Celebrating life despite the heartache

EILISH O’CARROLL, the sister of comedian Brendan O’Carroll, is still reeling at the death of their brother, Gerry, in October. Even in the midst of grief, however, O’Carroll is pressing on with her one-woman stage show.

“There’s nothing like the death of someone close to make you stop in your tracks and wonder what it’s all about. You’ve got to live life at full tilt, while you can. None of us will go on forever,” says Eilish.

If the privilege of a life is being who you are, then Eilish fearlessly exemplifies this through the subject matter of her performance. Herself.

The realisation of her homosexuality, at the age of 40, and the ensuing Catholic guilt, are all shared in this theatrical memoir. She outlines her journey from wife and mother to falling in love with a woman.

O’Carroll’s performance of the show at the Edinburgh Fringe festival in 2013 earned her glittering reviews, which described it as a “life-affirming treat”. Even though she’s performed the show often, O’Carroll still gets nervous before going on stage. “I’m absolutely terrified, though once I get on stage I usually relax and get into it.”

Her dream of rekindling Live Love Laugh became a reality on a recent trip to Caherlistrane, Co Galway, while researching a book on her mother Maureen’s life.

O’Carroll’s recent performance in Headford was “just a stone’s throw away from where my grandfather, Michael, grew up”. She’s thrilled to be bringing the show to her adopted county of Cork, where she’s lived since 1997.

O’Carroll has made a national treasure of Winnie McGoogan, her character in Mrs Brown’s Boys. Fans of the show will be surprised when the ‘real Winnie’ emerges, without hairnet and rollers, to reveal a woman so unlike her famousalter ego as to be unrecognisable. Winnie won’t be away for too long, though, having recently returned from recording two Christmas specials at the BBC.

Eilish has always been close to her famous brother, Brendan, the pair being the two youngest in a family of 10. Their relationship makes their performance seem effortless. They even ad-lib in front of a live audience.

“I remember we were playing in Cork and the script didn’t mention Winnie as having any kids then. Then, all of a sudden, Agnes turned around to me and asks, ‘How’s Norman?’

“I was gobsmacked and answered, ‘Who’s Norman, Agnes?’ And, of course, I got back: ‘Ah, don’t tell me you’ve forgotten your own son, Winnie’?”

Norman the son has since morphed into Sharon the daughter in the show, a bit of gender bending adding sauce to the dish.

While Maureen O’Carroll is famously the inspiration for the character of Agnes Brown, Winnie’s character is based on Nancy Pimley, her mother’s best friend and neighbor.

“Nancy and my mother used to spend hours at the kitchen table discussing every topic under the sun, like the latest thrillers they were reading, sometimes describing them as ‘pure smut’.”

The gold chain, which Eilish has worn around her neck for the past 35 years, has the words “Live Love Laugh” inscribed on it.

Her warmth and personality are a major factor in winning over audiences, and it won’t be long until she will be performing again with her extended family.

For now though the spotlight is on her alone.

Eilish O’ Carroll will perform Live Love Laugh at the Briery Gap in Macroom, Co Cork, on Friday


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