Though still remembered as the abrasive secretary in Tutti F rum. Katy Murphy has shown herself to be a versatile actress in her latest role as a sex-mad fish packer. Eddie Gibb reports.
hile Robbie Coltrane's physical. presence dominated the 1986 screen drama Tutti Fruai. there was still enough space for a memorable double act between Richard Wilson. in a pre-Victor incarnation. and a then unknown young Glaswegian actress called Katy Murphy.
Eddie Clockerty was the crashing snob of the garment trade while his assistant Miss Toner took every opportunity to make fun of his pretensions with her sarky wit. Miss Toner was. in a word. gallus. and we sort of assumed that Murphy must be too.
Fast forward ten years and Murphy is at it again. In the new four-part TV drama A Mugs Game set on a West Highland salmon farm. Murphy plays Denise. a bubbly chick who spends her days up to her elbows in fish guts. dreaming up ever more elaborate strategies to ensnare a man. It‘s a brassy role which required a two-hour fitting session for a state-of-the-art. cantilevered brassiere to provide Murphy with the necessary cleavage.
‘The point was that they had to find someone who didn‘t look that great but was making the best of limited assets.’ says Murphy. ‘It was good for me because I’m a relatively unconfident person about how I look. bttt David [Blair. the director] said you’ve got to walk about with your shoulders back. going “Hello. boys!” It was quite liberating.‘ The Daily Record put it rather more bluntly. exclaiming: ‘Miss Toner"s frutti tttttis‘.
In fact. Murphy is not a bit like Denise. says writer Donna Franceschild. who wrote the part specially for her after they worked together on the Bafta—winning Takin' Over The Asylum. ‘She‘s incredibly self-effacing to the point of everybody wanting to shake her and say “You are a really terrific aetress“.’ says Franceschild. It would appear that Murphy is not in the least bit gallus. and is in fact somewhat lacking in confidence in her own acting ability. In person she is incredibly modest. attributing her success at creating memorable characters to parts that are ‘so well written'.
In A Mugs Game. Denise is not a central character but she provides some light relief in a story which explores the darker corners of rural Scotland. from family breakdown to unemployment to poverty. Even Denise‘s desperate manhunting. which prompts her to fling underwear at the bodhran player in the
village ceilidh band. is a pragmatic response to the threat of redundancy from the fish farm. By contrast. in 'lakin' Over The x’isv/um set in a psychiatric hospital. Mttrpby played Francine. a painfully introverted and depressive young woman to whom the phrase ‘cowering. titnorous beastie‘ could easily be applied.
Clearly. Murphy is no more Francine than she is Denise. or Miss Toner for that matter. But she does admit to a lack of self—confidence. at least professionally. which has left her vulnerable to criticism. She hasn‘t performed on stage since appearing in a London production of John Byrne‘s S/ah Bays 'li'i/agy over a year ago in
‘My sister and I used to be my dad’s backing vocalists when he did ‘Shine On Harvest Moon’, and we’d do the actions. My sister didn’t really like doing it, but I
was like that, this is great fun!’ which she was singled out in a bad review. ‘1! said “perfect casting apart from. she
remembers. As Lucille. she was meant to be the vamp who seduces the ‘slab boys‘ working in a paint factory so .‘l .1111}; 3‘ Game was a chance to prove that she can do raunchy if required.
The one thing Murphy has in common with just about every character she‘s played is her dead ordinariness. She was born and brought up
Katy Murphy as Denlse and Mlchelle Falrley as Kathy in A Mug's Game
KATY MURPHY FEATURE
in the southside of Glasgow as the middle child of three (her older brother Robert scripted the forthcoming David Hayman film The Near Roam). As a teenager. their father had been an entertainer on the Glasgow variety circuit as a member of a conjuring troupe. Performance was art of family life and Murphy's earliest memories of performing were in the front room: ‘Everybody always has to do a turn in west of Scotland gatherings. I must have been unbearable. My sister and I used to be my dad‘s backing vocalists when he did ‘Shine On Harvest Moon'. and we‘d do the actions. My sister didn't really like doing it. but I was like that. this is great fun! It was probably attention seeking'
l-lowever. Murphy had to work through typical girly phases of wanting to be a nun (she now calls herself a ‘cultural Catholic’ ). a horse- riding instructor and an air hostess before deciding on acting as a career. She went to Glasgow University to study linglish and philosophy. but was seduced by the student drama group. ‘I think I had a weird kind of confidence then.‘ she says.
ller professional career began in l984 with parts for local theatre companies such as Borderline. but Murphy‘s big break into TV came when she was cast as Miss Toner in Tutti l’rutu'. Subsequent credits include John Byrne‘s follow-up Your (‘heatin' Heart and more recently as the ditsy heliport check—in girl in Rough/reeks. To each part she brings a straightforward. girl-next-door charm which makes the characters believable. ‘lt‘s the quality of being vulnerable and brittle at the same time. plus she has this great comic timing.‘ says liranceschild. ‘I could write twenty parts for her and they‘d all be different. but they would all be right for her.‘
That‘s two down and eighteen to go. then. A Mugs Game is (m BIK'I ()1) Sunday 28 January at 9.05;»)1.
The List 26 Jan-8 Feb 199613