The boom is back
By Áine Toner
Aisling O’Neill is looking forward to her stage return in BOOM?. The hit Irish comedy also stars Claudia Carroll, Isobel Mahon, Maria McDermottroe and Rose Henderson and audiences should be prepared to laugh. A lot. Set at the height of the country’s economic boom (everyone remember that?), it focuses on those who are living their best lives in the financial fantasy and those who are falling through the cracks.
“We did this [play] a couple of years ago out in the Dolmen Theatre in Cabinteely so we’ve done a lot of the groundwork on it already,” says Aisling. “We’re not going into rehearsal until early March and because I’m doing Fair City it’s going to a tight schedule.
“I have a lot on my plate but I know it’s doable. I’ve double jobbed a lot of times before so I’m only doing a week so it’ll be okay. We’ve all done it before so I’m at the lines already so please God it’ll all come together I’m sure.”
Aisling describes the play as ‘a funny outlook on the way people carried on and behaved during the time of the boom,’ and laughs as we discuss the characters who arose from that odd time.
“There were so many of people who evolved from the boom. The character Carmel, played by Maria McDermottroe, a lovely woman and a fabulous actress, I just crack up laughing every time I see her play that role. Because it’s one of those woman who is totally preoccupied on what her daughters are doing and what people think of her and this kind of false set of values which are just so funny when you look at them, very much keeping up with the Joneses. We all know someone like that who goes on like that.
You look at it and you relate to it, thinking, ‘Oh my god, this is how people were going around, driving their big 4x4s and spending a fortune on their driveways and this kind of nonsense.’ When the crash came, I think people were like, ‘What the hell were we at?’”
We talk about it being a good time for women in the industry and Aisling agrees.
“It is lovely, there’s five of us and the director is a woman. It is very empowering and it’s lovely that there’s five female roles altogether.”
Despite being handed a lot of heavy drama work, the actress enjoys comedy, seeing it as something within her. We ask if son Christopher (10) is interested in acting.
“He really liked the Fair City storyline around Katy but I don’t know, he might be in time. He does little skits in our sitting room that make us laugh. I see things in him but I’m letting him just be who he wants to be.”
For many, Aisling is the no-nonsense Carol, Fair City’s passionate and often misunderstood matriarch. It’s evident how much she enjoys the role and that she feels lucky with her characters and what the writers give her.
“I love playing her because she evolves all the time. She grows up and she can revert back to her basic personality traits as well, especially when she’s pushed into a corner. There’s such an enormous sense of vulnerability in her, and honour. She nursed her father who had done that to her. She’s got a really humane, forgiving streak that’s just woven through her and she’s just got a mighty heart. She tells the truth and that’s what I really like about her, she tells it like it is.
“She doesn’t apologise for being selfish sometimes either. At least she doesn’t dress it up as mock humility.”
She says that being recognisable is part and parcel of the job and that she sometimes forgets.
“I’m going about my business, my shopping, and then something happens and you go, ‘wow!’ I’ve never quite come to terms with it, I’m still me, you can’t go around thinking you’re Carol from Fair City, I’m Aisling, I’m Chris’s mum, you go around living your life.”
For Carol’s future, she wants her to ‘keep on fighting, keep on kicking, keep on learning.’
“She’s a tragic heroine. I’d like her to be happy, I think she deserves to be happy, but for a while. And I think she’s nearly there. What I like about her is that she never stops learning, never.
“I think Robbie’s her match but he’s got to be as straight and he’s got to be as strong as her. He’s let her down with this affair so he’s going to have to come up with something very bad to win her back.”