She’s brilliant and British

By Lauren Edwards

Kathy Burke would be the perfect dream dinner guest. No nonsense, hilarious and unafraid to give her opinion on any given subject. Although, having just finished watching her documentary series Money Talks, I think she would probably prefer to just ‘pop in for a cup of tea and a natter’.

In the two-part programme, Burke discusses the great divide between the rich and poor and how we, as a society, find it acceptable to judge other people’s bank balances. She embarks on a journey to discover who really is better off, those with money or those without.

Burke is so watchable, she is nothing but herself and whether she is interviewing a multi-millionaire or a lottery winner, she is unafraid to say it how it is. When visiting a group of millennials, who are living in a mansion, earning thousands of pounds through TikTok videos, she spends the first part of her visit moaning at them like a nagging Nana as they don’t have the basic means to make her a cup of her beloved tea, so she promptly sends one of them to the shop.

However, it is the piece to camera moments that are really engaging as she openly talks, in her trademark potty mouth way, about her own rags to riches experiences growing up. She persuades us as viewers to be more considerate to those without, more grateful for what we have and candidly expresses her concerns over ‘the posh and rich’ members of our government who she views as unfit to make decisions on how much a single mother should live on every week.

As a child, I was like a little Dickensian rat, and I have been working away since the age of 11. So, this is why I am a lazy fat middle-aged woman, who is very happy to do as little as possible. I think I deserve it.

Burke was born in 1964 in North London to an Irish family. Her mother sadly died of cancer when Burke was just two years old, and she was raised by foster neighbours until the age of six when she moved back home to live with her alcoholic father and two older brothers. She attended the Anna Scher school in Islington, which offered free courses to the poor and within a year, at the age of 18, she was offered her first acting role in the film Scrubbers.

After playing small parts in films and plays during her early 20s, Burke was launched into the spotlight when she joined Harry Enfield’s Television Show at the age of 26. Here she embodied the memorable characters of Waynetta Slob and Kevin the Teenager’s best friend Perry. But it was as abused wife Valerie in Nil by Mouth, opposite Ray Winstone, in which she received her biggest acclaim. Burke received three Best Actress awards for her role in the gritty dysfunctional film and soon after was given the lead role in the BBC hit sitcom Gimme Gimme Gimme.

Don’t be so hard on yourself. Stop comparing yourself to what somebody else has got or what somebody else hasn’t got. Stop. It’s life. It’s so fleeting. When are you going to just sit and chill and think and look at your kids and have a smile and think that’s a massive achievement. That to me is success.

In 2007, Burke contracted the hospital superbug Clostridium Difficile following an operation. The condition causes severe dehydration and diarrhoea and she was forced to take nearly a year off work to recover. This resulted in her having to withdraw as the director of Dying for It at the Almeida Theatre.

Burke has worked extensively as a director throughout her career and, pre-Covid, she was resident director at the Park Theatre in London. The next project she will be working on is directing the TV series Holding, a four-part series based on TV star Graham Norton’s self-penned murder mystery novel. The filming will take part in West Cork, Ireland, this summer.

I love theatre directing but thought I should get out of my comfort zone and direct a bit of telly. West Cork is where my Mum was from so, hello over there and put the kettle on as I’ll be heading home soon!

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