Maggie Fox, actress noted for Coronation Street and Shameless who formed irreverent comedy duo LipService with Sue Ryding – obituary

Maggie Fox, left, as Ruth in Coronation Street with Hayley and Toy and foster son Wayne - ITV/Shutterstock
Maggie Fox, left, as Ruth in Coronation Street with Hayley and Toy and foster son Wayne - ITV/Shutterstock

Maggie Fox, who has died following a sudden accident aged 58, was a Yorkshire-born actress who had small roles on television, notably in Coronation Street, but became better known on the comedy circuit as one half, with Sue Ryding, of LipService, a comedy duo described in The Guardian as the “Laurel & Hardy of literary deconstruction”.

Maggie Fox’s best known television role was in 2001 in six episodes of Coronation Street as Ruth Audsley, the character who shopped the well-liked couple Roy (David Neilson) and Hayley (Julie Hesmondhalgh) to the police after they went on the run with their foster child Wayne. The Manchester-based actress admitted that she was not very popular in her street as a consequence.

Maggie Fox and Sue Ryding first met in the 1970s in their third year as drama students at Bristol University, when they were cast in a production of Ibsen’s Lady From the Sea. “It’s not supposed to be a comedy, but we were a bit out of control,” Maggie Fox admitted. “We were doing that ‘looking into the distance’ acting for Ibsen, draped in seaweed, and it was so liberating to have found someone else who found it funny too, especially when no one else did.”

LipService: Sue Ryding and Maggie Fox
LipService: Sue Ryding and Maggie Fox

Deciding that they were not cut out for serious acting, they started doing stand-up on the alternative cabaret circuit in London. In 1985 they formed their comedy and writing partnership, touring the country performing literary spoofs, inspired by the gentle comedy of Morecambe and Wise, Joyce Grenfell and others of that ilk.

Their Brönte Sisters send-up, Withering Looks, won the Edinburgh Festival Critics’ Award for Comedy. Other productions included Strangers on a Train Set; Move Over Moriarty, a Sherlock Holmes send-up; Women on the Verger, a spoof on the Aga saga; and Very Little Women, an anarchic version of Louisa May Alcott’s classic novel – along with the largely self-explanatory King Arthur and the Knights of the Occasional Table; The Picture of Doreen Gray; Mr Darcy Loses the Plot, and Live and Let’s Dye (starring Jane Bond).

For Inspector Norse, a comic take on the Scandi Noir genre, inspired by Sofie Grabol’s jumpers in The Killing, they invited local knitters in Chorlton, Manchester, to contribute to their set: “We even have a knitted autopsy with knitted vital organs, which is very funny,” Maggie Fox said.

In 1992 LipService had a sketch-show slot on Radio 4.

Sue Ryding and Maggie Fox in LipService
Sue Ryding and Maggie Fox in LipService

Margaret Fox was born in York on November 23 1963 to Raymond and Barbara Fox. Her father, a solicitor, was on the board of York Theatre Royal; her uncle was a mainstay of the York Settlement Community Players.

Maggie Fox was educated at Tadcaster Grammar School before going to Bristol University.

She appeared in four roles on Coronation Street, briefly as a nurse in 1990, then in 1992 for one episode as a character called Charmain Grey. After playing Ruth Audsley, in 2010 she was the judge in the custody case in which sisters Kylie Turner (Paula Lane) and Becky McDonald (Katherine Kelly) fought for custody over Kylie’s son Max.

Her other television credits included Granada TV’s 2002 remake of The Forsyte Saga, in which she played Bilson, housekeeper to Damian Lewis’s Soames Forsyte; and Shameless (2006), in which she appeared as a registrar at Frank and Sheila’s wedding.

LipService won the Manchester Theatre Stage Door Award for Excellence in 2013, and during the pandemic the comedy duo kept their fans entertained with an online performance of The Ghost Writer, “a spine-tingling story from the quills of Mrs Gaskell, E Nesbitt and Mary Shelley”.

At the time of Maggie Fox’s death they had been touring with Chateau Ghoul.

Maggie Fox was married to the actor Malcolm Raeburn, with whom she had three daughters.

Maggie Fox, born November 23 1963, died March 21 2022