Julie Burchill: Absolute Cult

Lizzie Roper captures Julie Burchill’s Bristolian ‘milk maid squeak’ perfectly in this production of Tim Fountain’s play directed by Mike Bradwell. Focussing on the loathe her or despise her journalist’s- unarguably Britain’s most controversial for several decades running- attempts to resuscitate her career after the debacle where she attacked the transsexual community in defence of one of her good friends. The story centres on her return from holiday and the realisation that her overspending has caught up with her whilst an invitation to appear on Celebrity Big Brother should maybe not be sneered at as much as she initially thought it should be.
Whilst the negotiations take place concerning her fee-the original £100,000 offered is nowhere near tempting enough- she prepares herself for a lunch date with a friend. Getting ready however involves arranging for her coke dealer to drop off the necessary supplies, downing the best part of a bottle of vodka and unleashing her bile fuelled invective at several obvious and not so obvious targets.
Ex Husbands such as Cosmo Landesman and Tony Parsons are both inevitably grist for the mill as is transgender journalist Paris Lees. There is also , of course, Morrissey who gave Burchill several pages of his own character assassination strategy in his recent autobiography. The middle classes and. feng shui also get a drubbing, with the assertion –quite rightly I feel- that it will take a bit more than re-arranged furniture to sort out most people’s problems and that it is little more than posturing at being educated.
Education is also something she sneers at although she makes the observation that her rise to the top of her profession could not happen to a working class girl like her today as places in journalism have already been bought and paid for by connected or wealthy parents.
Roper carries this play admirably, single handed, throughout its hour long duration. It is in turns funny and sad and one senses the actual loneliness and isolation of Burchill and how being so opinionated has failed to secure her any long term friendships or allies. It is a neat observation of her character though as although you don’t always agree with what is being said, beneath the feigned shock is the belief that maybe she does have a point. This is probably Burchill’s greatest talent and why she is still possibly the most fascinating journalist of several generations.
Julie Burchill: Absolute Cult is on at the Gilded Balloon until the 25th August at 1.45pm

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