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DEBORAH ROSS: Oi, Poldark! Listen to Kathy, you berk

DEBORAH ROSS: Oi, Poldark! Listen to Kathy, you berk

Kathy Burke’s All Woman

Tuesday, Channel 4 



Thursday, Sky One



Sunday, BBC1


The second episode of actor and director Kathy Burke’s wonderfully personal documentary series on women, All Woman, opened with Burke making herself a mug of tea with two teabags – ‘It’s not the strength, it’s impatience’ – and ‘Yes, I have sugar, even though I’m a fat t**t’. She is funny, warm, sharp, unapologetically herself and bracingly honest. I think Kathy Burke should be in everything, including Poldark, where she might tell Ross a few home truths. ‘Ross, mate, go ’ome to Demelzabub. No one has given a damn about Ned apart from you.’ And also to Jacka: ‘Listen, babe, if you’re gonna nick that ore, maybe better you don’t do it in broad daylight?’ (FYI, major Poldark spoiler ahead, if you’ve yet to catch up.) 

Kathy Burke sees a baby ‘warm out of the oven’. She is funny, warm, sharp, unapologetically herself and bracingly honest

Kathy Burke sees a baby ‘warm out of the oven’. She is funny, warm, sharp, unapologetically herself and bracingly honest

But back to Burke. This time out, her subject was motherhood. She has never had children or especially wished for them. ‘My heart’s desire was freedom… 400 years ago they’d have burned me as a witch or dunked me like a big biscuit.’ She met a global equity analyst (‘I don’t know what that means but it sounds very posh’) who is freezing her eggs, cuddled a newborn (‘I’ve never seen a little baby warm out of the oven’) and talked to fellow actor Samantha Morton, who has three children and a husband who stays home to look after them. ‘If I knew in my 20s,’ says Burke, ‘that you could meet someone and have kids and he would be happy to be bringing up children, I may have done it. But when I was in my 20s male nurses were only starting to happen.’ 

The approach was scattergun, but whom she met was less important than the fact that it was her who was meeting them, and her own story was the more fascinating. Her mother died when she was a baby and she was largely brought up by her two brothers in an Islington council flat. ‘I do remember,’ she said, ‘that if I went to anyone’s house the mums were lovely. I could go and get a bit of love from the leftovers, and I had no shame in doing that. Clare’s mum was dippy egg toast, and Bernice’s mum was Chinese spare ribs, which were amazing.’ 

I could just fill this page with Burke quotes. Because it’s so tempting. Here’s a good one: ‘The stereotype is that if a woman doesn’t have children she doesn’t like children. I really love kids. And I go off and see my little tiddler mates and we have such a great time but I’m really happy when I get home, shut the door, skin up and I’m just on my own making myself laugh more than anyone I’ve ever met in my life. So that’s what goes on here.’ But some excellent points were still made. What would the world be like if men had to start worrying in their 40s about never having children? Why aren’t men branded ‘unnatural’ if they don’t want kids? Her conclusion was that women should be allowed to do what makes them happy without having to suffer any kind of ‘label’. Sometimes it’s the journey not the destination, it is said, and here it was the journey. But the destination was pretty damned sound too. 

I don’t know if Burke would have been impressed with Brassic. The title comes from the rhyming slang for skint (boracic lint). It’s working class, set in a Lancashire town and has been written by Danny Brocklehurst along with Joe Gilgun (Woody from This Is England), who also stars as Vinnie. Vinnie is bipolar (as is Gilgun) and grows weed and goes from caper to caper with his mates. This has been much informed by Trainspotting and Shameless, and it is a not especially surprising take on male friendship. It is also frantic and could do with considerably more downtime, especially if we are to appreciate the characters’ vulnerabilities rather than simply finding them annoying. They steal a car and a Shetland pony and we are meant to be rooting for them, but mostly it brought out the mother in me, and I wanted to clip them around the ear. But the most trying aspect is that the one female character (Michelle Keegan) is purely ‘Complaining Woman’. Labelled to the hilt, she is. 

Two heart-stopping moments in Poldark this week during an episode that saw Crashing Bore Ned – WHOM WE HAVE NEVER GIVEN A FIG ABOUT! – going on trial and being sentenced to hang. One moment came when he nearly escaped prison – oh no, he’s free! – and the other when the noose was around his neck and a letter arrived from the Prime Minister. Oh no, a reprieve! But it was OK. Ned was to still to be hanged, but just not disemboweled or beheaded or quartered. A pity, but you can’t have everything. And so we are rid of Crashing Bore Ned, at last, and perhaps the series can now stop promenading the pleasure gardens at Vauxhall and return full time to the people we actually do care about in Cornwall. Um… please?




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