Jane Horrocks is simply a tiny pistillate surrounded by vastness. There is the vastness of her Regency flat, with its towering ceilings and huge, unfastened spaces. And past there’s the acold greater vastness of the Channel crossed the road. We are sitting successful her belvedere connected a freakishly blistery winter’s day, taking successful the sea. Horrocks is hardly a speck connected her ain landscape. And this is however she likes it. “Any issues I person are insignificant compared with what you spot there. It’s truthful elemental. What americium I successful each this? Tiny. My small issues are tiny.”
Horrocks is wearing achromatic trousers, achromatic boots and an orangish velveteen sweatshirt perfectly coordinated with her hair. “It would beryllium wholly grey present if I near it,” she says. Horrocks is simply a girlish 58. In her 20s she was a girlish twentysomething. And connected it went done the decades, though the world was a small much complex. Now she’s astatine a caller signifier successful beingness – surviving by herself successful Brighton since May, aft the 21-year narration with the begetter of her 2 grownup children, the TV writer Nick Vivian, finished successful 2017; aft the caller extremity of a narration with the histrion Danny Webb; and aft the decease of her parent past year.
From here, Horrocks has been looking backmost connected her aboriginal adulthood, and the effect is simply a Radio 4 play astir her combustible narration with the singer-songwriter, histrion and maverick extraordinaire Ian Dury.
In 1986, she and Dury were formed successful Road, Jim Cartwright’s past caller (now classic) play astir beingness successful a bluish assemblage eviscerated by Thatcherite politics. Horrocks was 23 and conscionable starting out. Dury was 44, had enjoyed belated occurrence arsenic a popular prima with hits specified arsenic Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick and What a Waste, and was re-inventing himself arsenic an actor. Horrocks was an innocent, Dury was notoriously scary. “It was my archetypal existent relationship,” she says. And your archetypal love? “Yes.”
Horrocks offers maine a cupful of tea. “I’ve not got mean milk, conscionable almond milk. Is that excessively hideous?” That’s fine, I say. She heads disconnected to the fridge. “ Do you caput if I devour a small spot of my shepherd’s pie?” she asks ever truthful politely. She’s starving aft an aboriginal greeting aquatics successful the sea. She pauses. “But past I’m not offering you immoderate shepherd’s pie,” she says anxiously. “I’ve lone got 1 portion left. D’you privation immoderate hummus?”
No thanks, I say.
Her narration with Dury lasted a tumultuous year; their relationship until helium died successful 2000. Horrocks says she had remembered the narration arsenic “toxic”. At times she was petrified of Dury (he broke down her solid doorway with the backmost of his head), astatine others she felt rubbished (he told her that she was empty). When she was moving location successful 2020, she came crossed his aged letters successful the loft. She was astonished by the tone, which gave her a caller penetration into their relationship. Sure, determination was the callousness, but determination was besides a profound, romanticist love. She began to realise however overmuch helium had adored her. The letters uncover truthful overmuch astir Dury – by turns poetic, vulgar, bullying, impassioned and funny. They are arsenic playful arsenic they are soulful, arsenic terrifying arsenic they are tender.
She decided she wanted to bash thing with them. Horrocks has kept a diary passim her life. So she went backmost to her entries from 1986 and 1987 and synchronised the dates with his letters. The effect is Love Pants, a moving exploration of their dysfunctional relationship, with Horrocks playing herself and the histrion Jud Charlton a convincing Dury. She admits she’s not definite however to notation to Love Pants. “I spot it arsenic a small creation piece,” she says, earlier coming to a self-conscious stop. “Is that wanky? OK. What it is past is simply a small reflection. Is that little wanky?” She smiles.
Why did Horrocks, who is famously private, privation to marque nationalist thing truthful personal? “I kept asking myself the aforesaid question. And I thought, really they’re truly beauteous letters. We cognize a batch astir Ian’s tempestuous side, and I thought this besides depicted a beauteous brushed broadside of Ian that possibly not galore radical were alert of. I thought it was a shame that cipher other could spot them.” But Horrocks is besides looking backmost connected her ain beingness arsenic overmuch arsenic his, trying to marque consciousness of the pistillate who went connected to go a palmy histrion and the idiosyncratic she is now.
Her diary entries instrumentality america from archetypal gathering Dury connected acceptable (“He’s beauteous with beauteous eyes’’) successful December 1986 to him declaring his emotion successful February (“He said helium wants to instrumentality maine retired for a repast connected my own. Dodgy!”), their archetypal snog successful March (“We ended up kissing for astir 3 hours. Lovely!”) He calls her Janey Buttercups, tells her helium wishes “my caput was connected your busters” and they bask much kissing sessions. But, by precocious March helium has already shown his assertive side, reducing a person of hers to tears (“I got truthful upset I slapped his face”). After helium smashes down the doorway with his head, she writes: “I was truly frightened and ran upstairs, went to bed, and said a agelong prayer.” A fewer days later, they are talking astir having children. She writes: “Realised however overmuch I liked being successful Ian’s company. He’s truthful entertaining and exciting.”
While Dury is wholly uninhibited, Horrocks tin travel crossed arsenic prudish and self-absorbed. After entering a rehearsal country that stank of dope, she writes: “Thought astir my vocation and however I privation to get connected with it and not beryllium wasted with Ian. Feel helium mightiness clasp maine down.”
When apologising for being possessive and trying to person her that things could enactment retired contempt their differences, helium writes: “Sexual jealousy is not successful my nature, spiritual jealousy is what stirs my guts up. You bask maine being a loony arsenic overmuch arsenic I bask your airs and graces.”
Was that fair? “I did person airs and graces,” she says. Where did they travel from? “My family. It was precise little mediate class, the satellite I grew up in. My household did person a fewer airs and graces.” In what way? “It was an aspirational thing. My mum would spell to fancy cooking classes. The ellipse they mixed successful was aspirational.”
She impersonates her parent answering the telephone successful her champion Hyacinth Bucket. “215180 – Barbara Horrocks of Rawtenstall speaking.” She giggles, and tells maine however overmuch she misses her. Barbara was a infirmary worker, her father, John, a income rep. Like Little Voice (the eponymous heroine of the play Cartwright wrote for her), the young Horrocks could mimic immoderate fig of singers. While her parents’ friends would promote her to springiness them a spot of Shirley Bassey oregon Marilyn Monroe, Barbara thought it precocious and bratty. But erstwhile Horrocks near Lancashire for London to survey play astatine Rada, her parents couldn’t person been prouder.
It was lone a twelvemonth aft graduating from Rada that she met Dury. In 1 letter, helium tells her helium can’t marque his caput up whether helium is simply a lovestruck teen oregon a pugnacious aged grandad telling her she needs a rounded acquisition and that helium was the antheral to supply it. At different times helium was plain abusive. In 1 devastating diary entry, Horrocks writes: “He said helium didn’t privation to marque emotion to maine immoderate more. He said I was frigid and a lesbian and I couldn’t springiness him thing backmost successful the mode of love.”
How did that marque her feel? “I was precise upset astir it. Very sad. Then helium took backmost his words and said: ‘You’re not similar that.’ But I deliberation determination is perchance an constituent of information successful determination successful that I couldn’t springiness him the 100% that helium wanted.”
I inquire what she has learned astir herself from looking back. “It struck maine that I was really a precise mature 23-year-old. I took it each successful my stride and I gave Ian arsenic bully arsenic I got.” In her ain way, she says, she was arsenic cruel arsenic helium was. “I kept chucking him, and past kept revisiting it.” Did helium ever chuck you? “No.” Dury wanted her to beryllium successful, but helium besides wanted her determination for him constantly. “He was demanding. He did request idiosyncratic with him each the time. He wanted to beryllium loved and nurtured, and I conscionable couldn’t bash that astatine the clip due to the fact that I wanted to absorption connected my career.”
Horrocks tucks into her lunch. “Sorry to beryllium truthful rude with my shepherd’s pie.”
That’s fine, I accidental – I’m eating a banana from her effect bowl.
“D’you privation a mince pie?”
“You tin person a tangerine if you want.”
She looks astatine my banana. “Oooh, atrocious it looks a spot atrocious successful 1 spot of that banana. I anticipation you’re OK with bad.”
Horrocks has a acquisition for comedy, adjacent erstwhile unintended. These days that is the genre she’s astir readily associated with – wacky adjunct Bubble successful Absolutely Fabulous; knitting-loving hen Babs successful the movie Chicken Run; happy-go-lucky divorcee Wendy successful the Sky sitcom Bloods.
In the past, Horrocks has said she thought she was dim due to the fact that radical told her she was. As a kid, her older member said she was heavy and she believed him. In Love Pants, Dury tells her helium wished she was amended educated. Two of her exes went to Cambridge assemblage – Vivian and the manager Sam Mendes. Perhaps you person spent excessively overmuch clip with over-educated men, I say. “That’s been a spot of a fixation for maine implicit the years. But I’m getting implicit that. I’ve allowed them to marque maine consciousness thick. They haven’t done it deliberately.” She admits to it, similar a confession. “Since I’ve got older I realised I don’t person to let that.” Did thing hap to marque her realise she had allowed it? “Erm, therapy helps.” She giggles.
Re-reading Dury’s letters and her diary soon aft she near the household location made her realise different thing, she says. “I recognised that I was fearful of committedness past and inactive americium now.” We’re successful the surviving room, which looks much similar a minimalist creation gallery. There’s small to suggest anybody lives here, isolated from a bikini and towel hanging successful the belvedere. On the walls are 2 striking paintings – 1 of a teenage miss made connected corrugated cardboard, the different of an charismatic middle-aged woman. “That’s my daughter’s self-portrait, and her representation of my mum.” Her daughter, Molly, lives successful Bristol and plays successful the set Try Me. Her son, Dylan, lives successful Richmond and is simply a businessman.
The country is immaculate, I say. “In my reasoning it’s rather dusty.” So you are obsessively tidy? “I accidental I am. I’m OCD. I deliberation I’m precise hard to unrecorded with. Hence wherefore I’m connected my own. I deliberation the kids and I person a overmuch amended narration present we don’t unrecorded together.” Her parent utilized to picture her arsenic “fiercely independent”, portion Dylan calls her a “lone wolf”, she says.
“The OCD plays a large portion successful wherefore I can’t unrecorded with people. It’s precise annoying for different people.” And annoying for her? “Yes, due to the fact that it’s a strain. It’s like: ‘Oh gosh, there’s radical successful the location and they’re utilizing that now. And present they’re utilizing that. My mediate member came to enactment with maine erstwhile I lived successful Twickenham. And he’d beryllium successful the surviving country and person the tv connected and erstwhile helium near the country I’d spell into the room, crook the tv disconnected and enactment up each the distant controls. Then he’d travel backmost successful the room, crook the tv connected and permission the country and I’d spell successful and bash the same. In the extremity helium said: ‘Jane, person you got a poltergeist?’ I cognize it’s a benignant of madness.”
Back successful the aboriginal 1990s it looked similar Horrocks would beryllium a immense star. Her vocation started with a bang – the signifier play of Road was turned into a gut-wrenching movie by Alan Clarke; she was superb arsenic the snarling bulimic Nicola successful Life Is Sweet; and past came Little Voice, successful which she played a damaged teen with a singing endowment ripe for exploitation. Nowadays, she is regarded much arsenic a comedic comfortableness blanket, partially due to the fact that of the wacky Tesco commercials she made, playing the bossy girl of Prunella Scales successful the 90s and aboriginal 00s.
Did she halt being offered the heavier parts? No, she says, she turned them down. Is that due to the fact that she was attracted to lighter worldly oregon fearful of the dark? “I don’t similar to dwell connected that side. I americium sensitive. With the acheronian parts, I easy instrumentality each that on. I instrumentality it to furniture with me, which is not healthy. I don’t bash execution stories. Seeing fractional the dramas are astir murder, that rules a batch retired for maine arsenic well. And I’ve ne'er felt comfy doing sexy.” She grins. “Yeah, possibly I changeable myself successful the foot.”
But actually, she says, she’s much than blessed with however her vocation has turned out. “It’s treated maine highly well, not lone creatively but it’s kept maine afloat. It’s fixed maine a bully life.” As for the much challenging work, she says she’s inactive doing it, it’s conscionable not watched by arsenic galore people. In 2017, she created Cotton Panic!, a multimedia show, with Vivian and Stephen Mallinder (formerly of Cabaret Voltaire) astir Lancashire’s fabric situation successful the 1860s, performed arsenic portion of the Manchester planetary festival. Last year, astatine the Brighton festival, she premiered Yolk and Aliens, a video installation astir representation (featuring footage of her girl erstwhile she was young and her mother, who had Alzheimer’s), created with the creator Francesca Levi.
And, of course, determination is Love Pants, which she made with the broadcaster Peter Curran. “I emotion these collaborations. These are pieces I’m arrogant of due to the fact that they were made from scratch. They are things I did for me.”
Horrocks is looking astatine the skyline arsenic she talks. “Isn’t that beauteous retired there?” she says. It’s getting dark, and the entity is simply a magnificent flare of reds and oranges. She tells maine that for present she is focused connected making a caller commencement successful Brighton – the kids person their ain lives, she is single, and she hasn’t a hint what her adjacent occupation volition be. But determination is truthful overmuch to inhabit her, she says. “I had a beauteous summer. I rode my bike, swam successful the oversea and played chess with a feline who hangs retired by the beach. It was idyllic.”
Does she privation a caller partner? She shrugs, uncertainly. I inquire if she’s happy. “I privation to beryllium happy. Definitely.” And are you? She doesn’t reply directly. “The times I’ve felt the happiest person been sat connected the formation doing nothing.” She points to a lone fig connected the shore. “Look, there’s idiosyncratic going successful the sea. Oooh, that volition beryllium cold. That’s brave.”
She told maine earlier that she doesn’t person a TV immoderate much due to the fact that she hardly ever watches it. So what does she bash connected wintertime nights similar this? There’s truthful much, she says. “Tonight I’m going to my 5Rhythms creation class.” There’s a beauteous pub successful adjacent Kemptown, she has joined the section array tennis club, and sometimes she goes to church. “I knew astir 2 radical erstwhile I came present and I’ve made loads of friends.”
Perhaps the toughest happening to person had to accommodate to was her mother’s decease past year, 9 years aft her father’s. “When you suffer some parents you spell into a antithetic place. You suffer your roots, and there’s thing astir maine that feels precise ungrounded. The foundations person gone, basically. It’s scary, but besides rather liberating.” A tiny grin lights up her look successful the gloam. “The possibilities are endless,” she says.