Comedienne Kirsty Strain talks about her ME: Daily Record, 3 April 2011

April 4, 2011

From the Daily Record, 3 April 2011 (story by Steve Hendry).

KIRSTY STRAIN is getting used to being laughed at. As one of the stars of BBC Scotland comedy show Burnistoun, the actress and model is usually on the end of a punchline.

In the opening episode of the new series she'll be seen as an unlucky cowgirl, a bridesmaid sporting a Kenny Rogers beard and watching the Pope having a sly drink and a game of football behind a tower block.

But there's nobody laughing louder than Kirsty herself.

At the age of nine, she suffered mysterious headaches, nausea and fatigue and by the age of 12, she was seeing a child psychologist for depression and anxiety.

Her condition didn't improve, however, until the age of 17, when she was finally diagnosed with M.E. myalgic encephalopathy once cruelly dismissed as “yuppie flu”.

Now 30, Kirsty has since been able to manage her condition but the legacy of her years of illness is she feels lucky just to live a normal life, never mind make people laugh.

And yesterday she revealed that the long days spent too exhausted to leave her home helped her discover a love of comedy and fuel her determination to make a career as a funnygirl.

She said: “I'm really, really well now but it was a long process, basically from the age of nine until the age of 17 when I was finally diagnosed with M.E.

“I've had a couple of relapses but I've been fully well for quite a number of years. I feel in control of it now, 100 per cent.

“There's nothing conventional medicine can actually do for M.E. so everything is done on an individual, case-by-case basis.

“I've been able to man age it with complementary medicine, through Jan De Vries Healthcare. I'm one of the lucky ones who found help with alternative health methods so I feel really fortunate in that respect.

“Going through challenges like that has made everything I'm doing now that much more fulfilling because I don't take anything for granted at all.

“It's just a blessing to be healthy and Ialway sput my health before any thingelse. It is really gratifying and satisfying to be at this stage now.”

While she will never recover her lost childhood, Kirsty still tries to look at it positively.

She spent many of her days as a youngster watching TV and old films with her grandparents and credits that with inspiring her choice of career.

She said: “My mum had to go to work , I would stay with my grandparents and that's basically how I would spend my afternoons. I would watch lots of different films and shows and I just loved it.

“So that kind of influenced the direction I wanted to head in. My grandad introduced me to stuff like Laurel and Hardy and Morecambe and Wise and we would get lost in that world together.

“It just seemed like a fun way to make a living and I wanted to be part of that.”

Kirsty, who grew up in Robroyston, Glasgow, has made up for her lost years in some style.

She gained an HNC from the city's Langside College before departing for New York for three years between 2004 and 2007.

She studied acting at the famous Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute where former students have included Alec Baldwin, Robert De Niro, Scarlett Johansson and Angelina Jolie.

She said: “I wanted to get some life experience behind me. I had read about Lee Strasberg and for me it was just the ideal school.

“I had some great teachers and it really gave me a chance to learn about acting and gain confidence.

“On a personal level, being in that environment and being in New York gave me a lot of strength and confidence, it really grounded me.

“The biggest challenge was not getting a place at the school though it was being able to afford to go.

“I did have to put the course on hold a couple of times before I had t he money to do it. I just had to work really hard and my pa rents had to support me quite a bit as well.

“I'm really, really grateful to them. Their faith in me has been unshakeable.”

Close to her family, Kirsty was glad to come home and stayed in Scotland until recently.

She started modelling while in New York and remains on the books of Scottish agency Model Team.

She has also worked steadily on a number of other projects, including her badge of honour playing a red herring in Taggart.

But the biggest impact on her career so far has been Burnistoun.

Written by and starring Robert Florence and Iain Connell, the comedy show is a series of sketches, all linked by being set in the fictional Scottish town of the title.

Kirsty was asked to audition for the first series by the creators after they saw her showreel and she has never looked back.

She even credits the show for helping her rediscover her comic sensibilities.

She said: “I was really surprised to be invited for the audition and when I got the sketches to prepare for the audition, it kind of revitalised my funny bone.

“I feel really comfortable, especially now we've done the second series. Robert and Iain really look after everyone and you are made to feel like part of a little Burnistoun family almost.

“I've been to every audience reaction screening and that's the best experience because you are sitting with people from the general public and to see their response being so positive is just fantastic.”

Kirsty has certainly needed the ability to laugh at herself.

In a sketch in the first series, about a man who can read cats' minds, her character is exposed as having a spectacularly rough side not least swigging vodka from the bottle and shaving her backside.

She said: “I found it really, really funny when I read it so I was kind of excited about doing it.

“I knew I could have some fun with it and the response to it has been great.

“People still comment about it. I did joke that it's based on my life.”

It has certainly had its compensations. She bagged a lead role in upcoming black comedy Up There after the director Zam Salim saw the sketch.

She also has a couple of short films impressing at film festivals and has recently moved to London to take advantage of her growing profile.

She's happy, healthy and hopes her own her story can give other sufferers of M.E. a boost.

She said: “I'm always happy to talk about M.E. because it offers hope to other sufferers to know recovery is possible.”

The new series of Burnistoun is on BBC1 on Monday at 10.35pm. The first series is released on DVD tomorrow.

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