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Kathy Burke in Walking and Talking on Sky Atlantic

Daily Post, 23 June 2012

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Kathy Burke has a glint in her eye, which suggests she has many a story to tell, but she won’t write her autobiography for love nor money.

“I’ve been asked,” says the 48-year-old, who’s just come in from a sneaky fag break. “I just feel we’re inundated with them, you know?”

She pauses, then adds: “But I’m also such a lover of books, I so admire the writer, more than anyone else, that it just never appealed to me to write an autobiography.”

If there was an appetite to find out more about the acclaimed London-born actress, whose work ranges from the hilarious Harry Enfield And Chums to the heartbreaking Nil By Mouth, it was certainly whetted by her now-famous edition of Desert Island Discs.

In conversation with presenter Kirsty Young, Burke chose songs by Lady Gaga and The Sex Pistols, spoke about how punk had made her life easier, and revealed her luxury item would be a life-size laminated picture of James Caan from Dragon’s Den “to body-surf on”. Many listeners declared it to be the long-running series’ best edition ever.

Burke leans forward and says sincerely: “I have to say I was really shocked at the reaction. Pleasantly shocked but I was sort of, ‘Crumbs, why’s it such a big deal?’ And I’ve heard much better Desert Island Discs than mine.”

She admits that revisiting her past through music did awaken something within her, so when Sky asked if she would write a series about her life as a teenager she jumped at the chance.
“I thought, ‘Oh all right; well this is my autobiography then’, and to me it’s enough. I’m not going to write any more,” she says.

The four-part series Walking And Talking follows young Kath and her friend Mary, literally walking around Burke’s home turf of Islington and talking, mainly, about music, school and boys. “We just used to talk about everything and nothing,” recalls Burke.

Kath’s pal Mary, who gets all the male attention, is an amalgamation of many of Burke’s best school friends, all of whom she says were “the pretty ones”.

But Kath in the show only gets slightly huffy about this, not letting it get in the way of their friendship.

“I wanted to show girls being kind to each other. I’m getting really fed up with the way that girls and women get portrayed a lot of the time.”

On a roll, she continues: “It’s like everyone loving that film Bridesmaids, and I hated it. I thought, ‘Oh right, so we’ve got to invest in these women because that one’s more bitchy than this one?”’

Set to a soundtrack of The Clash and The Slits, with Grange Hill-style animated credits and comic turns from Burke herself and Sean Gallagher (who play a pair of nuns at Kath’s school), and Jerry Sadowitz (who plays a local alcoholic), the series is as lively and funny as any of Burke’s previous beloved works.

She beams at the feedback. “Brilliant,” she says, smiling.

“I was worried that it might come across as too indulgent, but I can honestly say it’s been one of the best work experiences, ever, for me.”

Burke lost her mother to cancer when she was just two years old, and has no memory of her – she was brought up by family friends and her alcoholic father (although she’s said she regarded her older brother John as more of a father figure).

If young Kath in the series is anything to go by, this made Burke a wise old soul from a young age. “Kath in the show is what I was like,” explains Burke.

“I was like a sort of 40-year-old. But of course, what I don’t include is the horrible side of me. If I’d have shown her more at home, I would have had to have shown her like a typical, miserable, moody teenager!”



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