For those who may not be familiar with your work, can you give me a little run down of some of your career highlights so far?
I started out in theatre, way back in the day, and was part of a new wave of Irish theatre spearheaded by Rough Magic (30 and more years ago now!). i’ve worked with all of the major theatre companies there since. when i came to the UK i did a lot of tv work – FR TED, BREMNER BIRD AND FORTUNE, SHAMELESS, TV TO GO, JAM AND JERUSALEM and more recently EASTENDERS. Now, it’s back to theatre – i had a ball doing THE KNIGHT OF THE BURNING PESTLE at the Sam Wannamaker for 2 runs earlier this year and now this huge tour of East Is East.
You are currently on tour with the show East Is East. For anyone who may not know the story, can you explain what it’s all about?
It’s set in Salford in 1971 against the background of the partition of India and Pakistan, and is the story of the Khan family who are being similarly torn apart by the actions of George (the Dad) who wants to impose a Pakistani way of life on his English family. i play Ella, the Mum, caught between love of her children and husband.
What attracted you to the part you are playing in the show?
There are few enough really meaty roles for women of ‘a certain age’ in theatre (given that there are so many of us too after the same parts!) so when a gem like Ella comes along you grab it with both hands. she is one of those brilliant Northern women full of bravery and laughter and steely resolve.
You are well known for your TV work including the hilarious Mrs Doyle in Father Ted and are also no stranger to the stage. What people may not know is that you are also a well established author having published eight books. Which of these art forms is your biggest passion?
Oh i hope i never have to choose between the two! i sort of ran out of stories for ‘grown-ups’ a few years ago so i wrote 2 novels for 10 – 13 year olds in the meantime and i had a great time doing those. i’m ready to write a dark, thriller-type novel now for an older readership and am gathering all sorts of source material while travelling around Great Britain – so this tour will have an unlikely new life after the show is done.
Do you have any dream stage roles that you would like to have a go at playing?
I’m not one of those actors who has a list of roles they are burning to play…if pushed i’d probably name the baddies in anything – i love a Baddie…
If you could be the opposite sex for the day, which male theatre role would you like to play?
Shylock, perhaps – i’ve always kind of hated The Merchant of Venice and i feel he deserves a better play and outcome – what a great character
Have you ever had any funny/disastrous on-stage experiences?
I once vomited on stage all through a production of ABSURD PERSON SINGULAR and not even the people onstage noticed, let alone the audience – worst night of my life (vomiting being my least favorite activity of all time) but i looked out at the audience and thought ‘it’s the night before Christmas’ (it was) ‘450 people have come out to see this and have a good time so i HAVE to go on’ i did and somehow got through it. Never again, i hope!
Why do you think people should come and see East Is East while it is on tour around the UK?
It’s a great night out at the theatre and will send people out into the night with a new spring in their step – guaranteed entertainment.
Thanks for having Tea With Wilma