Emma Chambers: 1964-2018
Tea Time Tidbit for the week of March 5, 2018
Last week we were shocked and saddened to learn about the sudden death of actress Emma Chambers, who played the daffy, but extremely lovable, Alice Tinker in The Vicar of Dibley. According to the show’s executive producer, Jon Plowman, Tinker had a heart attack on February 21st, at the far too young age of just 53.
Throughout her life Chambers had suffered from chronic allergies. She was extremely allergic to animals and just being around them would reportedly bring on asthma attacks. Despite the dangers to her health, one of the funniest and most touching episodes of Dibley was the one in which Tinker played Mary in the Nativity play Geraldine arranged to take place outside of the church. In it, Chambers was surrounded by all sorts of farmyard animals.
In The Vicar of Dibley
In later years, Chambers would recall the scene and remember that she nearly died “with embarrassment, as I looked horrendous. My eyes were out here!” On that occasion though Chambers was just starting out and felt unable to object.
Once she became an established actress, Chambers had no qualms about letting people know of her condition. Such as the time when she was appearing in a play, and spotted a cat backstage, which led to the production being stopped. As she recalled a few years ago in an interview with the Telegraph “I had to dash up to wardrobe, I had to leave. I was itching, wheezy. My voice was husky the next day — from being in here for a few minutes. So the poor cat had to go — it was either the actress or the cat!”
In The Vicar of Dibley
Although born in the north of England, Chambers was educated at a private boarding school called St. Swithuns in Winchester, Hampshire. While there she enjoyed acting and also played lacrosse for the county. After leaving school Chambers went to drama school in London and in 1988 got her first television role in a BBC adaptation of the D.H. Lawrence novel The Rainbow. In it, the 5’ 2” actress played a child. The same year, Chambers starred with Ian McKellen in the Alan Ayckbourn comedy Henceforward, in which she played McKellen’s daughter.
For a time, Chambers lodged with McKellen and the actor became somewhat of a father figure to Chambers. So much so in fact, that when she married in 1991, it was McKellen who gave her away. Her own father – by then divorced from Chambers’ mother and living in Australia - was unable to attend the wedding, which took place in the New Forest, with not a telly tubby in sight!
In 1998 Chambers won a British Comedy Award for Best TV Comedy Actress and the following year she starred as Hugh Grant’s sister in the film, Notting Hill. Chambers' last television role was in 2007, in the final episode of The Vicar of Dibley.
When asked to comment on the death of her co-star, Dawn French said “Emma was a very bright spark and the most loyal and loving friend anyone could wish for, I will miss her very much.”
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