Some Of My Favourite 'Prisoner' Characters

Here are some of my favourite characters. I am up to ep190 this time round, so these are all from the early episodes. I know there are many more great characters still to come.

Lizzie Birdsworth - Lizzie has to be my all time favourite. The oldest inmate of Wentworth, over 70 with a dodgy 'ticker', will steal anything that isn't nailed down, and will do anything for a drop of 'grog'. Often outrageous and over the top, she is played brilliantly by Sheila Florance, who makes the character totally believable. In later life Sheila played a woman who was dying of cancer when she herself was dying of cancer. She received an award a week before she died. A classic Lizzie moment, and I think my favourite of all, comes in ep105. After being released she gets herself arrested for shoplifting so she can go back inside. The magistrate likes her and wants to be lenient, so during a recess she steals his memoirs and flushes them down the toilet. The result? Magistrate: "Elizabeth Birdsworth, I sentence you to 6 months in Wentworth Detention Centre." Lizzie: "You little beauteee!"

Bea Smith (aka Queen Bea, as she styles herself) - Works the steam press in the laundry. Often involved in petty power struggles for the position of 'top dog'. She's the one who runs the prison (so she likes to think), and none of the women will do anything without her say so. Fiercely vindictive against anyone in for drugs or child abuse, whether it is proved or not, and sometimes wrongly so. Strong character, sometimes a bit overrated I think, but well played by Val Lehman. Val's two daughters have also made brief appearances.

Doreen Anderson/Burns - Last of the three main core characters for the first 300 episodes. Sometimes lovable but often irritating, immature and childish, never without her teddy bear during the early episodes, even while on the run with Franky. Has some strong, and often emotional story lines, including a rape, a prison marriage, and a long lost mother who leaves her house and money to her. Complicated character and well played by Colette Mann.

Franky Doyle - Has the first speaking part with the line, "She bumped into me!" Violent, psychotic butch lesbian character well played by Carol Burns. Her problems are compounded by the fact that she is illiterate. Her classic scene is where she wrecks the rec room in a fit of rage. Strong character but some of her story lines are a bit silly, like the 'Nuns on the Run' episode. Shot and killed in ep020 while on the run.

Officer Vera Bennet (aka Vinegar ****) - I didn't like Vera at all the first time round, but this time I see a lot more to the character. Harsh, schemimg, manipulative, and a strict disciplinarian, she never breaks the rules but will always bend them to her advantage to get one over on the inmates. She wants to be Governor so she can show everyone how the prison should really be run, but is frustrated because she is passed over for promotion. Always very severe with her hair tied back in a bun, off duty with it down she can actually look quite pretty. But away from work she is sad, lonely, depressed, and desperate for love, the result of having had to care for her demanding and domineering mother, who died in one of the early episodes. Not always a likeable character, but played brilliantly by Fiona Spence, another very strong actress. And a classic Vera line, said to every inmate who gets released: "You'll be back!"

Governor Erica Davidson - Strong on rehabiliatation, which often brings her into conflict with Vera, who is all for discipline. Progressive and forward thinking, her plans often go wrong, getting her into trouble with the 'Department'. Played by Patsy King. At only 5ft 2 in her height is enhanced with high heels and a massive hairdo. Speaks with a crisp English accent and often pauses between words as if she is trying to remember her lines. Her classic phrases are: "Very well", "That will be all", "I will not tolerate..."

Officer Jock Stewart - The first real villain among the officers. Corrupt, menacing and violent, he murders an inmate by pushing her down the stairs. Again, a strong performance by Scottish actor Tommy Dysart. Speaks in a deep growling voice with a broad Scottish accent (if you wonder where you heard the accent before, think Robbie Coltrane). Only around for 6 episodes at first but reappears later.

Chrissie Latham - Another strong character. Ex-prostitute, she is transferred out of Wentworth in ep004 after murdering Officer Meg Jackson's husband in a riot. Re-appears in ep068 having got pregnant while inside. Story lines revolve around her baby daughter Elizabeth, who she named after Lizzie. Often not likeable, she can be a real *****. But a strong performance by Ammanda Muggleton, born in the east end of London. Massive hair and strong Cockney accent.

Judy Bryant - Popular and long serving character, but for me a bit weaker. Gets herself put inside so she can be with her lesbian lover, Sharon Gilmour (it is Sharon who is murdered by Jock Stewart). Next major lesbian character after Franky Doyle, and for me that's what doesn't work about her. Portrayed as a rampant dyke, she is more like a matronly grandmother. Played by American actress Betty Bobbitt, she also has some silly story lines. The silliest for me so far is her extorting money from illegal gambling clubs by posing as a bent Police officer while on the run. Another one is her posing as a prostitute in a massage parlour to trap Jock Stewart, although this does give rise to one of her classic lines. She is being prepared by Helen Smart (the tart with a heart) to start work in the massage parlour: Helen: "You look like a 40 year old virgin." Judy: "I am."

Well that's just a few... More to come.
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1 Response Dec 3, 2012

WHAT watch it mate im keeping my eye on you ok Vera Bennett.