I'VE been completely immersed in rehearsals for my new play Grumpy Old Women this week, although I have been managing to squeeze in some quality time with my eldest daughter Chloe before she heads back to the States next week.
It's been great having her around over Christmas. Both she and my youngest daughter Naomi have been so supportive in helping me prepare for this role.
We've actually had some nice family nights out with their father David Agnew as well. We went for a couple of dinners and things like that. Anyone can see I'm a lot cheerier now, it's a great relief to have the whole thing with David sorted now that he's not with that other one (Ruth Hickey). We've finally got the old David back!
I almost feel like Mrs Doubtfire playing happy families!
I had a very tough year last year, first I had that bloody collapse from the asthma and then poor Gerry (Ryan) died, God rest him. I still miss him enormously every day.
I'm glad to report that so far this year is getting off to a better foot although my asthma has been playing up a bit again. Hopefully it will clear up quickly.
I've been eating, breathing and living the script all week. Basically we just started rehearsing Act One last week and now we're on Act Two this week, so it's been full on.
On Tuesday evening when I finished rehearsals I had to go straight to the Fitzwilliam Hotel to do a cover shoot for Women's Way. It was after half-ten when I got home and dragged my sorry body into the bed, where I had a cup of tea and put the glasses on and started learning my script again. If it wasn't for my two daughters I don't know what I'd do. Naomi has been so supportive and has been helping to feed our large menagerie of dogs and feeding the family. And then Chloe has been great at helping me to read my lines, she's absolutely fantastic at sight-reading.
She's due to go away on January 31 so I'm absolutely heartbroken that she's going to miss my opening night at the Gaiety Theatre on February 1. She and her group Celtic Woman are actually due to open in Florida on February 4, which would have been my late mother's birthday, so there's no way she can stay for it. She'll come to the preview night when we open at the Moat Theatre in Naas next Wednesday instead.
I have to say I'm very excited about its debut. It was a very long process to find this play. First I flew over to London to see Calendar Girls and I was sitting beside two little ex-nuns from Sligo. They said to me, "No doubt the next time we see this it will be in Ireland and you'll be in it". Initially I thought yes, but by the end of the night I went away thinking, 'this isn't terribly good'. By the end of the night I rang Robert C Kelly, who had sent me over, and told him there was no way it would work in Ireland.
It's just too British, it's full of ladies with their cricket clubs and jolly hockey sticks. And nakedness? What nakedness? I didn't see anything but a few flabby arms. Sure now they're bringing it to Dublin anyway! After another few unsuccessful trips over to London's West End I came across Grumpy Old Women and I knew it was the one immediately.
Simon Delaney is directing it and my God I don't say it lightly of anyone, but I really think the man is a genius. He's just so funny.
I have some great co-stars as well in Flo McSweeney and Una Crawford O'Brien.
It was actually Flo's birthday on Monday so I baked her a bunch of tiered cupcakes.
I've also been commissioned to make a birthday cake for my electrician's daughter, who turns one this week, so I really have my hands full. I still love making cakes. Whenever the day comes where I finally get to retire I'll be able to bake all day long.
At this stage I wouldn't give a fiddler's fart if I never saw the stage again. I would be happy to stay at home and hang out with my daughters while they still want to hang out with me, but every time I say I'm not doing another show another materialises.
Hopefully this one will be a success. We'll see what happens after that!
Grumpy Old Women will run from Tuesday, February 1 to Saturday, February 19, at the Gaiety Theatre in Dublin