Margi Clarke talks octopus, sex, UFOs and her new Ipswich-bound show
I could talk to Margi Clarke for hours. A regular on both the big and small screen since starring in the iconic film Letter to Brezhnev, she’s played everything from Tyrone’s mum Jackie in Coronation Street and Queenie in Making Out to leather-clad motorbike riding granny Bette in Waterloo Road and voicing Bixie the punk Weetabix.
She moved into acting via Brookside, landing the role of CND woman Fran thanks to her brother.
“I was up the pole with this gas bill. It was when Brookside first come out and our Frank was writing it. I begged him, I was going ‘oh please Frank could you write us in a little part’,” she laughs.
More recently she appeared in last year’s Celebrity MasterChef.
“I had to cook an octopus, that Greg said had I ever had octopus before. I said I’ve never seen an octopus before never mind eating one. He said it’s like squid. I tasted that once and didn’t like it, me teeth bounced off it. But I cooked in the competition and was the only one to get it right. I reckon I’d gone through a little dimension where somewhere in the universe I’m a great octopus cook and came back with the information,” she laughs.
Margi may be losing her voice, having spent weeks shouting and screaming while playing the Wicked Queen in Sleeping Beauty in Sheffield, but right now she’s more worried about getting the house clean before she hits the road for Hormonal Housewives, at the Ipswich Regent tonight.
“I’m scrubbing out. You miss all that stuff, keeping the home all spick and span. Untidy anyway me,” she laughs. “But I like cleaning and polishing.”
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Having replaced fellow Corrie star Beverley Callard in Sleeping Beauty due to ill health, she’s doing the same with this stage show which Margi describes as the big sister to the Vagina Monologues.
It follows the lives of three women as they battle against weight gain, weight loss, mood swings, wine, PMS, men, going to the gym, waxing, stretch marks, chocolate, upper-lip hair and all the other joys of being a 21st century girl.
“Men will get the laughs as much as anyone else. But girls definitely will love it.”
It’s her first time in town and she can’t wait to see what’s going on. “I’m one of them [actors who explore towns they tour], I’m dead nosy. I want to know the ins and the outs of a cat’s bum,” she laughs.
On the subject of being nosey, I can’t pass up the chance to ask about her amazing and varied career.
“The only job I haven’t done is read the news,” she laughs as talk turns to singing with punk bands (one time supporting Adam and The Ants) and hosting shows like the Good Sex Guide which got an - unheard at that time - 18 million viewers and won her the RTS Award for Best Female Presenter.
“I was the fertility goddess at the time wasn’t I. I’m sure loads of people watched it and were inspired and loads of babies were made,” Margi laughs.
“The thing about it which is good was at that time AIDS was a big deal, people were terrified and that’s no premise to find solutions from. What is it they say, forewarned is forearmed? It had a great educational foundation to it.
“It was amazing, the breakthrough it made, and the public were the stars; it was their stories that were the most powerful. That was the first time you know the buttoned up lip would come down. It opened the door to being able to discuss things like that on television.”
She’s perhaps most famous for Letter to Breshnev; a groundbreaking movie shot on the streets of Liverpool that gave birth to guerrilla filming.
“The message it conveyed was love and peace and that is such an outrageous statement because we’ve got a military industrial complex and make loads of money out of war; Russia was being demonised like Iran is today.
“To do anything with them subject matters was highly political, to be in love with two Russians is a political statement,” says Margi, who thinks the UK doesn’t make enough of its own stuff nowadays, buying in too much American culture.
“It’s that thing about authenticity isn’t it, real culture, telling our stories.”
The subject of authenticity brings us to her short-lived stand-up career and reality shows.
“I wasn’t very good at that [stand-up],” she laughs. “The challenge was incredible, I didn’t really have an education, I left school at 15. It educated me, all those experiences was a privilege because it was unusual for someone of my background having that type of journey and I got to meet so many people all from different backgrounds.
“We live on a little island yet we’re so diverse and I’m all for that. That’s why I don’t like these Desperate Scousewives stuff and TOWIE and the rest of it. It’s lost that individuality, we’re all the same. Everyone’s wearing the same clothes, everyone’s obsessed with buying handbags and its just about shopping.
“That to me isn’t authentic culture. That’s machine culture, that’s like cutting it out of a cookie- making factory.”
That keeping things real is so important to Margi is no surprise given her punk roots.
“When we were punks we wouldn’t be seen dead on Opportunity Knocks. If you had to go on a talent programme it said you didn’t have any talent,” she laughs.
“The fact you’ve took the north face of the Eiger [to make it] makes the talent more interesting, the story richer. The likes of Simon Cowell, he’s just this massive gatekeeper; he’s killing the goose that lays the golden egg which is genuine authentic culture.”
Talking about music leads us to her interest in the UFO phenomenon and the belief there are three types of people on Earth - STOs (Service to Others), STSs (Service to Self) and those who haven’t made their mind up.
She even recorded a song about it called Holographic Disco, about a discotheque in space. You can find several versions of it on YouTube.
“We filmed it in a tiny back kitchen in Liverpool. The two co-creators Steven Jones and Dennis Murphy are wizards. I’ve got a green screen behind me, we’re in a very limited space but I’m on the main stage at Glastonbury. I’ve got a ghost drummer and a ghost guitarist,” she laughs.
If Margi’s in as good form tonight as she was when we chatted you’re in for a treat.