Changing sex can work wonders for your career...

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Indy Lifestyle Online
If you want to get ahead, get a pseudonym. Victorian women did it to get published; Glaswegian actor/writer Jackie Kane used the pen- name "Scott Hamilton" in case her play, Room, turned out to be terrible. "I didn't want to take the blame," she says. She need not have worried. She is now being chased by a number of TV and film companies, including Channel 4 and LWT.

Behind her cheeky self-deprecation, the tiny, wiry Kane is keenly aware of deeper reasons for using a male alias. Theatre, like most professions, is still dominated by men. "As I was writing," she explains, "I was thinking about the new writers doing well at the Bush and the Royal Court. I realised they're all blokes. Men are taken more seriously, even now."

Moreover, Kane refuses to be pigeonholed as a "feminine" writer. Her play depicts Doug and Fiona, two Scots sharing a cramped London flat, looking for acting work and love - which they eventually find with each other. It's romantic and ends happily, but sentimentality is avoided with dry wit and arguments. Kane herself plays Fiona, a headstrong woman with a fine line in insults. Doug, an unabashed womaniser, sleeps with all four female characters during the course of the play. Had a real "Scott Hamilton" written Room, Doug might have been a slime-ball. Instead, Kane enjoys his roguish charm, but forces him to reassess his view of women before Fiona will accept him.

Kane wrote the part of Avril, Doug's seemingly air-headed girlfriend, specially for Shakyra Dowling, her business partner in Belladonna, the production company they started together three years ago. "She tends to get cast as a feminine girl," Kane says. "I kept with that, but I gave Avril dignity. She walks out of the relationship on top, and teaches Doug a lesson about respect."

This idea of women teaching men is a recurrent theme in Kane's conversation. "Women have got to do it," she asserts. "There's always something you've got to teach them, even if it's just putting the toilet seat down. He won't let his pals know he's teachable, but once a man's comfortable with you, he wants to be taught."

Now 32, Kane turned to writing after too many abysmal auditions for TV adverts. Before that, she worked in another male dominated profession: graphic design. Companies in Glasgow were less than receptive to her talents: "I'd hear the most stupid excuses, like `we've only got boys' toilets here'. One newspaper told me that men did the designing and women answered the telephone," she recalls, laughing. That was when she moved to London - "down here, you realise that men and women are equal".

Her script mocks and capitalises on the tradition of actresses stripping off in order to get parts. The nudity in Room is incidental and mundane: the two flatmates need the toilet in the middle of the night and scurry starkers to and from the bathroom. As Kane says, it's "very true" - especially since the man is also naked. Ironically, film censorship usually manages to erase such expressions of equality.

Kane regards the possible film future of her script with equanimity, bemused by the attention it has already generated despite the "humbleness of the project". "Every night I'm told that people like Working Title are coming; I've got a meeting with the people who made Tim Roth's film; I need a literary agent. I'm shocked," she admits.

Nonetheless, Kane exudes ambition. "`I always like to do things to the best of my ability," she declares.

She's genuinely bewildered by praise, joking, "Insult me and I'll fight, but compliment me and I'll crumble!" For Kane, "working is life, as long as you enjoy what you're doing. I enjoy being creative. It took me 27 years to realise that I don't have to apologise for doing what I want. So now I don't. Now I'm a bitch from hell!"