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We chat to Denise Van Outen about her one-woman show Some Girl I Used To Know


Where did the idea for Some Girl I Used To Know come from?
Well, I remember watching Shirley Valentine as a kid – there hadn’t been anything like it, apart from Alfie, where the actors speak to the camera and the audience becomes a friend. I liked the style of it. I liked how it reached out to a female audience and the message behind it. At that time there were a lot of women in marriages they weren’t happy in; the downtrodden women. I remember my mum’s friends being like, “I’m gonna go to Greece and have an affair with some waiter”. Then I did Tell Me on a Sunday, which was a woman finding herself in her mid-twenties, going through heartbreak and coming out the other side. The feedback was similar and there were women at the time who were, like I was, really moved by that. I liked that and tried to find another role that would replicate that feeling and power. I kinda just felt someone needed to voice the women of this generation.

Is it a show us gayers will be able to relate to as well?
I always said it’ll be for gays and girls – that’s the audience. I like the same things as gay men... we all like a big co... [laughs]. I love a game of hide the sausage!

What can we expect from the show?
Lots of funny moments of what it was like growing up in the 80s and 90s. My character talks about going to Ibiza and that ecstasy era; that’s kind of my growing up and the area I feel I know most about.

Do you still love a good party?
It’s really weird that my best friend, who I use to go out partying with, sort of stays in now and I go out with her daughter [laughs]. I don’t go out that often anymore – I can’t, I’m a mum. But I took my mate’s daughter to Ibiza this year and I stayed up with the kids. Inside I'm still stupid and young.

You still look the same on the outside as you did ten years ago!
Do you think? I don't! I think I look knackered [laughs] I feel bloody exhausted!

The play covers the 90s and that’s when you entered the spotlight. You were quite young, was it a lot of pressure?
I’m really glad I started in television in the 90s because there was less pressure. I would hate to be young now and going out in the public eye. You didn’t have all these magazines, these camera phones, you could go out. If you had camera phones when I was on Big Breakfast, I probably would have lost my job, the things we were getting up to [laughs]. I was talking with Julian Clary about this, ‘cos we did a show called Prickly Heat in Majorca together, and we were going out and getting drunk, being stupid. You wouldn’t be able to do that now; someone would be taking pictures of you in a bar.

Can you pinpoint your favourite job?
There were a lot of brilliant times on The Big Breakfast. it wasn’t planned, there was no script, no autocue, it was all off the cuff. And sometimes we would do these sketches and they were hilarious; they were just improvised. There was a whole generation who grew up with it, but then there’s another that have never seen it. My goddaughter doesn’t remember it. Kids now remember me from Strictly. They come up to me and say: “You’re that lady from strictly!” and I’m like, when did I become a lady?

Have you ever done a job where you thought - "What have I signed up for here?"
Yeah, there’s been a few things. I think probably when I did breakfast radio, because I was all nostalgic because I worked with Johnny [Vaughan] on The Big Breakfast and that it was going to be fun. But the reality of the alarm going off at 3:30 hit me and I was, like, "oh, I can’t believe I’m doing breakfast again!". For some it suits them. But for me, I hated it. I don’t want to be getting up at 4am.

Was it just not the same?
It was different. The banter and the humor were physical on The Big Breakfast. We’d look at each other in a certain way and it was just funny, and it doesn’t translate on to radio. And it felt like they brought me in and it hadn’t been properly discussed with Johnny. It felt like he wasn’t that keen on me doing it, because it was his show.

Aw, that's a shame...
It's sad but it happens. It’s a moment in time and you think you'd love to re-live that moment, but it's gone. It’s only something you learn as you get older. We all wear rose tinted spectacles thinking how nice it would be to get back with an ex, because you remember all the wonderful times. Then you get back with them and remember why you broke up.

You’ve travelled all over the world for charity, too. What makes you to go to such lengths?
Its all been for personal reasons. Kilimanjaro was for Comic Relief and when you get a phone call from Gary Barlow asking you to climb a mountain with him, you say yes. The breast cancer care trip was because I lost my grandmother to breast cancer and Great Ormond Street Hospital because my friend’s baby died there. I just get a lot out of it. It makes me appreciate what I’ve got. Also it clears my head because you go back to basics. It’s not glamorous; you don’t really wash for about a week and I get a chance to think and I always come back with the answers I’ve been looking for. Things that have bothered me don’t bother me anymore. It’s like a mental clear out. Some people go to Thailand, go to a retreat and have colonics, but my way of doing it is trekking or cycling. If I’m gonna do it, I might as well raise money for charity rather than having a tube shoved up my arse and paying for it.

You’ve done theatre, television, charity work… what would you like to do next?
Do you know what, I’ve ticked all the boxes now because I’ve always done musicals, but I’ve never done a play. I’d love to do a sitcom. I did Babes in the Wood, which bombed. The critics just panned it. Unfortunately, because I’d been on The Big Breakfast, they just didn’t want to give it a chance. Because she’s a presenter, so we’ll just say she’s shit and can’t act and lets just say it’s shit and not funny. And, actually, some of it was funny. But I would really like to do a sort of Birds and Feather type thing.

Babes in the Wood could be be one of those cult things in a few years….
I don’t know how you’d get your hands on it. I think its been burnt hasn’t it? [Laughs].

Don’t miss Denise in Some Girl I Used to Know, which is touring the UK until 19 March. For more information and to book tickets click here.

Words: Lee Dalloway (@Leeroydalvin)

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