Brian Beacom

WHATEVER happened to Katy Murphy?

Thirty years ago, the actress was revealed to the world in John Byrne’s BBC comedy drama Tutti Frutti and fast became the nation’s poster girl.

Miss Toner was Miss Nippy Sweety 1987.

In the same year, washhouse stage comedy The Steamie showed Katy’s talent covered way more than the ability to deliver lines dryer than cotton bed sheets on a windy day.

Her Doreen’s wide-eyed optimism was wondrous.

In recent years we’ve seen smatterings of the Cranhill-born actress.

But in acting terms the lady with the mad curls has all-but vanished.

Right now however she’s in the kitchen of her very nice flat in North London’s Crouch End where she’s lived for 19 years. (Clare Grogan lives nearby, as does Bill Paterson and Annie Lennox.)

The dark curls have gone, replaced by a dark blonde colour.

But what of acting, Katy? We haven’t seen you in yonks. And actors need to act, don’t they?

The fact they chose the applause business in the first place suggests if denied performance they will fall into the dark cracks of ordinary existence?

Katy grins; “I don’t feel that way. You see, I work three days a week in teaching.

“I teach Reception Class, which is four and five year-olds, and on a Wednesday I work with children with additional needs.

“It’s really interesting and wonderful to do that as well.”

Yet, she was once super-successful, receiving great crit for the likes of A Mug’s Game and Donovan Quick. How can she simply jettison that essence?

“To be honest, it’s never felt that black and white. It’s been more of, well, acting isn’t happening at the moment so I have to look at something else.

“And there have been chances to go into the acting world again.”

Katy never set out to be an actor. Teaching was the plan, studying at Glasgow University before discovering a love for the stage.

The shy young lady found her voice when other’s wrote it for her.

She once said; “When you’re not beautiful, you have to find something else in these characters.”

Katy found a great deal in the roles she took on, particularly with Tutti Frutti.

“I think I was so lucky,” she maintains. “Tutti Frutti was an amazing piece of work to be involved with.

“It made me think ‘Wow, I could maybe do this for a living’. After that there was a period when I went from one job to another. It was a fantastic time.”

Did she ever become a little diva like? Had her curly head swelled to the size of Cranhill?

Did she buy a Maserati and employ minions to powder her nose or fill in her coupon?

“No, I didn’t buy a Maserati but yes, I’m sure there were times when I did go on about myself,” she says, grinning.

My family were too nice to tell me off for being self-indulgent but I look back and think ‘Oh God, Why didn’t someone tell me to shut up?’”

“I was angsting about everything. And you know, that’s what I love about teaching. It’s so healthy. You’re looking outwards, rather than inwards. You’re looking at the children or the families who need your help rather than yourself.”

The school world doesn’t know her as Katy Murphy. She’s Margaret, the name on her birth certificate.

“It’s nice to have this other identity,” she says. It means she can be part of two worlds; the one where she does the the showoffy stuff and the other in which she helps others.

“Well, I’d call it self-expression, rather than showoffy,” she says, laughing.

Right now, Katy is set to re-enter the world of “self-expression.”

She’s starring alongside Steven Duffy in a new short film Bridge, written by Donna Franceschild and directed by actor Iain Robertson. (“A crowdfunding piece about the kindness of strangers which is reliant upon the kindness of strangers.”)

“It’s about a woman who is not in a good way, she’s in despair, in a state of total isolation, and then human contact is made. So for me it’s about thinking how she got there.”

Has Katy ever been invaded by depression?

“I’ve been sad, but no I haven’t suffered. But my understanding of the condition was helped by having played Francine in Takin’ Over The Aylum (BBC, 1989, starring David Tennant) so I have some awareness.”

Katy has been divorced “for many years,” bringing up daughter, Lola, 19, alone.

“I’m happy single,” she maintains. Don’t you miss the companionship, or even the frisson of the first date?

“Well, it’s been so long. I’m nearly fifty-five now. I guess if having a series of relationships is your norm, that’s fine. But for me the norm is not that. And I have a wonderful family and friends. And a busy life.”

The actress laughs and adds; “But I do like a rom-com. They may involve dreadful gender politics but it doesn’t matter.”

Katy Murphy reveals oodles of humility during conversation.

In her teaching career she reveals she becomes a nervous wreck when she has to become a committee chairperson for an evening.

Surely Margaret, you can take off the school uniform and turn into Super Katy – and act the role of Confident Chairperson?

“That’s when acting can help,” she says, grinning.

“But what I really love about having a bit of acting experience is the help it gives when working with small children.

“If you do a funny face or a voice you find five year olds to be a magnificent audience.”

* Crowdfunding details for Bridge can be found at