourses in film, literature and television: the so-called Ôangry young manÕ tradition, for example, and the British New Wave. This article seeks to destabilize this male construction of Northern
more » ... n of Northern English visual and narrative iconography by suggesting that female stardom offers an alternative means of encountering regional television drama. Female Northern performers function intertextually across multiple narratives to assert specific thematic qualities that both pertain to a radical regionality and enable a sense of agency, which disrupts hitherto dominant constructions of regional and gendered space. Analysing the work of Lesley Sharp as a case study, this article suggests that Sharp, a British actress who has almost always performed in Northern dramas, valorizes and occupies a powerful feminine and feminist space. Disrupting the authority of Northern masculinity, SharpÕs many performances as a range of complex female characters have, we argue, mobilized a shift in the location of a spatial identity and authority away from the realm of the masculine. Alongside other powerful Northern female performers, Sharp provides an alternative cartography that articulates the Northern landscape afresh and as such provides a more honest and inclusive view of the bodies through which it is performed.
doi:10.1386/jptv.4.2.199_1 fatcat:57m7j634kvdfjlnvensbcvzk4u