From Chicken Run to the National Theatre, LYNN FERGUSON is doing all right for herself. But that's not why they're laying
out the sandwiches back home. Words: Mark Fisher
The good woman of Cumbernauld
LYNN FERGUSON'S MUM CAN'T WAIT for her daughter to come to Cumbernauld. It’s only to be expected. After all. what mother wouldn't be proud to see her youngest child taking the lead role in a National Theatre production of a major Brecht play. especially when it’s making an exclusive Scottish appearance at the local theatre? Except. that's not why she's excited.
No. all Mrs Ferguson cares about is that her beloved daughter has just got engaged to an MoD worker from Erskine. And the fact of her touring to her native Cumbernauld with the most prestigious theatre in the land is nothing more than a great opportunity for a
Like her brothers Craig (aka Bing Hitler. aka Crawford Mackenzie in The Big Tease and star of the forthcoming Born Romantie). Scott (head of production at ml) and sister Janice (a leading health and safety manager). she doesn‘t believe in taking it easy. She‘s not the sort to wait by the phone for a call from her agent. As soon as she’d finished training at Glasgow‘s RSAMD. she was out on the road as half of double-act the Alexander Sisters. forging the nascent Scottish comedy circuit with little more than Victor and Barry (Forbes Masson and Alan Cumming) for company. She hasn‘t kept still since. ‘I used to get really
The voice of Mac in Chicken Run refuses to take it easy
buffet. ‘What my mother thinks.’ says angry when people said I don t see Lynn. 35. ‘is we‘re having an that stand-up was the how you can engagement party on the Sunday. and hardest thing.‘ she says. entertain what sandwiches will we have. and will ‘That‘s a load of pish. _ there be sausages and vol au vents. and There are loads of things people If you what hours are we looking at and have that are really hard when set yourself
you invited such and such‘.’ She’s delighted I‘m going to be in Cumbernauld. but doesn’t give a fuck that I‘m with the National.‘
Mothers. eh‘.’ But it explains a lot about Lynn's attitude. She may be an acclaimed stand-up comedian. a celebrated writer of one-act Edinburgh Fringe plays (Kindling. Frank and Heart And Sole). the talent behind Mil/port on Radio 4. the voice of Mac in (‘hieken Run. a star of the ill-fated All Saints vehicle Honest. but Lynn Ferguson couldn’t be more down to earth if she tried.
When I meet her in the heart of arty London in one of the National Theatre's bars - a bar. I have to stress. she does not know her way around - she can barely finish a sentence without making some self-deprecating crack or apologising for sounding too fancy. She‘s lively and friendly and great fun to be with — even after a knackering day of rehearsals — but she's pathologically averse to acting above her station. ‘See if I start talking rubbish. just stop me and go: “No! Real world now. not lovely arty theatre world”.’ she warns me. downing the lager she‘s been craving all afternoon. ‘My mother has given us all the understanding that what we do is just a job. I don’t see how you can entertain people if you set yourself above them.‘
But just because she does herself down doesn't mean she‘s not driven.
28 THE LIST lS Feb-l Mar 2001
you don‘t want to do them
and. frankly. if you do above them:
stand-up it’s no‘ the hardest thing in the world and you‘re equipped to do it.‘
She adds: ‘I couldn't say to my mother. “Well. I'm resting at the minute". Because she‘d say. "Resting from what?" I like to know what I'm working at. I like to know I'm earning money and I like to know I have a home life.’
So she’s a self-starter. but this time the phone did ring and she‘s playing the
part of Shen Te in The Good Woman Of
Seizuan. an ambitious Brechtian allegory about the difficulty of being a good person in a cruel capitalist world. Lynn plays both the eponymous good woman. a prostitute turned shopkeeper. and her male alter ego. Shui Ta. lntriguingly. she has the least laughs in the play. ‘She‘s the only one that doesn‘t get big laughs.‘ she says. ‘But I want humour in it. she is very humorous; everything that is intrinsically tragic is also intrinsically funny.‘
The biggest joke. though. will be when Lynn’s southern colleagues show up in Cumbernauld. Realising they had no idea what to expect. she convinced them that the lovely new town is. in fact. a Hamish Macbeth-like village. complete with cottages and loch. Brecht would have seen the irony.
The Good Woman Of Setzuan.