; l l l


the infamous 'porridge accident‘. which left him with a fractured pelvis after a technician and a rostrum (together with several gallons of glutinous cereal) descended on him during filming.

Born in 1926. Baxter made his professional debut at the Edinburgh Festival in I948. playing a ‘small but showy’ part in Tyrone Guthrie‘s acclaimed production ofxlne I ’leasant Salyre oft/1e Th rie lfs'lailis. llc lists the opening night among the high spots ofhis career.

Having learned to be funny at school (‘it saves you getting hit in the playground.‘ he says) he learned early in his career the joys of wearing women's clothes. and was given freedom to develop his nascent drag characters in the Citizens‘ pantomimes. llis uncannin feminine female impersonations have aroused debate among rival male performers over just how perfectly shaved the legs should be for the pursuance of onstage transvestism (it should perhaps he pointed out that Baxter is happily married. thankyou).

At any rate. his pantomime dame is still in great demand throughout Britain. The manager of one theatre in northern England at which Baxter had discussed appearing this Christmas could not contain himself until the contract was signed before advertising his scoop. Baxter‘s


Nigel Billen talks to Katy Murphy.

Channel Four executives. according to Scottish 'I'elevision head. Gus Macdonald. found it impenetrable. 'I‘housands of Scots have already made it the most successful Scottish stage show of recent years. But Steamie star. Katy Murphy. has yet to be satisfied with any of her professional acting performances.

Katy Murphy. who has most recently been appearing alongside David Essex in one of those winsorne BBC ‘summertime' sit-coms that will probably confound the critics and run for ever. created the role of Doreen in The .S'Ieamie in the stage version which was first performed at Mayfest two years ago.

Now Wildcat's successful mix of music. nostalgia and radical political stance. has been taken up by Scottish Television and sold to Channel Four for network viewing on lIogmanay. Ironically. it will be broadcast immediately after Michael Grade has finished paying homage to his ex BBC boss Billy Cotton. the brash cheerful face of Never-I-Iad-It- So-Good television of the Sixties. As valve 'I‘Vs flickered to Billy Cotton senior‘s ‘Wakey Wakcy‘ and Britain prepared to swing in the heightened atmosphere that generated Frost over Britain (both Billy Cotton shows repeated on 31 Dec) women were still meeting in Scotland in the public Steamies.

‘My mother remembered the whole era which was incredibly helpful.‘ Katy Murphy explained when I asked her how she had gone about researching the role. ‘It was a

' time ofoptimism and dreams.

unsurprising decision to withdraw I left the theatre with almost as much 1 egg on its face as a certain { ex-politician. ‘I won‘t do pantomime again.‘ he asserts. but later admits ; that the right offer might just get him ? ()h-yes-l-willing again. i

In 1952. he left ‘legitimatc‘ theatre and began appearing in Fire Past [fight revue shows. Since then. he has hardly strayed from the well worn path between pantomime and 3 light entertainment. although there have been some memorable departures. In 1969. for example. he played the lead role in the premiere ofJoe ()rton's last play What The Butler Saw. without so much as a change of costume.

’l‘d like to do more acting roles.‘ he ! says. adding that the title part in Mr Majeika the networked TVS children‘s show which has an auspicious one—hour special slot on Christmas Day and begins its second series on 7 January is the closest he has come fora while. ‘I sometimes wonder.’ he says. with a wee hint of wistfulness. ‘what would have happened ifI hadn't become illegitimate at 26.‘

M r .llajeika is on Scottish Television (2)125 December a! 1. 15pm; Stanley Barter appears on Scottish Television 's I To gmanay Show a!

I I .5()pm on 3/ December.

Dreams which people thought perfectly obtainable. There is an irony there that wasn‘t lost when we played Scotland's community centres— places like Drumchapel.’ It will be interesting to see ifit is an irony that will have penetrated to Channel Four bosses— and indeed

the Channel Four audience. ‘It‘s not

a purely nostalgic look back‘ says

Murphy of The Steamie which must owe its success in part to its ability to catch the mood of paradox in current day Scotland. ‘It’s a very timely piece because it is catching a Glasgow that is fast disappearing.‘

Katy Murphy now lives in London. attending when she can the Acting Centre. learning to win the important roles that up to now she claims ‘luck‘ has landed her. and coping with the alienation of life in a city noticeably lacking the warmth of Glasgow. ‘1 spilled some juice on a man on a tube train when it stopped in a tunnel. You‘d have thought I‘d stabbed him. In Glasgow it would have been “Are you alright. Hen?“

But London. where she actually has many Glasgow friends and clearly enjoys the depth of theatrical experience on offer. doesn‘t create half the shock that Glasgow itself was able to provide. ‘I didn‘t at the time think I was very deprived or poor.‘ says Murphy. who comes from the East End ofGlasgow. 'Materially we didn't have a lot but you don‘t think of that when you are there. But coming from the East End there is a huge divide. I don‘t think I

ever crossed the “border” until my brother went to university. It was

just like being in Bohemia you know.

It was incredible. a completely different world.‘

Katy Murphy was drawn into acting while at Glasgow ITniversity. joining her brother’s Channel Five Theatre Company. ‘lgnorance is bliss”. she recalls. "I'he more you find out the more you realise what there is to learn and the more tentative you become. At that time I was playing ()phelia and trying at a RP accent.’ Graduating after her third year. Murphy abandoned an ambition to become a teacher and took up an acting role with Borderline theatre company.

After that introduction to acting. a Susie Kettles style year of working in a Glasgow bar followed. which almost had Murphy writing off her acting career. Work followed with the celebrations in New Lanark

surrounding the 2(ltlth anniversary of the birth of Robert ()wen. Murphy charactcristieally refuses to take any credit for her first big break playing .‘vls 'l‘oner in the the hugely successful Tum l'ram'. ‘l was sent along for an interview and asked to read the part. It was all there. With my background and East End accent and speech rhythms I couldn‘t really say those lines any other way.‘

Murphy doesn’t see herself as a comedy specialist claiming that ‘she still has difficulty about letting the audience in‘ but she has proved incredibly adept at interpreting the Glasgow comic edge for IV and stage. ‘.lohn Byrnc captures it so well. but it's in 'l'heSreamIe too. It's the humour of despair. When you know someone else is from that background you immediately tune into it. In (ilasgow you have only to get into the back of a taxi. . .‘

But The .S'Ieamie doesn‘t just rely

8’I‘he List 33 Dec 1988— 12 Jan 1989