The Many Faces of Kat Slater

By Michael McCarthy

From the first night Charlie Slater and his brood . Big Mo, Little Mo, Lynne, Zoe, and Kat . took possession of their council house, one of his ladies was a show-stopper, a heartbreaker, and a lightning rod for any male that took her fancy.

That would be Kat. A frustrated beau followed her to Walford to chain himself to the front gate, if only Kat would throw him a kind word from the second-floor window. It fell to Charlie to dispatch this out-of-his-depth Romeo. Bette Davis in her star turn in the film All About Eve could well have been speaking about Kat: .Fasten your seat belts. It.s gonna be a bumpy ride..

No character has made quite such an entrance and gone on to put her stamp on the Square with the animal excitement of a jungle cat stalking her prey.

Anthony Trueman, a physician and the pride and joy of his mother, was powerless to resist Kat.s full frontal assault. For a while, it looked like wedding bells for the couple, before time and cooler heads prevailed.

Zoe moved in on the rebound. Kat was not pleased as the couple made wedding plans. Anthony realised that instead of a lover he really wanted Zoe to be a friend. The course of true love is never smooth but especially so on the Square.

Zoe was miffed over Kat.s coming between her and Anthony. They had it out outside when the big sister confessed she was really Zoe.s mother in a scene reminiscent of Faye Dunaway in Chinatown. Their Uncle Harry had raped Kat when she was a teenager.

No one, not even Charlie, knew who the father was. Charlie and his wife Vivian decided that Zoe would never know the truth, all in the service of trying to protect Kat and Zoe.

This two-hander spun out with all the excitement of a runaway train. No one but Jessie Wallace could take so many shifts in transition and play all of them to the hilt. The who and the why of Kat Slater came stunningly into focus as both she and Zoe met on a different plane. We never saw it coming; it was as much a shock for us, a catch-your-breath moment and a tip of the hat to both ladies.

Kat moved on and up to Andy Hunter, a villain still in training. As for vicious Jack Dalton, Dennis Rickman put this criminal down for good. Andy and Kat connected, sparks flew, and the wedding would be a celebration for the Square. This was Andy.s claim on all that was Phil Mitchell.s.

Then fate appeared in the person of Kat.s best mate, Alfie Moon. Alfie and Kat did a dance around each other. It seemed there was no space between them as Alfie suffered in relative silence.

Who would be first to declare their love? Andy sensed the competition, and so he had one of his minions work Alfie over. It went right down to the wire, but Alfie got past Andy.s goons and literally swept Kat off her feet, interrupting Andy and Kat.s wedding in a scene reminiscent of Dustin Hoffman in The Graduate.

In contrast, Kat and Alfie.s wedding was a night of magic culminating in snow for Kat.s fairy tale from her man in the moon. Andy waited. Charlie needed a lot of money for a court case. Nobody had the money, so Kat went to Andy, who was more than happy to have Kat in his debt. Revenge is a dish best served cold. Andy demanded that Kat go to bed with him to erase the debt.

Alfie was kept in the dark until a videotape of Kat and Andy going at it put a monkey wrench into the relationship. How would you feel if you saw your beloved in bed with the man that shagged your wife before you did? Alfie was crushed. He and Kat fought, separated, first Alfie left, then returned to Kat to try and put the pieces of their marriage together again. The fallout is not over, for those of us watching in the States. Kat left, then she returned with a very sizeable monkey on her back, alcohol. She made a fool of herself in front of Alfie and her family, as Little Mo faced her rapist in court.

Kat just makes it to the lavatory, and vomits.

Alfie was on the cusp of calling it quits, as Kat begged him to give her another chance. The fallout of Andy rears its ugly head. She packed a bag to walk out on Alfie.s life, perhaps for good, as her husband watches from the upstairs window of the Vic. It takes two committed actors, working on the knife edge of a scene, so fraught with emotion that we may well be watching a dance of death, the end of a loving couple. We came to care over time.

Shane Richie has so many shades of emotion. In his capable hands, Alfie Moon is a constant surprise.

Among the best episodes was one where he literally loses it behind the bar with all the regulars not knowing how to react. A smile for the punters only lasts so long. Alfie can and does bleed, all the more heart-wrenching when the curtain falls away to reveal his guts in his hands.

Jessie Wallace, her face a maze of conflicting emotions, a trapeze artist dancing in space, reaching, her hands out, knowing her partner Shane will be there to catch her. The makeup she applies, the layers of paint she constructs as a mask to become the slapper, anything for a laugh, a good-time girl, keep the drinks coming and watch your hands, mate.

At the end of the evening, when the warpaint comes off, we are left with the real Kat Slater, a tart hiding in the shadow of a wounded child. Her face still radiates with the glow of an innocence to which she refuses to surrender.

Don.t say anything. Just hold me until the pain is gone. That is pure Jessie Wallace.

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