Despite Doon Mackichan’s description of her memoir of a life in show business, My Lady Parts, as a “dry feminist rant” it is rather moist and delicious.
Review by Annee Blott
We are long overdue a truly candid look into show business. This memoir drops name dropping and cuts out the luvvie-ness. Comedy, light entertainment and drama just isn’t inclusive. It’s often a soul-destroying humiliating audition process followed by playing hackneyed stereotypes to the male gaze.
Of course, entertainment isn’t the only business mired in misogyny. It is a structural societal norm, but TV and theatre are its face. As an audience we are asked to accept that men tell the stories, take the lead and make the jokes. What’s so funny about that?
To publicise projects female actors are pressurised into glossing over difficulties with male egos and libidos and focusing on being pretty and compliant. Doon Mackichan boldly does the opposite to hilarious effect.
This memoir is honest, vulnerable, poignant, and very self-aware. It is also a call to arms to protest the state of affairs. To rage.
She relates how she spray-painted graffiti on the sides of a well-known London theatre with the words “stolen” after learning how the female writers of a musical that was playing there were not properly credited. She was observed by CCTV, delivery drivers and covered in day-glo paint but was unsanctioned, unstoppable and triumphant all before 6am.
In another chapter she relates how she was shamed by a TV crew for not shaving her legs; in another she takes on the theatre behemoth, David Mamet, for trying to make her quiet. And shuts him up. For a while.
The blazing courage of this woman is inspiring.
The blazing courage of this woman is inspiring. I wish I, as a 22-year-old actress, had walked out of a TV play when just before filming my first scene the crew brought a stripper onto the set to celebrate the assistant director’s birthday. Mackichan voices the many thousands of humiliations, put downs and “back in the box” moments that are such a part of showbiz for women.
And remarkably she is much funnier than her male counterparts. The anger seems to fuel the comedy.
Mackichan makes it clear that earning a living and providing for children was a struggle and took a toll on her mental and physical health. We know that there are still fewer opportunities for female performers, they are often paid less than men and their careers are shorter.
Women struggling harder than men, bearing more responsibility for children and getting paid less, is a hard truth across all economic activities. Mackichan shows that women can be the change. It starts now.