Wish me the luck of the Irish and a Dublin accent
- Credit: Archant
I am once more in a production. Yes, I know I said I was hanging up my am-dram velvet cape after the last time, but I am very susceptible to flattery.
“I can really see you in this role,” said Helen, the director.
“Is it a crabby older woman?” I asked.
“The music is great and it’s a really nice part,” she continued. (So that would be a “yes” to the crabby old woman then).
“It would be lovely to have you in the show, Lynne,” Helen said.
I felt myself giving in. Being told you are perfect and that no-one else will do (that’s my interpretation of what she said) is a great persuader.
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“I’d love to work with you again, Helen,” I said theatrically, having previously appeared in her Honk! as a fat-bottomed chicken.
Two days later the script dropped through my letter box and, like most actresses, I immediately counted my lines. Enough, I felt, but not too many.
My memory doesn’t serve me as well as it used to. Sometimes, I just stop halfway through a sentence with no idea what I was about to say next. And that’s in real life.
The other challenge is to speak with a Dublin accent.
Having been Bolton for Spring and Port Wine (vocal model Vernon Kay), deep south for To Kill a Mockingbird (Scarlett O’Hara), and vaguely London for Noël Coward’s This Happy Breed (Celia Johnson) I am faced with my greatest challenge yet for A Man of No Importance.
Accents, except my own East Anglian mix of Ipswich laced with Norwich, urged on by a hint of Haddiscoe, don’t come easily and I have to seek out useful examples to copy.
My husband, currently involved in a production of The Witches of Eastwick, is working in American which isn’t a great deal of help.
My daughter is currently rehearsing for the musical Pajama Game, and thus also speaking American while my son’s touring theatre company is knee-deep in A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Sherlock Holmes and so, for the main part, using properly enunciated English. So that’s what’s on; elementary my dear.
So I have taken my inspiration from the television comedy Mrs Brown’s Boys, which I understand to be of Irish persuasion. I can now deliver a full range of swear words in sound Dublin. But, sadly, my character doesn’t swear.
She is Mrs Grace, a tight-corsetted, tight-lipped amateur actress of mature years whose roles include Lady Bracknell in The Importance of Being Earnest, the title role in George Bernard Shaw’s St Joan and Katisha in The Mikado. Sadly, audiences will see little evidence of these past glories.
I have also been able to refer to my fondness for the Father Ted series and have been attempting to replicate the winsome Mrs Doyle. I am very good at saying her lines: “Will you have a cup of tea, father?” and “You will, you will, you will, you will, you will...” but have failed to master my own.
One of the interesting things about Irish, I read, is that they rarely use the word “yes”. This appears to be borne out by the script of our musical play in which I never say yes...
(Who said, “nothing new there then?”)
Similarly, they rarely say “no”. What a boon this must have been for anyone from Ireland taking part in the “yes, no interlude” in the TV game show Take Your Pick. Host Michael Miles would ask quickfire questions and anyone answering “yes” or “no” would be eliminated. It was clearly a game designed for the English.
Anyway I am battling on with tings, doing me best and t’at’s t’at. (Awful accent licensed to Lynne Mortimer by courtesy of ‘Allo ‘Allo French Lessons Ltd). Occasionally I inadvertently wander over the border into Northern Ireland and find myself doing a bit of the Ian Paisleys.
But though I shall be doin’ me best not to ham up the accent, I defer to Lady Bracknell who said: “I do not approve of anything that tampers with natural ignorance. Ignorance is like a delicate, exotic fruit. Touch it, and the bloom is gone.”
The show, which has some very good tunes, is set in 1963. My costume is a beige cardigan, tan tights, a mud-coloured skirt and flat shoes.
You will no doubt have already conjured a picture of this sex kitten. But wait, I also wear a red hat... and you know what they say about red hats.
But, just in case you (and the younger men taking part in the production) are a bit frightened, I can confirm I shall be wearing knickers. Big sensible ones at t’at.