Julia Hills Julia Hills is a triumph... - British Theatre Guide  
About Julia Hills

Julia HillsJulia has been a working actress since graduating from the University of Bristol and has enjoyed a hugely varied career.

Alongside a canon of classical theatre work and a particular interest in new writing, she is especially well known for her comic portrayals of eccentrically endearing women such as Rona in the BBC hit comedy series “2 Point 4 Children”, and the many different female (and sometimes male) characters that she assumed whilst being part of the regular team of performers on the cult late night satirical sketch show “Who Dares Wins” on Channel 4.

Young JuliaJulia was born in Nottingham and moved to Ruislip at the age of five and then to Stafford at 14. She attended Walton High School and then went on to read English and Drama at Bristol University. Here she became heavily involved in all aspects of performance both on and off stage and appeared in plays, opera, cabaret and revue, from “Hedda Gabler” to “Iolanthe”.

She joined the Bristol Revunions Society in 1976 and travelled with them to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival for 3 years running, appearing annually in the late night Revunions Revue and receiving national reviews for the European premiere of Gorky’s “A Respectable Family” in 1977.

Here she forged links with other young performers and was invited to make a pilot for the BBC with Rowan Atkinson, Mel Smith and Jimmy Mulville which, alas, became a victim of the Industrial Action at Television Centre in 1977/78 and was never made.

Beyond A JokeHowever, this experience did introduce her to Rowan Atkinson who invited her to join him in his show “Beyond a Joke” (music by Howard Goodall) at The Oxford Playhouse and at Uppingham School.

She completed her final year at Bristol and graduated with the intention of becoming a great classical actress; within a few months she had secured the part of a Trembling Tree in “Jack and the Beanstalk” at the Theatre Royal York, and her career was launched!

Jack and the BeanstalkShe then moved to London and found work with the experimental theatre group The Phantom Captain Theatre Company, before being signed up for the Autumn season at the Theatre Royal Stratford East under the stewardship of Clare Venables.

She then moved back to Bristol to join the cast of “Guys and Dolls” over the Christmas of 1979/80, and was invited to stay Guys and Dollson in the BOV company for the next two years where she played many different parts including a blue painted First Fairy in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” which transferred to the Old Vic in London.

At the same time she secured her first television job in “The Lost Tribe” by Jack Ronder for BBC Scotland and the summer months of 1980 found her commuting between London and Edinburgh on the overnight sleeper train!

Who Dares WinsAfter almost two years with the Bristol Old Vic, Julia joined the RSC as a lowly spear carrier, but managed to work her way through the ranks to play leading roles such as Sally Forth in the original production of the Opium Wars musical ‘Poppy’ by Peter Nichols with music by Monty Norman which premiered at the Barbican in 1982 and won the Laurence Olivier Award for Best New Musical.

Our Friends In The North

She created the role of Rusty in Peter Flannery’s stage premiere of “Our Friends in the North” (Rusty was later transformed into the character of “Julia” in the award winning television adaptation) and was proud to be involved in this the first new play to open The Pit at The Barbican. 

She also played Perdita in ‘A Winters Tale’ when Ron Eyre’s production transferred to London;  Ann  in “The Witch of Edmonton “at The Other Place Stratford, and took over Diana in ‘All’s Well That Ends Well’ from Cheryl Campbell at The Barbican in the production directed by Trevor Nunn.

After the RSC, Julia travelled to Manchester to perform in two shows at the Manchester Library Theatre, including a brand new play by the folk singer and writer Ewan MacColl called “Shore Saints and Sea Devils”.

Who Dares Wins

It was totally unexpected therefore when Jimmy Mulville got back in touch out of the blue and suggested that she might like to join him and his colleagues in creating a new late night satirical comedy sketch show to help launch the new TV Channel 4.

Thus began three enjoyable years of making “Who Dares Wins”, first as a cult television series, and then as a major, successful stage show which sold out throughout Britain for two years running.

Julia was “the girl in the show”, with four male co stars including Jimmy, Rory McGrath, Tony Robinson and the musical magician Philip Pope, and played nearly all of the female characters (as well as some of the male ones) in various costumes, wigs and disguises.

She starred in two West End musicals at this time and was nominated for an Olivier Award as Actress of the Year in a Musical 1984 for her role as Emily Tallentire in ‘The Hired Man’ at The Astoria Theatre London.

She also played the title role of Edwin Drood in the New York Shakespeare Theatre production of “The Mystery of Edwin Drood” at the Savoy Theatre London, playing opposite Lulu and Ernie Wise.


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