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Last Updated: Thursday, 26 August, 2004, 13:41 GMT 14:41 UK
Road to Stardom: The comedy actress
By Ian Youngs
BBC News Online entertainment staff

The road to stardom is full of budding performers - but most must endure years of hard work with no guarantee of success.

In the third of four features about life in the performing arts, BBC News Online speaks to up-and-coming comedy actress Sam Battersea.

Sam Battersea and Emma Kilcoyne in Live! Girls!
Sam Battersea (right) with Live! Girls! partner Emma Kilcoyne
She may be one third of the acclaimed stage show Live! Girls!, and have a TV show in development, but for now - as with much of the past five years - Sam Battersea is temping in an office to make ends meet.

At 30, she is tipped for big things after Live! Girls! - performed with Emma Kilcoyne and co-written by twin Beth Kilcoyne - was a hit in Edinburgh in 2001.

With a surreal cast of characters, described as a female League of Gentlemen, they are working on a TV version with production company Celador.

"Comedy is my dream job," she says - but initially she struggled to find an opening into the industry.

"I didn't think about stand-up because I'm far too shy and self-effacing. But at Edinburgh, you realise there are many people from the industry looking for new people.

"We're now going forward... we've got a production company, and they're brilliant - really pushing for us to do exactly what we do, helping us all along the way.

"It's our project - I suppose like Ricky Gervais with The Office - and it's really exciting to be in a project from the word go.

"I didn't even realise you could do that - we fell into it a bit and then said 'Oh my God, this is exactly what we want to do!'"

Sam Battersea
When you're an unknown in Edinburgh, nobody comes to see you
Sam Battersea
Battersea started at the National Youth Theatre (NYT) at 18, doing mostly straight drama, and met the Kilcoyne sisters in a show at the Greenwich Theatre in 1993.

After other stage roles and work in the NYT office, she got a part in a Post Office TV advert - which earned her 3,000 and the belief that she could perform professionally.

"It was like I'd won the lottery," she says. "It was an easy job, a day's work," adds Battersea, who has continued doing commercials ever since.

"At the moment I'm playing a lot of mums, I think it must be my age. I've recently done a Kellog's ad, with my son in a trolley," she says.

Edinburgh foray

Battersea and the Kilcoyne sisters had their first Edinburgh foray in 1999 with a play called That Biscuit Stole My Husband - rehearsing in Emma's living room between temp jobs.

"Looking back, Edinburgh was not that bad," she says. "But when you're an unknown in Edinburgh, nobody comes to see you.

"We had a couple of good nights, but quite a lot it was two people who were very polite saying 'thanks, well done'.

"But some people just hated it - it was a very intense, wordy play, full of ideas. We got very mixed reviews, put it that way."

He just had that pizzazz about him and could make something happen
Sam Battersea on Sir Paul McCartney
They went back the following year and pleaded with comedy producers to see them when they performed their show in London after Edinburgh.

But it was not a comedy producer who gave them their big break - it was Sir Paul McCartney, who also turned up.

"He was just a very nice bloke to talk to and said 'I really enjoyed that - if I can help you in any way I will, I hope this goes where you want it to because you're very, very funny.'"

"He just had that pizzazz about him and could make something happen," Battersea says.

"The next Edinburgh we went back, it was such a different Edinburgh - we had the Paul McCartney quote [on the poster] and it was sold out."

The year we did really, really well, we each made a couple of pounds
Sam Battersea on Edinburgh
That was the year things really started to happen, she says - partly because they were performing a sketch show rather than a play.

"It's easier as a performer to just do loads of little ideas when you're on your knees with poverty, tiredness... down in a dungeon somewhere trying to entertain a lot of people going 'make me laugh'."

And unless you are a big name, you do not make money out of Edinburgh, she says. "The year we did really, really well, we each made a couple of pounds.

Exciting

"All our debts were paid for going to Edinburgh, but basically you're not getting a wage so that month is funded by your credit card.

"But it's worth it because of what you can get out of it. And it's an incredibly exciting place to work."

Although she does ads and voice-overs, Battersea's main income is still temp work in offices.

"It helps to think I'm not going to do this forever," she says, stressing the main aim is to create a successful TV show.

"I genuinely think it's very, very funny. I'd be very happy to do that for the rest of my life."


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