Lizzie Roper: Why I wanted to play Queen of Spleen Julie Burchill

Lizzie Roper returns to Edinburgh with her first solo show since 2007’s Peccadillo Circus, which also transferred to the West End. What lured her back to play Julie Burchill: Absolute Cult, written by Tim Fountain and directed by Mike Bradwell?

Lizzie Roper as Julie Burchill in Tim Fountain's play 'Julie Burchill: Absolute Cult'

Lizzie Roper as Julie Burchill

Tim, Mike and I all worked together about 18 months ago on Tim’s play Queen of the Nile at Hull Truck. I’d always been a huge fan of theirs so that was fantastic for me. One drunken night, Tim mentioned that he was revising his early play about Julie Burchill to bring it up date and he thought I’d be great in it. My ears perked up.


I’ve done one-woman shows before, but I had to write them myself, and it’s exhausting. I always thought, if I went back to Edinburgh, it’d have to be in a one-woman show, but I don’t have the energy I had in my thirties. So, to have someone like Tim write a play for me, and I just have to go onstage and kick it around…? And then to do a character like Julie Burchill…? I mean, how often do you get to play someone who’s still alive, who’s still upsetting and inciting people? It’s too good to be true.


I’ve just spent a year in the soap opera Hollyoaks, which couldn’t be further from what I started off to do in my twenties. I wanted to be in the RSC and be a proper act-OR. Of course, lots of act-ORs do soap operas now, and financially it’s been fantastic, but it’s a very very different thing to doing theatre. Hollyoaks, especially, is like a cartoon for teens on TV. So to finally be able to get back to theatre and sink my teeth into some meat, to pull a character apart and put her back together again, find her inconsistencies and revel in her insanity… it’s an absolute joy to do.


I haven’t met Julie yet, but when Tim told her I was going to do Julie Burchill: Absolute Cult, she was delighted – apparently, she loves Hollyoaks! She rang me up, and the next day, she requested me as a friend on Facebook. So we’re now Facebook friends and we bounce stuff backwards and forwards. There’s the child in me that thinks, “any second now, she’s going to attack me for something”, but most of the stuff I post, she’s always liking and agreeing with.


It’s surprises me how much we do have in common, particularly about feminist politics. I’m 46 now and in the last ten years, I’ve become far more comfortable in my skin and in saying, “this is what I think and this is how I want things”. That’s something she’s also said and done.


What is so exciting and awe-inspiring about Julie Burchill is her apparent lack of care while also constantly putting herself out there. I think we’d all like to have a bit of that. We’d all love to just go for it. The chutzpah of the woman… It’s disgusting and appalling and glorious.

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