THE ESTEEMED English actress Alison Skilbeck is bringing her widely-acclaimed one-woman show, Are There More of You? to the Town Hall Theatre for two nights only next week.
In this self-penned comedy-drama, Skilbeck tells the linked tales of four women who are reaching out in the dark and reveals what lies behind the brave faces of Claire, Sophia, Sara and Sam, all of whom reside within the same London post-code, SW11. Painful, scary, and hilarious by turns, the stories chart each wildly different character’s search for love and happiness.
Skilbeck has enjoyed a long and varied acting career with her screen credits taking in roles in hit series such as Sherlock Holmes, Miss Marple, Doctor Who, and Midsomer Murders. On stage she has appeared in the West End and all over Britain, including a five-year stint with Alan Ayckbourn’s company in Scarborough during which she featured in six Ayckbourn premieres.
Are There More of You? marks Skilbeck’s debut as a writer and the response, from both audiences and critics, has been hugely enthusiastic (“sharply funny, often poignant and always engaging” - Oxford Times; “A lovely piece of work” - Alan Plater ).
“It all started when I set myself the task of writing some monologues,” Skilbeck tells me over a Monday phonecall. “I was partly inspired by Alan Bennett’s Talking Heads, then I thought maybe if I write a few I could link them together.
“The first woman, Claire, is an ambassador’s wife. I’ve toured the world quite a lot and been at embassy receptions and these women are always so perfect on the surface so I was wondering what might there be underneath and that’s what I set out to discover.
“In all four of the women there is a sense that we shouldn’t judge them by their appearances. We meet each of them at a crisis point in their lives. I’ve said of them that they are women on the verge of a nervous breakthrough.”
Skilbeck continues with her description of the play’s characters.
“The second woman, Sophia, runs an Italian café, she is as far away from conventional casting of me as possible! I had observed a woman very similar to her in a café and I loved her strength and the way she spoke. In the play, I gave her character the ambition to turn her café into something different.
“For the third woman, Sara, I invented this strange New Age-y technique called ‘spirit weaving’ but I don’t just mock her, there is a big question hanging over her. Finally, there is Sam who is from the north of England and is very bluff. She calls a spade a spade but even though she appears to be rock solid and impregnable in fact she isn’t.
“They all link and kind of creep into each other’s stories even though I only play one character at a time. On another level, because I’m an actor, the play is very much about how acting can be all about an on-the-spot transformation. I’m on stage the whole time and I only change bits of costume which I pick up from a hatstand.”
Since its premiere in 2006, Skilbeck has performed Are There More of You? in London, Edinburgh, Ireland, and Sri Lanka. “It was wonderful touring Ireland earlier this year and it was lovely to be asked back to do this tour,” she tells me.
Are There More of You? is at the Town Hall on Friday October 4 and Saturday 5 at 8pm. Tickets are €15/12 and available from the Town Hall on 091 - 569777 and www.tht.ie