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|“||If God meant us to walk everywhere, he wouldn’t have given us Little Chefs.||„|
|~ Bernice's most famous quote.|
|“||You cowards. You whoremongers. Idolaters, liars. Your place is in the lake of fire and sulphur where you will die the second death. The death that burns and tears for all eternity!||„|
|~ Bernice to a group of schoolchildren.|
Bernice Woodall is a major character in the BBC dark sitcom/sketch show The League of Gentlemen, appearing as a major character in both series one and two before becoming the main protagonist of the Christmas special, the central antagonist of the 20th anniversary materials and a supporting character in the 2005 film League of Gentlemen's Apocalypse.
She is the vicar of the Royston Vasey church and in spite of being a woman of god she is a very cynical, bitter and short tempered person with a violent streak who has ironically enough lost her faith and became incredibly cynical and nihilistic due to a traumatic incident from her childhood and wanting to use her position of power simply to torment and make her church goers feel the same pain she does.
Upon hearing three stories of people's misfortunes however Bernice decided to try and amend herself and become a better person only to be immediately kidnapped by a dark figure from her past, sending her back to square one on her eventual return home.
She was portrayed by Reece Shearsmith who also portrayed Geoff Tipps, Edward Tattysyrup, Papa Lazarou and Cathy Carter-Smith from the same series, Mr. Jelly and Maureen Sowerbutts in Psychoville, Ray, Tom, Hector, Dr. Maxwell, Mr. Warren, George, Dr. Jacob Tyler, Greg, David, Henry and Viktor in Inside No. 9 and Gagan Rassmussen in Doctor Who.
Bernice had a fairly happy childhood and enjoyed life up until the age of eight years old. During the Christmas season while celebrating with her family Papa Lazarou came to her house disguised as Santa Clause and kidnapped Bernice's mother, traumatising a young Bernice who grew to resent and despise Christmas from that point on with her never to reunite with her mother.
When she grew into an adult Bernice took up the job position of vicar at the Royston Vasey church in spite of having lost her faith in god and religion entirely, this was down to her wanting to use this new position to make everyone around her feel as bitter and unhappy as she does.
League of Gentlemen
When Bernice first appears in the show she is in her sixties and is presented as being at first compliant and happy for helping those around her (Such as people getting married, deceased individuals getting buried, etc) however she will inevitably end up going off on a violent and horrible rant to whoever the person may be, usually upsetting everyone around them in the process. During services she is shown reacting in a similar way to most situations, i.e reading out passages from the bible before completely disregarding them and going on explosive rants to those present.
League of Gentlemen: Christmas Special
In the special Bernice is the main protagonist and is grouchy as ever towards the holiday season and shows her displeasure towards it by ruining a snowman by moving its carrot nose into its crotch in order to mimic a penis before urinating on a portion of the snowy grounds then throwing it towards a man dressed as Santa. Satisfied, she returns into the church, hoping to enjoy some peace and quiet only to be encountered by Charlie Hull who arrives days late to deliver a nativity diorama, much to Bernice's annoyance. Charlie then asks Bernice for advice, initially she's apprehensive due to having filled both of her confession booths with mountains of cigarette packets however when he explains that's not what he's looking for she mellows down and listens to his story of how he is having a recurring nightmare about his wife Stella being arrested and framed for a murder she never committed after attempting to sabotage Charlie himself in a new line-dancing hobby. Bernice questions Charlie over his love for Stella to which he replies he has none, leading to her concluding he's just having unpleasant dreams due to having too much cheese in his diet, she angrily kicks him out of the church.
She is then met with an older gentleman named Matthew Parker who recounts his reasoning for hating Christmas, telling her his story of how as a young man he encountered Herr Lipp on an exchange visit and mistook the man for a vampire and was constantly left uncomfortable due to his advances towards him before eventually realising it was his wife and the boys in his choir group who were the real vampires after trying to kill Lipp with Holy Water. Lipp sacrificed himself to save Parker (although managed to survive since he appears in the show itself) leaving him guilt ridden over his treatment towards him when he was actually innocent (At least in terms of the vampire subject. Bernice however scoffs at the story unfazed and explains to Parker the story of her mother being kidnapped. He leaves after another brief conversation, thanking Bernice for her time.
Bernice is then met by a bloodied Matthew Chinnery who she tries to console as he explains tearfully another failed veterinary job on his part, before telling her that his entire bloodline is cursed to be terrible vets thanks to his great grandfather's mistake in touching a cursed necklace from a disgraced vet after moving to Vasey. Bernice doesn't believe the story however and convinces Chinnery instead to prove himself as a good vet and get back in the business with a clearer head. He feels better and more confident from hearing her words and leaves happily, thanking her in the process.
Bernice begins cheering up significantly after this and makes preparations for Christmas Day before seeing a man in a Santa costume entering the church. Assuming this to be the man she threw the pee ball towards earlier, she apologises to him until she hears his voice saying "HELLO DAVE!" taken aback she asks him to repeat himself, this time hearing "IS THAT DAVE?!" A look of horror then enters Bernice's face as she realises who she's talking to. The man takes off his hat and beard revealing himself as Papa Lazarou before mockingly telling Bernice how nice it is to see her after two decades before chasing her out of the church. Bernice tries to escape his grasp only to be kidnapped in a sack with the help of his dwarf henchmen and put in a sleigh. Papa Lazarou tells her that she's his wife now and rides off into the night laughing maniacally.
League of Gentlemen Anniversary Specials
League of Gentlemen's Apocalypse
Bernice is an ill-tempered, violent, sarcastic and abrasive woman who gets exasperated or frustrated at almost everything around her, in spite of that however she does try her best to be as nice as possible, only resorting to her rage when pushed to her breaking point (which isn't exactly hard to do). She also has xenophobic flairs to her, with her having a dislike for both men and women and for wanting to bring back the slave trade, she appears to have little tolerance for children either, making a whole room full of them nearly cry at one point.
Bernice is ultimately a decent person however and becomes passionate about saving her town when it's threatened on multiple occasions although usually it's for petty and bizarre reasons such as losing a parking space, and feels great remorse over throwing all of the women in Royston Vasey under the bus by enabling Papa Lazarou's various kidnappings legally in order to escape him. She is also terrified of Papa Lazarou, both due to seeing him take her mother away as a child as well as from being kidnapped by him herself.
During the early years of the show Bernice was fairly attractive with pale skin and looked alarmingly young for a woman in her sixties, she had brown eyes short brown hair secured back at the sides and standard makeup applied, her most distinguishing trait however was her very large front teeth and prominent overbite as well as the lipstick which occasionally stained her upper front teeth somehow. Her most common attire was that of a black dress (sometimes blue) with a clerical collar and regal robes which ranged in colours such as black, white and blue. She also wore black Mary Janes.
After her return to Royston Vasey Bernice's face was more aged and her hair had turned grey likely due to the trauma of being kidnapped by Papa Lazarou and she wore a purple polka dot dress with a clerical collar, a more elegantly designed regal robe than before and similar shoes to before, she also appeared to have became much more gaunt perhaps due to trauma.
As a child Bernice wore a dress and cardigan and had lighter hair than her adult self.
- Bernice is often shipped with Pauline Campbell-Jones due to their vaguely similar personalities as well as Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton's closeness in real life. This ends up being lamp-shaded in the non canon 2005 where the two actually briefly get together.
- Bernice is likely the only woman to ever escape Papa Lazarou until his downfall in the final live show.