Girls Night Out at The Berry Theatre: Kathy Lette on her new show

Kathy Lette (Photo by Neil Cooper)

Kathy Lette (Photo by Neil Cooper) - Credit: Archant

Writer Kathy Lette promises full frontal frankness in her show Girls Night Out, as Faith Eckersall explains

What’s the opposite of a shrinking violet? No? Me neither. But Australian writer Kathy Lette is probably it.

Five minutes into our conversation about her new show at Hedge End’s Berry Theatre, and we’ve covered ‘human wonder-bras’, swinging from the chandeliers, her convict ancestors who left Portsmouth for Australia, unequal pay for women and why she is desperate to add a Companion of Literature to the four honorary doctorates she’s received because: “The way it’s abbreviated would be perfect for me...”

But then she also talks about age discrimination, men who don’t help with the housework and then wonder why they get no sex, and the worries and joys of raising a son with autism.

And then there’s the time James Hewitt of Princess Diana fame hid in her attic (according to Lette half of London’s been in her attic which, for once, isn’t one of her bawdy euphemisms).

And the time she was the Writer In Residence at The Savoy Hotel. “They created a cocktail for me, the Kathy Cassis, gave me my own table in the bar and a suite for three months, only it was four months because I wouldn’t go home and they practically had to get a SWAT team to get me out of there.”

‘Girls Night Out’ is happening because Lette ‘just loves talking to people and meeting them’. Especially her readers.

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“Whenever I meet my readers they are warm, witty, wonderful women who you immediately want to go on a girls’ night out with,” she declares. “They bring me anecdotal doggy bags; things they’ve been saving for me that I might use in a book.”

These readers are her ‘human wonder-bras’: “Uplifting, supportive, and making each other look bigger and better,” and her show is a celebration of them, as well as her rapier wit and impeccable feminist credentials.

Learning to speak in public is one of the skills modern authors have to acquire and Lette figured she may as well put hers to good use, after discovering she enjoyed the camaraderie. “Let’s face it, the media is still dominated by men - even if there’s a panel there might be one token woman who they still talk over the top of,” she says.

Ageism is another bugbear. Did I know that 85 per cent of the people on British television over the age of 50 are men? I did not. “Apart from anything else, it’s women who are paying half the licence fee,” fumes Lette.

Does she find it hard to get work because of her gender and age?

“It affects all women brutally,” she says. “You’ve got to continually fall back on your own initiative.”

Her initiative has lead to Girls Night Out which, she says, mirrors the ones you have with your mates.

“In the first half we talk, laugh and blow a few comedic raspberries at men,” she says. “After the interval we look at the darker side for a bit; 99 per cent of the time we women are the carers of life,” she explains. “Then we get back on track with more laughter and jokes and end in the bar afterwards, swinging from the chandeliers.”

The show will also explain to any men who have bravely strayed into the audience just why they may not be getting as much sex as they’d like.

“It’s probably because we’re exhausted,” says Lette. “We’ve worked all day and then come home and defrosted the chops and put the cat out and sorted the sports kit, helped with the homework, put the sports kit on for a wash, cooked the dinner, done the teeth cleaning and bedtime stories and by the time you get to bed you’re looking forward to sleep and then you get The Hand…”

No surprise, then, that according to Lette the sexiest thing a man can ever wear is an apron: “Because that means he’s cooking the dinner.”

Her show will also cover other issues close to her heart, which include autism as her son, Jules Robertson, (better known as the character Jason Haynes in Holby City) has Aspergers, but Lette kept schtum about this when he was younger, in order not to invade his privacy.

“With his permission I tentatively started talking about it and I’m so glad I did because it’s taught me that it’s always better to shine a light into a dark corner,” she says.

Sometimes the corner was very dark indeed for Lette, as Jules suffered bullying and misunderstanding and in her new novel, Best Laid Plans, she has shone a very bright light into the rarely-discussed world of relationships and sex for people with special needs.

It’s a tribute to her writing and as a mum that Jules described the book as: ‘a celebration of the idiosyncrasies of being different’ but Lette’s always been good at tapping into those subjects no one wants - or dares - to talk about.

Her book, Mad Cows, tackled the issue of women feeling they were the only rubbish mother in the world and she promises more ‘full frontal frankness’ in Girls Night Out, as well as some good, old-fashioned gossip.

Because she knows a lot of famous people, her gossip is juicer than most. Put it this way, she knows George and Amal Clooney…

“I’ve been married to a human rights lawyer for 28 years and we often had to put up people in our attic,” she says. “Prime Ministers in exile, poets on the run, political prisoners, Salman Rushdie, James Hewitt and Julian Assange, they’ve all been in my attic.”

While he was there Assange was asked to appear in The Simpsons and so Lette wrote his dialogue for him. “It’s brilliant to have a writing credit on The Simpsons,” she explains.

Lette’s writing achievements have filled many books and been made into films and TV dramas and so it’s no surprise she was awarded an honorary doctorate by Southampton Solent University.

“I didn’t go to university so it’s the most incredible honour,” she says. “It’s especially thrilling because my convict ancestors left from this part of the world in chains on the First and Second Fleets – you’re practically Antipodean royalty if you can trace yourself back that far – and I thought that if they could see me getting a degree from here they’d be rattling their chains with mirth.”

No wonder, then, that the city of Southampton has a special place in her heart. “I love walking the old walls and exploring the Titanic Museum,” she says.

She’s also impressed with the way Southampton recovered from the bomb damage of the war, to become the place it is now. “Perhaps I should put Southampton in a book,” she muses, before letting out a wicked cackle.

Time, ladies, to start whipping out your anecdotes…

Girls Night Out is at The Berry Theatre, Hedge End on Thursday November 30 2017;


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