A Paphos based comic writer has had success on stage both here and in the UK but now has her sights set on the silver screen. NAN MACKENZIE meets her
Kathleen Ruddy is a comedy writer, a director, stand up, and an actor. Earning her living navigating the troubled waters of writing funny stuff, she boasts an impressive catalogue of creative work, ranging from hit stage shows penned and performed to script writing for the popular TV show The Bill.
She is an immediately likeable woman, blessed with a voluptuousness that somehow helps give her a comedic edge; her presence not only rivets an audience when on stage, she also boasts a sassiness and sexiness. She readily admits she is also in possession of a mouth which should never be allowed to function unless her brain is fully engaged, with one BBC broadcaster describing an interview with her as akin to being caught in a wind tunnel.
Born in Glasgow, Ruddy was educated at an all girls Catholic school where she must have had the nuns twisting their wimples at the thought of having to attend to the religious and educational needs of such a bright yet worryingly curious child. And due to perhaps one nun in particular a comedienne was born. “Sister Mary Joseph, who we nicknamed Mo Jo, tried to teach us French and it was she who caught me liberally editing aloud, some fairy stories we were supposed to be learning so that the hero of the tale became a flasher etc. She took me outside and beat me with a metre stick. My revenge on this woman was to incorporate her into my stand up act and I just hope my monobrow and lush moustache did her justice”.
And being on stage was a ambition from an early age. “I wanted to act even before I could talk, sometimes as I got older I would say I wanted to be a Nun but that was only because they got to drink wine every day. My family were all characters, all funny,” says Ruddy. These characters even included an uncle who was not only a catholic priest but also a stand up comedian with a BBC radio show called Confessions, who interviewed the likes of Billy Connelly asking them to confess their sins on air. “So you see where it all comes from”.
At nine her somewhat exhausted mother, concerned by her ‘strange’ behaviour took her to a child psychologist who advised the classic attention-seeking child be sent to drama school. “That was it, I had arrived at my natural place and I loved it.” An enthusiasm her mother employed to make sure she behaved or would have to miss out, “with the result I ended up being a proper little miss perfect”.
After drama school Ruddy fell to touring the UK with different plays to hone her stagecraft, where an extremely good memory meant that even learning lines wasn’t a chore. “But, to be honest, I wasn’t altogether happy being in straight drama productions, it seemed a wee bit pretentious when an actor would agonise for days about ‘getting into’ a character’s persona. I just felt uncomfortable with that and it was only when I came to play a menstrual obsessed agony aunt, also a mad alcoholic TV critic, in the play the Naked Brunch that I really found my meteor. It was the same with stand up, I was fearful when standing there alone on the stage being Kathleen Ruddy, but when I was dressed in character I took off and relished the experience, so comedy it had to be”.
This in turn led to Ruddy writing her own scripts, producing and directing them as she felt no-one else was going to supply her with the material she needed. “I trust myself as to what an audience thinks is funny so I had to do it myself. You are there to make people laugh, and at its core comedy’s really about society protecting itself with a smile, it’s not something you can study it’s something that’s within you. And in my case an inner turbine of well-nurtured, healthy, coruscating crankiness helps a lot”.
It also led to her script writing for one season of popular British TV show The Bill, which although it satisfied the bank manager Ruddy found a little restrictive. “It was so highly structured, you had to adhere to very set guide lines, and it was quite stressful, I wouldn’t want to get into that again”. Next up was writing the play Glasgow Hard Tickets about a group of women who created a scam while working at an exhibition centre based on a true story. “But I did change all the names so no one got nicked!” This was a sell out show at the Edinburgh Festival and the reviews were fantastic so they confirmed in Ruddy’s mind that her future lay in creating her own material.
On a visit to Cyprus she was inspired by the Kamakis – “men who patrolled the beaches with the aim of picking up fresh off the plane tourists and seducing them over their two weeks and what happened to them after the invasion” – to write Sex, Chips and Ouzo. The play was well received in the UK and Ruddy is now working on a screenplay for it with interest from David Goodall, who has been awarded at film festivals in LA and New York, but it’s a question of raising funding. “Even if I say so myself, this would make a great movie and put Cyprus well and truly on the comedy map, maybe someone at the Cyprus Tourist Board has the foresight and courage to support the project in partnership with local businesses, we shall see, I am almost finished writing the screenplay”.
Living in Cyprus has also furnished Ruddy with other material. In her latest play, The Devil Wears Primark, she played Athenoulla the racist mother-in-law from hell who “was an absolute joy to play. There was so much material gleaned from friends who had Cypriot mothers-in-law that I had an abundance of wicked one liners. I could have gone on forever, or at least to hell and back.”
While Ruddy is Scottish her husband is half so and half Cypriot and with two daughters aged four and nine the pair seem blessed with a generous understanding regarding each other’s career needs, something Kathleen is deeply appreciative off. “I’m not the easiest person to live with, am a rotten housewife, a dreadful cook, mainly because I had a very liberal thinking mother who taught me that washing and ironing were way way down the list of things one did as a wife. Top was being properly educated and making every effort to fulfil one’s potential. It also helps that my Cypriot mother-in-law lives close by”. Her cooking allows Ruddy to get on with the writing.
There are negatives to a life on stage though. “I am invariably hanging out of a badly made dress, sporting a mile high hairdo, and come hither cleavage so I resemble a woman who has obviously seen better days and more lucrative nights. And while my hubby is in the audience surrounded by rather glam ladies all dolled up in their finery for a night out at the theatre I am up there looking like a square sausage on speed”.
Having dedicated most of her working life to making other people laugh, who makes Ruddy laugh? “Julie Walters, her character in Acorn Antiques as Mrs Overall, and her portrayal of the ageing waitress in the sketch Two Soups are comedy classics, she looks in both parts about 103 yet proves that women can get the laughs without falling over on their backsides to get them. Another rich vein and someone who kicked down doors for funny women to be both seen and heard is Joan Rivers, I have a ticket to see her Before They Close the Coffin Lid tour in the UK so she had better not die before I get there”. Male comic actors and stand up comedians to have impressed include Chick Murray and Tommy Cooper although Ruddy’s current favourite is Will Ferrell as he has the “comedy Midas touch”.
As Ruddy gets up to leave I asked what she had learnt from writing comedy scripts. “That as soon as one realises everything is a joke being a comedian is the only thing that makes sense”. BOOM BOOM……………………..