From TV barmaid to number one recording artiste to Cockney flowergirl, British actress and singer Martine McCutcheon has been seldom out of work or out of the newpapers her entire adult life, and that is following an earlier career as a child star. Best known for playing Tiffany in BBC soap opera EastEnders, she was able to use her viewers' affection to launch a successful pop career and then move into her first love, musicals.
Martine was born in Hackney
, east London
, on May 14, 1976
. Her mother, Jenny, was 19 at the time, and her father, market trader Thomas, was 24. He was a heavy drinker and often beat her mother up. When she was two he left them, but often returned to cause further terror until, when Martine was nine, a court order
banned her father from seeing her.
Despite this, she had always been involved in acting and music, a passion for which she inherited from her mother: from an early age, the two of them would seek escapism in front of the television. Her early acting roles included a party political broadcast when six weeks old. Aged four, she appeared in commercials for Pears soap and Kool Aid. As a teenager, she played a fairy in an Enya video, and she also had roles in various children's TV series. She attended the Italia Conti stage school in London, thanks to a scholarship from the Church of England.
In 1995 she moved from her job selling underwear in Knickerbox
to play Tiffany Raymond
. At first her role was as Bianca Jackson
's (Patsy Palmer
) best friend, but during a stint as barmaid at local pub
the Queen Vic
, she became pregnant by her boss Grant Mitchell
), despite the fact that she detested him at the time. Nonetheless she married Grant, having baby Courtney, and attempted to settle down as a family.
Grant was more interested in having a child and passing on the Mitchell genes than he was in loving Tiffany. Grant was very violent towards her and even slept with her mother Louise. Finally, she she tried to escape with the help of Beppe di Marco (Michael Greco). But she ended up in a coma after falling down stairs. Tiffany was finally killed at the end of 1998 in a car accident, hit by Frank Butcher (Mike Reid).
Like many soap stars before her, Martine made a move into popular music
. Her first single was Perfect Moment
(1999), which was originally recorded by Polish
female vocalist Edyta Gorniak
in 1997. It went straight into the British charts at number one. She followed this with two more singles the same year, I've Got You
, and the double A side Talking In Your Sleep
/ Love Me
which was released in aid of the BBC's charity telethon Children in Need
1999 also saw her first album, You Me and Us, which was a collection of retro pop music, some of which (apart from the sophisticated production) could have been recorded any decade since the 1940s. However, it boasted fine pop craftsmanship and songs well-chosen for her breathy voice. Martine co-wrote four tracks, Falling Apart, You Me and Us, If Only and Tremble.
With her second album, Wishing, in 2000, she moved in a more disco direction. This was perhaps in an attempt to match the success of Kylie Minogue, who had recently revived her career by reinventing herself as a disco diva. Wishing included a cover of the Donna Summer/Giorgio Moroder track On The Radio, as well as the ballad I'm Over You.
Illness and gossip
In 2000, aged 24, she produced her autobiography
, aptly entitled Who Does She Think She Is?: My Story
. This was written with the help of newspaper showbiz correspondent Matthew Wright
, and the tale of her harsh childhood and love of music proved a great success with her fans.
That year also saw the release of her feature film debut, a supporting role in crime comedy-thriller Kiss Kiss (Bang Bang) alongside Stellan Skarsgard and Chris Penn. She also had a guest role as a club owner in ITV Customs and Excise drama The Knock.
Ill health proved a problem despite her success. She suffered a miscarriage in 1999. In October 2000, Martine collapsed at a party, causing rumours about drug use and further diseases, following bouts of Hepatitis C and glandular fever. The latter was blamed for the cancellation of her 1999 British tour. The same year her boyfriend Jonathon Barnham (who had previously been accused by tabloid of participating in sex orgies without her knowledge) was arrested in connection with drugs smuggling. Martine put up the GBP 75 000 bail for him.
In 2001 Martine played Eliza Doolittle
in the musical My Fair Lady
at Drury Lane Theatre
, Covent Garden
, London. Unlike Audrey Hepburn
who had played the role on film, Martine is a true cockney and required tuition on how to talk posh. However, further illness in the form of a throat infection
meant that she missed many performances, earning a measure of hostility from fans and the press.
Further trouble surrounded her in 2001, when she was caught up in legal action with her ex-manager Claire Powall over allegations from either side that Martine had withheld commission from Powall, and that Powall owed Martine money. After her break-up with Jonathon Barnham, she started dating actor Steve John Shepherd, who had a small role in This Life playing Jo, and was a Naboo Lieutenant in The Phantom Menace.
Her third album Musicality (2002) saw her continue her move towards musical theatre, with cover versions of a number of popular show tunes and easy listening classics, including Wouldn't It Be Luverly (from My Fair Lady), There are Worse Things I Could Do (from Grease), and White Christmas. Over her career, she may have seldom interested the critics, but has become a much-loved figure across many fields of popular culture.
- Perfect Moment, released Apr 1999, Number 1.
- I've Got You, released Sep 1999, Number 6.
- Talking In Your Sleep / Love Me, released Dec 1999, Number 6.
- I'm Over You, released Nov 2000, Number 2.
- On The Radio, released Feb 2001, Number 7.
- You Me and Us, Innocent, 1999.
- Wishing, Innocent, 2000.
- My Fair Lady (Soundtrack), Original 2001 London Cast, First Night, 2001.
- Musicality, Liberty, 2002.
Martine on Video
- Martine McCutcheon with Matthew Wright. Who Does She Think She Is?: My Story. London: Century. 2000.
- Amazon. Amazon.co.uk. <http://www.amazon.co.uk/> (15 January 2003).
- BBC. BBC Eastenders Homepage. <http://www.bbc.co.uk/eastenders/> (15 January 2003).
- BBC. "Martine McCutcheon: By George, She's Got It". BBC News. 16 March 2001. <http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/1223113.stm> (15 January 2003).
- BlackStar. <http://www.blackstar.co.uk/> (15 January 2003).
- Dotmusic. <http://www.dotmusic.com/> (15 January 2003).
- Everyhit. <http://www.everyhit.com/> (15 January 2003).
- "Martine McCutcheon". Hello! Magazine. <http://www.hellomagazine.com/profiles/martinemccutcheon/> (15 January 2003).
- Internet Movie Database. <http://www.imdb.com/> (15 January 2003).
- Martine McCutcheon official website. <http://www.martinemccutcheon.com/indexflash.htm> (15 January 2003).
- The Official UK Charts Company. <http://www.theofficialcharts.com/index.shtml> (15 January 2003).
shimmer informs me that Martine was a bridesmaid at the ill-fated wedding of Liza Minelli and David Gest. I'm still trying to think of a joke about this.