Bite-size dramas. Review by Veronica Lee
Mandy started life in the Comedy Shorts season last year, and has now been given a six-part series. Diane Morgan, who has a solid CV in other writers’ work including Philomena Cunk, Motherland and After Life, here writes, directs and stars as the title character, who has a messy beehive, always wears thigh-high boots, has a fag on the go and a face set to permanent grimace.
She’s a walking disaster, finding that her aim in life – to own doberman pinchers – has many hurdles, and we follow them knowing that Mandy will never prosper. But Morgan, while keeping her creation just this side of sympathetic, shows us that Mandy is always – even if unwittingly – the architect of her own disasters. Continue reading
The motherland star on being showrunner on her new sitcom, working with famous friends – and being distantly related to Bet Lynch
Bolton-born Diane Morgan, 44, went to acting school, then worked in a chip shop and in telesales before trying standup aged 30. She’s now best known for her deadpan portrayal of dimwit TV pundit Philomena Cunk on Charlie Brooker’s Wipe series and the spin-off Cunk mockumentaries. Morgan also appears in parenting sitcom Motherland and Ricky Gervais’s black comedy After Life. She stars in the forthcoming BBC sitcom Mandy, the first show that she has both written and directed.
What inspired Mandy?
She’s based on a real person. I can’t say who she is but I met her and thought, if I ever get the chance, I’d love to play you. I just started impersonating her around the house, so when I got the opportunity to do this 15-minute comedy pilot for the BBC, I went: “I’m going to do that woman!” Her hair, clothes, voice, everything – it’s all exactly the same. Now they’ve given me a whole series, more fool them. I got Mandy’s entire costume off eBay. This woman was having a clear-out, selling her whole wardrobe, and it was all so Mandy. I bought up the lot. It’s quite a handy technique if you want lots of similar clothes for a character.
The show has a distinctive, daft tone. How did that come about?
Most people nowadays are doing downbeat, naturalistic comedy. I wanted to do something mad and silly. I crave silliness. A bit of pure escapism. It’s turned out much weirder than I imagined. It’s quite visual, like a Viz cartoon, but I’m happy with it. And Mandy by Barry Manilow is the theme song. I didn’t think we’d get the rights. I tried to get Jarvis Cocker to sing it but he never got back to me. I was worried we’d have to use the Westlife version instead, so I’m chuffed we got the original.
Each episode has a surprise guest star. How was working with Shaun Ryder from Happy Mondays?
When I was writing, I’d think: “Ooh, I wonder if we could get such-and-such?” Amazingly, they all said yes. I felt like Morecambe and Wise. I asked myself, if Mandy had an ex-husband, who would it be? Mark E Smith’s died, so it had to be Shaun Ryder. He got to fire two guns for this shootout scene and it was his best day out ever. Shaun was like: “I’m not an actor, I hope I’m not shit”, but he was brilliant.
By Diane Morgan
Surely it can’t do my internal organs any good to be slopping about like that?
It’s January. The joggers are out.
Not the ones you see all year but the ones who decide to give it a go. They look different to the real ones. You can spot them a mile off. They look like someone who’s been trapped down a well for nine years, then suddenly released. They’ve forgotten how to move normally. The light hurts their eyes.
Jogging is awful. When I jog I can feel my whole skeletal frame crashing around inside my body, like a chicken carcass being thrown down a stairwell.
Surely it can’t do my internal organs any good to be slopping about like that? I can feel my kneecap gristle being ground down like ginger biscuits being hit with a mallet. I can feel my brain knocking against my skull like a turnip in a bowl of milk. It honestly feels like my eyes might dislodge. It’s just not worth it. But before I can even start thinking about jogging, there’s the preparation. Because I can’t just throw on a T-shirt and grab my keys like David Gandy might. No.
First of all my boobs have to be strapped down against my chest like I’m transporting two dozen eggs on the roof-rack of a car.
Then I need those special small socks that you can’t see with the human eye. Then I need to scrape all my hair up into a ponytail, making me look like someone’s drawn a face on a balloon. Then I need to take all my make-up off and pray I don’t see anyone for fear of them tweeting “Oh my God, Diane Morgan must’ve died, because I just saw her cold dead corpse running down the high street.”
Then I put on my embarrassing jogging bottoms that I bought only because they have a zip-up pocket where I can keep the front door key. Otherwise, where do you put it?
Do you swallow it? Or run around clutching it?
Anyway, the jogging bottoms have FITNESS PRO written across the arse. I know. It didn’t seem that bad when I bought them but now I may as well have a badge saying “ARSEHOLE”.
By now it’s almost time to go to bed, but I can’t just run around to the sound of my own sad, plodding footsteps, I have to have music. I like to have quite filmy music. Dramatic. Inspiring. Maybe the theme from Hitchcock’s Vertigo – something like that. So that when I inevitably collapse in an underpass I can’t hear my own pathetic wheezing, and instead I can pretend to be Kim Novak. A sweaty, red-faced Kim Novak in a Reebok hoodie, quietly having an asthma attack.
I finally leave the house. It’s icy cold, but I comfort myself with the fact that before long I’ll feel like I’m being boiled alive in my own sweat.
I start plodding. I immediately get a stitch, as if my body is saying, “Who do you think you are, Paula Radcliffe?”
I aim to do 20 minutes. Walking still counts if you’re wearing sports stuff. OK, 10 minutes and then I’ll head back. I’m pretty sure it’s still doing me good. I pass a group of teenagers. I try to look as if I’ve just finished a five-mile jog.
When I get home I feel great when it’s finally all over, because it’s finally all over and my body is thanking Christ it’s finally all over.
I see other people jogging like it’s easy. Like it’s the most natural thing in the world.
Needless to say I get shin splints. If you’ve never heard of shin splints I’ll save you the Google – it’s bits of bone splintering off your shin. Happy now?
Anyway I hope I haven’t put you off? I’m sure it’ll be different for you. Happy new year.