Prisoner’s most scary: Vinegar Tits or The Freak?

Former Prisoner stars Val Lehman and Jane Clifton attended a screening of “The Great Fire” at the St. Kilda Film Festival this week, as part of Prisoner‘s 40th anniversary celebrations.

Also in the audience was veteran actress Patsy King.

During the Q&A Val Lehman was asked which character was the most scary: Vera “Vinegar Tits” Bennett (Fiona Spence) or Joan “The Freak” Ferguson (Maggie Kirkpatrick).

“I think The Freak,” replied Lehman.

“Vinegar Tits was much more human. Mind you, The Freak had a soft side -she liked dogs!

“People when they interview me don’t know if they can say Vinegar Tits, or put it to air. Oh come on, we said it 20 times a week!”

Lehman also said she originally went to audition for a role as an officer.

“I was a cattle call. I had rung my agent after working for 4 and a half years with Arena Children’s Theatre and said, ‘I’m tired of children’s theatre, I’d like to do something else. Ho about a long-running role in a television series, that’d be nice, ha-ha-ha!'” she continued.

“A couple of weeks later she rang me and said there’s a new show coming up set in a Women’s Prison. I think you’d be ideal for the Gestapo-style prison officer.

“Kerry Spence was the casting director said ‘I think you’re Bea Smith material, I’ve seen the stuff you’ve done with the ABC.’ But I’d done very little on screen at that stage.”

Lehman screen tested with Colette Mann but producer Ian Bradley later told her they were concerned she did not have enough screen experience.

“He said there were a lot of other actresses being considered for the role, but my screen test won it for me. So I was very fortunate.”

Photo: National Film & Sound Archive.

14 Comments:

  1. Vera was also partially a victim – the scenes in the early episodes with her cruel and manipulative mother really humanised her.
    I was a bit disappointed that Wentworth didn’t do more with the Vera/Mother relationship. They did *some* but they had an opportunity to really delve into it more but didn’t.

  2. I agree that Vera was more human. Fiona Spence was marvellous in the role and even early on, the story of Vera was initially a primary villain. Before long, they showed that Vera was a lonely alcoholic who was dealing with an abusive mother and user boyfriends.
    Written beautifully and played to perfection by the wonderful Ms Spence.
    And think – she went on to inhabit a totally different character in Celia Stewart!

  3. daveinprogress

    How many David’s does it take to a post on TV Tonight? Our host . And 3 Daves . One in progress, one roaring and one simply Dave. And all huge Prisoner fans I’ll wager

  4. daveinprogress

    Vera was not scary. Indifferent and derisive of the women. She cared about Lizzie. I loved Fiona Spence. “This is not a holiday camp Birdsworth”

  5. daveinprogress

    Jock Stewart! Pushed Judy Bryant’s lover Sharon Gillmore down the steps then terrorised Judy. I think he menaced Doreen too! Tommy Dysart played him

  6. Another relevant question would be : Who is scarier – Joan “The Freak” Ferguson, sadistic prisoner officer, from Prisoner or “Joan the Freak” Ferguson, equally sadistic Governor / inmate from Wentworth? A hard one but I think Pamela Rabe has the edge.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.