Saturday, 22 September 2018

The one-woman show specialist

ACTRESS Rohan McCullough has made a name playing three very different women from very different backgrounds — the magical children’s

ACTRESS Rohan McCullough has made a name playing three very different women from very different backgrounds — the magical children’s writer Beatrix Potter, the pacifist author of Testament Of Youth Vera Brittain, and now Clementine Churchill.

She has created a special niche for herself in one-woman shows, although it is not through choice and she admits that appearing on stage on your own is “terrifying”.

But then this is a woman whose idea of enjoyment at her coastal home in Norfolk is to pull on holey jumpers and set sail in her 8ft sailing boat. When she spoke to the Standard she was about to set off …..naturally solo.

She will be bringing her latest one-woman success My Darling Clemmie to the Kenton Theatre on October 12 — the first time she has appeared here, although she does have local connections with her friends Simon Wiliams and Lucy Fleming and for some time she worked with John Mortimer in his stage show.

“I was one of his harem, what a lovely man he was to work with,” she says.

“I remember doing a show with him in Dublin towards the end of his life and his voice was faint and I had to prompt him to the jokes he told without giving the punch lines away. But the audience loved him.”

Rohan has a huge admiration for Churchill’s wife and some of the respect is personal. “I feel very admiring of her and how she battled life.”

She admires the way that Clementine dealt with the man who was such an iconic figure during the war but not the easiest man to deal with on a personal level.

She says: “My mother had to deal with my father who had a great ego and I like to think that what the play shows is how women deal with living with men like that.”

Ironically it was her mother who was involved in the start of both the Potter and Brittain scripts while Clemmie has been written by one of he country’s leading playwrights and authors, Hugh Whitemore, who previously wrote the Emmy-award winning TV film, The Gathering Storm, about a tumultuous period in the marriage of Churchill and Clementine. In the TV film, Churchill was played by Albert Finney and his wife by Vanessa Redgrave. And in a twist of fate Rohan had a role in it.

“It wasn’t a very big role and it got cut so in the end I think I had two words and I can’t even remember those now,” she says. “I thought Redgrave was was a wonderful Clemmie in the film.

“Hugh Whitemore has done an incredible amount of research into it so that when I came to do Clemmie the part was there already, I didn’t have to do any real research.”

Rohan has performed her show at Churchill College in Oxford and has received the backing of Sir Winston’s only surviving child Lady Soames who, says Rohan, has been “extremely supportive” of the production. But appearing as the only actor in a one-woman show brings its own pressures.

“I was terrified the first time and kept asking myself ‘Why do I do it?’’

“It was not something I ever set out to do, it is just the way thing have turned out. I can remember reading a book by Laurens Van Der Post’s wife Ingaret Giffard, The Ways Things Happen and this is how things have happened for me.”

She trained for the stage at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School and began her career in the original cast of the legendary musical Hair. Her film and television appearances include Sunday Bloody Sunday, Derek Jarman’s War Requiem and David Hare’s Strapless.

It has now led her into the lives of three remarkable women and on to the stage of the Kenton.

lMy Darling Clemmie plays at the Kenton Theatre on Saturday, October 12 at 7.45pm. For tickets call (01491) 575698 or visit www.kentontheatre.co.uk

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