TALKING TO KATY BRAND
Comedian, writer and devout Dirty Dancing enthusiast Katy Brand arrives at The Electric Theatre in Guildford this October as part of the Guildford Book Festival. We caught up to talk about all things Baby and books, as she gets set to release her latest book, I Carried a Watermelon – Dirty Dancing and Me…
Your new book I Carried a Watermelon is out in October – an ode to Dirty Dancing. Where do you think your deep love for the film comes from?
Well, I saw it for the first time when I was 11. It was a few years after it was released in cinemas, so I saw it on TV. I’d always loved musicals and films with dancing in them, so I was generally a fan of big dance numbers and so on. I remember I wasn’t expecting much, because I preferred old musicals when I was younger, and so I sat down to watch it and thought, ‘oh well, we’ll see’.
It totally swept me away. I found the whole thing mesmerising, thrilling, exciting, it made me feel a bit funny, all those sorts of things. I just went to bed that night in a daze, completely silent, and just lay in bed staring at the ceiling thinking about it all. It just made such an impression straight away that from then on I just became obsessed with it for the next couple of years.
I hadn’t really seen a lead character like the character of Baby, or one that I could relate to so strongly, and I think a lot of people find this. Because she’s so sort of grumpy, and not especially bothered about impressing people, she dresses in a very casual way. She’s not particularly flirty – or at least she doesn’t flirt very successfully, which is definitely something I related to. But she drives the plot along as well and is very active and fearless, and I think all these things just made quite an impression on me in a leading girl. Plus she gets the guy, she gets lifted up, and everyone applauds her. So you think, ‘good’. I can continue to be grumpy and forthright, and not too bothered about my clothes and maybe I’ll win at life – maybe. I think it’s an unusual protagonist for a young girl to see on screen.
To outsiders it’s often seen as a rom-com film filled with dirty dancing, but your book focuses on some of its darker and deeper aspects. From abortion to the social divide, Dirty Dancing is much more than the ‘iconic lift’ scene – would you agree?
Definitely. The bottom line is it is a really fantastically made, tightly-written, brilliantly acted, brilliantly directed piece of entertainment, with some unbelievable choreography and dancing in it. I’m not trying to pretend that it’s some Art House cult classic or anything. But I think within that it brings in some really interesting themes like illegal terminations of unwanted pregnancies, and how unsafe, dangerous and frightening they were for women. Issues of class, father-daughter issues, you know – how you become an independent person and stand up for your principles when it means you have to challenge your own family. There are loads of themes in there that I explore in the book.
When I first started writing the book I did think, ‘oh God what have I done? What if there’s not enough in there to write a whole book? What if it becomes more of a pamphlet?’ But once I started writing I couldn’t stop. There was loads and loads to say about it, so I’m feeling quite glad that I’ve got it all down on paper.
While you undoubtedly discuss it in the book, how has Dirty Dancing shaped you and the woman you are today?
I think it gave me a very early sense that you could be fearless about being offered new opportunities. Even if you nearly fall flat on your face, literally like Baby nearly does, then you’ll still always grab an opportunity if it’s offered to you – especially if someone’s offering to teach you something new. I think I took that on board at quite a deep level when I first watched it.
My three favourite films from my adolescence were Mary Poppins, The Sound of Music and Dirty Dancing. The common theme there is women, coming along and sorting some people out. I think that’s something that has definitely been quite formative for me – I have to sometimes stop myself attempting to go around sorting people out whether they like it or not.
Stories like that have always appealed to me, so sometimes I have to keep that part of myself under control!
Can you remember the first book you read that captured your imagination?
One of the first books I remember reading on my own was The Witches by Roald Dahl when I was 7, I think. I remember being paralysed with terror by it. I wanted to read it because I found it so exciting, so I compulsively read it but I could not read it alone. I basically had to follow people around reading it. If my parents were busy around the house I would literally follow them around whilst reading it. It was just such an exciting, horrifying story.
A keen literature lover you present the Penguin Podcast – what are you reading at the moment and have you got any recommendations for us?
At the moment, like millions of others, I’m reading The Testaments, by Margaret Atwood, the sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale. I’m really, really enjoying it, so I definitely recommend that.
I’ve just finished reading Fleishman Is In Troubleby Taffy Brodesser-Akner. It’s a great combination of my two favourite writers, Nora Ephron and Philip Roth. It’s a great thing on its own, but if you enjoy those two authors, then you’ll enjoy this.
get 2 for 1 tickets to see Katy Brand at Electric Theatre, Guildford
We have a limited number of 2 for 1 tickets to see Katy Brand at the Electric Theatre in Guildford on 11th October for you to get your hands on until midnight 03/10/2019
Limited to one use per customer and not to be used in conjunction with any other codes – simply use the discount code below when booking your tickets and enjoy the show!
2 FOR 1 TICKETS DISCOUNT CODE: KATYDANCING19
For more information and to book tickets visit, www.guildfordbookfestival.co.uk
GUILDFORD BOOK FESTIVAL OCTOBER 6 – 13
Literary lovers unite! Guildford Book Festival returns to the town centre this month, promising an abundance of A grade authors who will be divulging a dearth of inside knowledge on their latest books. If you love to read, then these events are not to be missed. Check out our top 3 events to get to and book your tickets quick.
1. KONNIE HUQ / COOKIE AND THE MOST ANNOYING BOY IN THE WORLD
6TH OCTOBER / ELECTRIC THEATRE, GUILDFORD
2. LUKE JENNINGS IN CONVERSATION WITH STEPHANIE MERIT / KILLING EVE: NO TOMORROW
8TH OCTOBER / ELECTRIC THEATRE, GUILDFORD
3. IN CONVERSATION WITH STEVE BACKSHALL – ADVENTURES INTO UNDISCOVERED WORLDS
13TH OCTOBER / YVONNE ARNAUD THEATRE, GUILDFORD
For more information and tickets visit www.guildfordbookfestival.co.uk