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One Victoria plays another on A&E drama
LONDON -- Victoria Hamilton jokes that she seems to have been in a corset for the last seven years, playing in period pieces.
But she isn't giving up the garment just yet.
This Victoria is playing another in "Victoria and Albert," airing 8 p.m. today and Tuesday on A&E.
And her similarities to the British queen who reigned from 1837 to 1901 don't end with the name.
"Victoria was the height I was," the 5-foot-4 Hamilton says. And her measurements were identical, "down to the size of my head and my wrist," Hamilton discovered during costume fittings at Kensington Palace.
"She did have this thing of being a very small woman with an explosive personality," she adds, offering a description that fits herself as well.
Hamilton, 30, plays the young queen opposite Jonathan Firth as her German cousin, and eventual husband, Prince Albert. The starry supporting cast includes Peter Ustinov as William IV, the ailing king whom Victoria succeeds, and Nigel Hawthorne as Lord Melbourne, Victoria's first prime minister (and, the program suggests, surrogate father figure). Jonathan Pryce, David Suchet, Penelope Wilton and Diana Rigg fill out an impressive lineup.
Judi Dench began her seemingly annual visits to the Academy Awards in 1998 playing the widowed Victoria in "Mrs. Brown." Hamilton, however, thinks this image of Victoria is constricted.
"Everyone in this country and abroad, when they think of Queen Victoria, has a particular image of this rather stout, portly, morally strict lady in a black dress, which is what she became after Albert died," Hamilton says.
"Nobody knew who she was when she was 18, or in her 20s." That Victoria "loved parties and balls and theater and opera and new dresses; she was reveling in all that because it was something she'd never had," having grown up in a forbidding environment that, Hamilton says, "was tantamount to abuse."
Worked at marriage
When Albert came along, says Hamilton, "people automatically assume they fell desperately in love, though if you read the diaries and books, you realize that actually wasn't the case. It wasn't until the years passed that they both fell in love with each other; it took them awhile to get there. Like any relationship, a marriage does take work."
The actress currently is investigating an altogether different marriage on stage in Peter Nichols' bleakly comic "A Day In the Death of Joe Egg," in which she and Clive Owen (of "Croupier" and "Second Sight" fame) play parents of a disabled daughter. The show opened Oct. 1 on the West End, with Hamilton receiving particular raves as a woman whose innate sympathy and warmth never curdle into sentimentality.
Earlier this year Hamilton won the London Critics' Circle best actress award for playing Rosalind in "As You Like It." She was Cressida to Joseph Fiennes' Troilus for the Royal Shakespeare Company and Hilde Wangel to Alan Bates' Solness in Ibsen's "The Master Builder" on the West End.