Written by Sarah Georgeson

Arts

Monksey business

The new series of Caitlin and Caroline Moran’s big-hearted and uproarious sitcom Raised by Wolves starts tonight. Sarah Georgeson had a chops with her mate Helen Monks, who plays Germaine. It’s joyous.

Helen as Germaine

Helen as Germaine in Raised by Wolves. All photos: Channel 4.

The first time I met Helen Monks, I showed her a series of nude photos on my phone. Her feedback was firm but fair, and she made a series of positive comments about the lighting.

Helen Monks is an angel, and it is a continuing privilege to ride on her coat-tails. Speaking to her for Standard Issue was really just a thinly veiled excuse to hear her voice.

Hello Helen.

Hello babes.

How are you feeling on a scale of 1-10? One being Charlotte Rampling on a day-to-day basis, 10 being Kate when Leo won the Oscar.

I’d say a solid 8. Eight being Leo when Leo won the Oscar.

Howre you feeling about the release of the next season of Raised by Wolves?

It feels like cystitis. You know that feeling where you constantly need a wee but then you go to the toilet and nothing comes out? It’s just totally confusing. A constant state of anticipation and fear.

I’m mostly just drinking cranberry juice and pretending it doesn’t exist. And sweating, a lot.

What are the similarities between you and Germaine? I think youre basically the same person.

Yeah, well, that’s because when I’m with you, we are both Germaine. It totally depends who I’m around. I think we are all a little bit Germaine deep down. She does what she wants, says what she wants, masturbates with whatever she wants. (Which, it turns out, is most things.)

“If we want girls to love themselves, we have to be the change. We have to love ourselves first – show them how it’s done.”

I think in a locked room we are all that person. But in the world we have been trained to keep it under wraps. Society. Grrrr.

Germaine just happens to not have a lock on her door. Or, even, own a door at all. She is just standing in the middle of society with her fanny out, like ‘AND WHAT?’

Oh my god you’re so right; we are exactly the same person.

This leads quite happily and conveniently into talking about little girls and feminism and the responsibility we have to give them characters like Germaine, rather than a series of Kylie Jenners. NB: She’s still my favourite Kardashian.

I would have loved to have watched this show as a teenage girl and gone, “Oh my god, look, a girl who loves herself and is completely unapologetic. Does that mean I’m allowed to be like that too? And funny? And sexy? And clever? Oh my god. Who knew!”

All of the characters in this show are like that. The scary thing, actually, is how unusual it is.

It’s just obvious: people become what they can already see. Which is why Caitlin Moran was such a big deal for me and loads of others. She shows us how we can totally be ourselves as women – we don’t have to squeeze into some male role. She’s forging a new one for us.

The big example I always use is male primary school teachers. There are so few of them, aren’t there? And it’s because it’s self-perpetuating. There aren’t any to start with, so boys and men can’t imagine themselves, societally, in that role. It’s a woman’s role. So then they don’t go for that job, so then the cycle continues.

It just happens to be the list of jobs like this is much, much longer for women. You know, if there are no women standups, women don’t imagine they can be funny. If there are no women in Parliament, women don’t think to go into politics.

But we are alive at such an exciting time when that is changing! The amount of women out there paving the way for the rest of us… I mean, it’s still not enough. But it’s starting.

And this isn’t just with jobs, it’s with the way we treat ourselves and each other. If we want girls to love themselves, we have to be the change. We have to love ourselves first – show them how it’s done.

How much face time do you actually get with Caitlin Moran? Some surface research shows me that she once commented on your profile picture.

She has no idea how brave that was of her. My Facebook is full of crazy obsessive Caitlin Moran fanatics (myself definitely included) and she just gave them all a link to her life and personal photos.

But then again, this is Caitlin Moran. She probably hangs her personal photos out on a washing line in her front garden.

What’s amazing about Caitlin, and her sister Caz, is that if I was as great as them I would just sit in a massive house feeling really smug about myself. But their whole ethos is so generous. The fact that I got cast in the part by meeting Cait at a book signing and asking her if I could audition and, you know, she let me, is a real testament to how kind and generous she is. And also, how mental.

raised-by-wolvesYour profile is on the rise you just got awarded with a blue ticket on Twitter. Can you still frequent the Walthamstow branch of Cafe Nero, or is it all cloak and dagger at Groucho these days?

Look, dude, I’m up to seven stamps on my Cafe Nero loyalty card. I am not passing up a free hot chocolate just to avoid being papped in my pyjamas at noon on a Monday. Who do you think I am? Kevin Costa?

Also, when I think people have recognised me it’s normally because they’ve been staring at me like this [does confused face], which, sometimes, yes, is them trying to place where they know me from. But, most of the time, I discover later that I’ve had food on my face all day, and it was actually just a look of vague disgust.

Tell me about all this theatre stuff.

You know everything. My theatre stuff is your theatre stuff. Does the reader know that? Sarah is a theatre producer. I feel like this should definitely be me interviewing you. You’re the one who does all the actual work; I just lie in my bed thinking about things and then clicking ‘watch next’ on Netflix.

Our theatre company, Lung, is going really well. And by our theatre company, I mean Matt Woodhead’s theatre company that we work for sometimes and then take full ownership of. I would mention Matt more but, you know, the word limit.

“I think our generation does that more than anyone – we spend our whole lives catching up on what we’ve done. What we’ve achieved. (Or haven’t). But boil it down and we all still poo, we all get depressed, we all carry our makeup round in a plastic bag.”

We’re taking my one-woman play to Edinburgh this year. It’s a comedy called Dolly Wants To Die. I do standup, so it’s sort of that, meets storytelling, meets me dressing up as a doll.

We are also taking our other show, E15, back to the Fringe. I co-wrote that with Matt, as well as being in it. It like, won loads of awards and stuff last year. So that means it’s officially good based on other people’s opinion, right? It’s about the E15 mothers. Those women are 100 times more interesting than I will ever be. Dear reader, you should stop reading this interview immediately and go and read about them.

Is there anything youd like to talk about? Personally or professionally? This is your stage, babes. That said, theres a pretty strict word limit.

Have I told you my long held theory that Banksy is Derren Brown?

So, Banksy’s art started appearing in Bristol in 1992. Which is when Derren Brown started uni there. And how has Banksy managed to hide his identity for so long when his whole thing is putting art in incredibly public places? Maybe because he’s Derren Brown and he’s managed to make everyone look the other way.

Also, Derren Brown’s Twitter handle for a long while was “I am Banksy.” And yes, OK, maybe the truthfulness of his Twitter bio may now be slightly undermined by his current one – “Prince of Eternia and Defender of the Secret of Castle Grayskull. Dislikes blue cheese”but I know for a fact that he legit doesn’t like blue cheese.

Or did you mean things relevant to me? Well, I should mention, I’ve just finished filming Ben Elton’s sitcom Upstart Crow starring David Mitchell, in which I play David’s daughter, Susanna. It will be on BBC2 in April. You should watch it – it’s really funny.

Raised By Wolves CH4A quick Google search of your name brings up the quote, Helen Monks has achieved more in her 23 years than most people achieve in a lifetime. Conversely, I know that you use an actual plastic bag as your makeup bag. Discuss.

I actually bought – well, got given for free in the street – a proper functioning makeup bag. With a zip and everything. But then I left it on a train. So now I’m back to my Tesco bag. And it’s not even a bag for life. It’s one of those see-through ones and it’s got a hole in the bottom that the eyeliner keeps falling out of. Absolute chaos.

That headline was pure spin. But I get it: we measure people’s success based on stuff they’ve done. I think our generation does that more than anyone – we spend our whole lives catching up on what we’ve done. What we’ve achieved. (Or haven’t). But boil it down and we all still poo, we all get depressed, we all carry our makeup round in a plastic bag.

I think people need to stop being so hard on themselves. If you’re managing to get out of bed in the morning – or, even, roll over to the other side for a bit – then you’re doing alright by me.

Thanks, Helen. Keep fighting the good fight.

That was fun. Shall we go get cocktails?

The new series of Raised by Wolves starts tonight on Channel 4 at 10pm.
www.channel4.com/programmes/raised-by-wolves
fysatheatre.com

@sarahisatree
@helen_monks

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Written by Sarah Georgeson

Sarah is a theatre producer living in London. She's into peanut butter, glitter and the rule of three.