The denouement, in which Katy over-explains it all.
(EXTRA CONTENT WARNING: This episode EXPLICITLY discusses sexual assault and mental illness. See Help Links for more information about these issues.)
INTERVIEWER: Good evening, and welcome to One On One, On Four. This is Bertram Baynard asking the questions. Tonight we are joined by the actress Katy Froade.
INTERVIEWER: Katy is perhaps best known as Gemma in the science fiction series Time Girls. Her many theatre roles have included an acclaimed performance as Tamora, Queen of the Goths, in a Royal Shakespeare Company production of Titus Andronicus. So, Katy, what have you been up to recently?
KATY: Apart from rehearsing and rehearsing? We’ve just finished doing all the commentaries for the Time Girls DVDs, which should be out … next month I think, if all goes well.
INTERVIEWER: You worked in theatre before and after Time Girls. Was it hard to change between the two?
KATY: All the running around quarries and the CSO was nothing like theatre. But when we had a good script, Time Girls wasn’t very different from a play. Shakespeare and Bob Holmes both wrote about relations between people and how societies work. That’s very relevant here and now, even if the settings seem a bit strange.
INTERVIEWER: You grew up in Croydon and then studied at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. What was that like?
KATY: Lots of people seem to think Croydon is a bit of a joke, but I had a very happy childhood there. I went to a wonderful school that taught girls to achieve our ambitions, whatever they might be. I had the best time at RADA. It was hard work but I learnt so much. I think I’m very lucky despite everything, because I’ve had chances most people never got.
INTERVIEWER: You’ve been menaced by lots of pretend monsters on screen, but there was something else that really frightened you.
KATY: It’s very difficult … but I should talk about it because it’s important. I’ve always called it the lobster incident, which makes it sound sillier than it really was. Sometimes I worry that people won’t take it seriously because they think lobsters are funny, but it was serious. … I didn’t have a very good time when we were making the first series of Time Girls. The crew always made comments about me and my costumes. There were some sexist pranks. We went to film at Whitstable down in Kent for the last thing in that series. There were more pranks than ever. On the last day of the shoot, the producer booked a meal for everyone at a seafood restaurant near the harbour. Mandy and I put on our best frocks and went down together. When we got in, some of the crew … apparently they’ve always said it was just a joke, but I don’t believe that. Anyway, two of them grabbed my arms and held me tight while another put a lobster down the front of my dress. It was cold and wet, and it was wriggling and nipping me. I went into a frenzy. I pulled free of them and got it out, then I ran off in tears. Mandy came after me, but I kicked off my shoes and ran away so quickly that she couldn’t find me. I sat on the beach all night. I couldn’t stop shaking. The air got cold, but I kept sweating horribly. Early in the morning, I went home on own. While I was waiting for the train I had some … silly thoughts. It would have been easy to do.
INTERVIEWER: But you knew that wasn’t the answer.
KATY: I wasn’t sure. I stood on the platform, imagining what it would be like. In the end I was too frightened to do it, and I’m so glad I didn’t. Of course it would have been awful for me, and for all the people I left behind. Even when I felt that the whole world was against me, my mum and Mandy loved me. They would have been devastated. … So I got on the train and went back to my flat. I barely left it for weeks. I lived on soggy cornflakes and tomato soup. Mandy helped so much. She’s always been like a big sister. Eventually I got a bit better and went back into rep.
INTERVIEWER: Your theatre career was very successful, and you didn’t return to television for nine years. But then you had some trouble with drugs.
KATY: It was all connected, really. The lobster thing hurt me very badly and I lost a lot of confidence. I got through my depression and went back to work, but I still wasn’t quite right. I had these awful flashbacks. If any little thing reminded me, it was as if it was happening again. Even the smell of fish set me off. I couldn’t sleep very well, and sometimes when I did get to sleep, I felt as if I were suffocating and couldn’t move. I’d wake up gasping for breath, and then I’d be frightened of going back to sleep. I felt better on stage than anywhere else, so I threw myself into my work. I did quite well, but I didn’t achieve as much as I should have because I was cut off from some of my feelings. My social life was ruined. I couldn’t go to restaurants because that reminded me. When people invited me out for dinner I found excuses, but some people were very insistent and said it would do me good. I couldn’t tell them why it wouldn’t. Sometimes I had to go, if was it someone’s birthday, but I hated it. I couldn’t eat much because I was so anxious. I felt sick, and my mouth went all dry. I’d leave as soon as I could. People started to think I didn’t like them because I couldn’t do things they thought were normal. I didn’t understand what was happening to me and wanted it to go away, so I ignored it for a long time. Sometimes a large vodka before bed calmed me down a bit, but the more I did it, the less it worked. Then I started to try different things.
INTERVIEWER: And it was the cocaine that got you hooked.
KATY: It seemed fantastic. I felt so free and confident, and I could go out and have fun again. It was like I’d got the old me back, but of course I hadn’t really. Then they asked me to do another series of Time Girls. I’d been avoiding telly because of what happened before, but I felt I had to do this. And of course I needed the money for drugs. I thought they’d get me through it. My contract said I mustn’t be tied up, because I knew I couldn’t stand that. But once we got going, it brought everything back. Worse than before. I had to take more drugs. More than I could really afford. It affected my work even before my downfall.
INTERVIEWER: You were arrested in October 1985.
KATY: It was terrifying. When they grabbed me and put on the handcuffs, it was just like the lobster incident. I screamed and struggled, a policewoman slapped my face, and then they dragged me out. The tabloids had already been after me, so they loved it. I was guilty and I got off very lightly really, but no-one should be arrested for drugs. Our laws about them are stupid. I did make a mistake, but it was that drugs weren’t the right thing for me.
INTERVIEWER: After your arrest, you went to the Priory Hospital, and things started to change.
KATY: The Priory was wonderful. They knew all the latest treatments. It was very hard facing up to things, but they helped me to see that it wasn’t all my fault. My psychologist was so good. She was American and she’d worked with soldiers who were in Vietnam. She said I had the same sort of thing. Post-traumatic stress. Lots of soldiers who were in the Falklands are still suffering from it, and some of them didn’t get any help for years. I was very lucky. The psychologist showed me how to deal with the anxiety, and even helped me get used to restaurants again.
INTERVIEWER: Your career was very successful once again, and then Time Girls underwent a revival.
KATY: Yes, it’s more popular now than ever. At first I was quite surprised that anyone liked it, because I didn’t think it was very good. When we did the commentary, I was still quite embarrassed and resentful. I could see all the problems with it, and I remembered the problems I had, but doing that was part of coming to terms with it. Now I think it’s very nice that people enjoy it and see something good despite all the things it got wrong. Titus Andronicus was similar. Tamora is a difficult part, especially for me, in a play that lots of people think isn’t very good. But I did my best and found something good in it.
INTERVIEWER: Thank you, Katy. It’s been a very enlightening interview. Do you have any final thoughts?
KATY: I want to say that I won’t be silenced. I’ve faced the police. The tabloids. Mary Whitehouse. Mrs Thatcher. And those awful men with their lobster. And I survived. There’s nothing else they can do to me. No woman should have to go through what I went through … or worse. No man should have to go through what Peter Wyngarde went through. We’re only just finding out about awful things that happened in the seventies. If Jimmy Savile and those other men are guilty, they’re bad men. I don’t think most men would do things like that, but they were able to do it and get away with it for so long because of things that seem normal. My pink gun, my twisted ankles, the revealing costumes I was made to wear. Pamela Salem’s erotic death scenes. The lobster down my dress. … And all those rapes. They’re all part of same thing. Television tells us over and over again that women are stupid. That we’re too emotional and only like things that make us cry. That we’re vulnerable. That we’re objects for men’s pleasure. That we’re not people and we’re not important. All this is still going on, and it’s got to change. We’ve made some progress with racism since the seventies, but not so much with sexism. We mustn’t let powerful people stop us. Most people didn’t want Mrs Thatcher. I don’t believe that most people want to live in the world she left us. I want to live in a world where everyone can do what they want if they don’t harm other people. And why would anyone want to harm other people? It’s all very simple if you think about it. We all need to think more. At their absolute best, that’s what programmes like Time Girls and Doctor Who were about.
INTERVIEWER: A very powerful speech from Katy Froade. We wish you the best of luck, and thank you for joining us.
KATY: Thank you. Bye.
ANNOUNCER: One On One On Four was presented by Bertram Baynard and produced by Jane Smith. Katy Froade is currently appearing in Henry the Sixth Part Two at the National Theatre. The time is forty-eight minutes past midnight-