Things I Couldn’t Tell My Mother
By Sue Johnson
Ebury Press – £7.99
Just as one perceives Sue Johnson – perhaps best known as Barbara Royle in the uber brilliant television series The Royle Family – to be in her everyday real life, Things I Couldn’t Tell My Mother comes across as being candid and endearing, grounded and enchanting, courageous yet highly entertaining in equal measure.
In fact, to utilise the old cliché ‘written in her own words’ is, in this particular instance, more apt than apt itself; as Johnson shoots straight from the hip on a number of idiosyncratic issues. Many of which are amusing, some of which are revealing, a few of which are perhaps a tad on the dark side.
These range from her youth in Liverpool during the sixties: ‘’The Beatles first appeared on TV on 17 October 1962 on a regional programme called Scene at 6.30. At that point my mother knew that they were the reason her daughter spent so much time in the Cavern but she had yet to clap eyes on them. They were dressed in leather biker jackets and looked very sexy. My mum was appalled. After that, when Paul came to our place to drop me off, she’d ask in disgust, ‘Has that dirty Beatle been in my house?’ She gave me the silent treatment for a while after that;’’ to her struggle with bulimia: ‘’It became something that I did after every meal. I was triumphant, feeling that I could eat what I wanted and with one simple trip to the toilet and my fingers down my throat I wouldn’t put on weight – my dieting prayers answered. I didn’t give much thought of what it was doing to my stomach, my gums and my teeth, which began to decay from all of the stomach acid eroding them as it made its way into the toilet bowl. And that’s not to mention what it was doing to my mind. I was constantly obsessed with food to the exclusion of everything else, and this went hand in hand with an intense self-loathing;’’ to her being instrumental in the formation of ‘M6’ in 1977 (whose highly visual work is renowned for inspiring and introducing young people to the theatre) to her eventually having received an OBE for services to charity and drama.
One can almost hear Sue Johnson reading this book aloud, which, thankfully, is not in the least sensationalist nor saccharine. It’s exactly as you imagine one of Britain’s finest actresses to be: open and honest.