Fringe Preview: Eilish O’Carroll, Live Love Laugh

Elish O'Carroll. Picture: BBC

Elish O'Carroll. Picture: BBC

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WARDROBE mistress - that was Eilish O’Carroll’s first job with Mrs Brown’s Boys. Then, the actress playing Winnie McGoogan, had to take a few nights off and O’Carroll found herself taking over the role.

By the sounds of things, her brother Brendan, better known these days as Agnes Brown herself, didn’t really give his sister much choice.

Elish O'Carroll. Picture: comp

Elish O'Carroll. Picture: comp

“When Brendan wrote the first Mrs Brown’s Boys play, I wasn’t in it. He had cast somebody else. Then one of the ladies needed to take time out. He gave me two hours warning.”

Luckily O’Carroll had always kept up a love of performing through amateur dramatics.

“I asked, ‘Is there any chance we could have a rehearsal?’ He said, ‘What for?’

“‘Well it would be nice to know what I’m going to say,’ said I. ‘Don’t worry about what you’re going to say, just worry about what I’m going to say, and nobody knows what I’m going to say,’ he replied. And that was it.”

The youngest of 11, the two O’Carrolls are now loved by millions, thanks to the BAFTA Award-winning TV series and their annual visit to the Playhouse is now a guaranteed sell-out.

“Being the youngest of 11, we loved being the centre of attention. We were given a lot of time to entertain ourselves,” reflects the actress.

“So I suppose it was always in us to perform. As a teenager I sang in a folk band called Pentagon. Five girls and we thought we were going to be the bees knees, but then life got in the way. I settled down, got married and moved to England when I was 20. And stayed until I was 45. I often wonder what would have happened had I not.”

One thing that might have happened, is that O’Carroll would have made her Fringe debut earlier.

This month the 57-year-old does just that in Live Love Laugh, at the Pleasance Courtyard.

A one-woman show it tells her story of growing up in 1950s in Dublin, moving through two failed marriages, coming out, and embracing getting old.

“Everything in the show is true. I never intended to write an autobiographical show. It just evolved. After seeing it someone said, ‘Gosh you’re very brave.’ I thought they meant getting up and performing alone. I didn’t realise they were talking about the content. I hadn’t realised how honest I had been. I didn’t realise it at the time but I think it was a journey to exorcise a hell of a lot of personal demons.”

To discover which one, you’ll have to see this emotional and very funny play.

Live Love Laugh, Pleasance Courtyard, until 24 August, 2.45pm, £13-£17, 0131-226 0000