Actress, co-writer and star of Emmy and Bafta award winning TV series Smack the Pony, Fiona Allen is currently touring the UK with her first stand-up tour.
On The Run which follows Fiona’s warm, engagingly funny and recent journey to the stand-up stage debuted at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe Festival and plays Newport’s Riverfront Theatre on October 26.
In the second of our two-part interview (read part one here!), Fiona explains to Andy Howells the inspiration for her new show.
What’s your debut stand-up show, On the Run, about?
On The Run was originally Mum on The Run. I removed the Mum, because I thought, that’s a bit harsh on my kids. It’s about a build-up of years of doing “work, kids, work. Kids”. I think a lot of us fall into that trap. If it’s not the kid’s thing, then it’s a work thing.
A lot happens to people when they’re in their fifties. They change jobs or get divorced. It’s a real moment when they look and think. my moment for that is “I happen to love my job, but I’ve never done anything for me.” I don’t like the idea of being “Oh, poor me!” It’s not like that. I just wondered, “Well, what else can I do different, that I’ve never thought of?”
That’s when the stand-up came into my head, and I thought, “well, what can I talk about?” If I’m being truthful, is my life. So, my life is work. Kids, work, kids…
Now they (the kids) are getting to a point where they’re big and old enough to look after themselves, they just don’t! They can use a washing machine, but they don’t. They can shut drawers. They can shut a dishwasher, they could wash up, they could cook, but they don’t. I just thought, “Right, this is good, I’ll write this show!”
One critic said to me. “Your material – it’s not changing the world!” I went, “It’s my world, my life, it’s most people’s lives. I don’t know what you’re looking for and I don’t care. This is real and what we get as people. We understand, we get it!”
Then I went off and I started to do it. I remember my son standing by the door and he said, “Mum, are you really going to do this?” I said, “Yeah. See you!” and I went off! (Laughs) I’ve never been away from them for 3 and a half weeks at all. Stand- up is properly like on the road, so, I’m On the Run in a cheeky way. I go off, and I’m doing my thing in my 50s as a mum!
A stand-up who was about 25 in a dressing room full of other comics, once said to me, “You’ve won your awards. You’ve done well. Why don’t you just move over and let us come through?” The only thing I could think to say was, (well, there were a few things, but I won’t because he’s only 25), “I want you to do one thing for me. Remember what you just said to me when you’re my age. That’s all you need you to do!”
I was on a zoom for somebody, and they didn’t know I was on it. Somebody said, “Oh, my God! Do you know how old she is?” And I went, “I’m here. I can hear you.”
The thing about it is, we’re in our fifties, we’re not old. My mum’s 92, and still makes me Paella! If I want to go and do this and I’m a mum, talking about school mums, how annoyed I am at my husband and kids not doing stuff at home, how I feel like I’m freer, because I’ve trapped myself in a life that I chose – I will!
Sometimes the audiences come up to me after a show and say, “Oh My God! That was my life!” I try a load of hobbies, and I’m hopeless at them and people say to me “I get it, because it’s real and it’s true. That’s what we all live like.” I think there’s nothing wrong with doing something you’ve not thought of, and why not?
I don’t care, I’m my age, and I’m not bothered. I will just go and do what I want to do. If people want to come and see me, then fab! For the people that think, “Oh, it’s for the 20-odd-year-olds. I just say, “I’m already thinking about a new show that I might write in two years. So, I’m loving it.”
When you returned from Edinburgh and entered the house. Did you have a load of material suddenly there for your next show?
I had a thought on another show, but I put it in on the back burner, because this is a new thing. I’ve never been on tour before and I’m getting all my dates coming in now. For me, I’m going to do that, it’s getting booked for 2024 and I might go back to Edinburgh with it again on a short run. and then, the new thing it’ll be a way away. I think I’ve got this stuff to say, I’m not changing the world, It’s not an agenda show. I’m not political and I don’t hate men. A lot of my best friends are men, although I take the Mick!
It’s good fun, and I just thoroughly enjoy it. I love going off in the car. I like the driving; I don’t have to share it with my dog and the kids aren’t there laughing at my music. In fact, after a gig I get back in my car and I put Pete Tong on, and I blast that out. It’s fabulous, I thoroughly recommend it!
You’ll be bringing On the Run to the Riverfront Theatre in Newport, South Wales Have you played Wales before in anything?
I haven’t performed there. We used to go to Wales every year on our holidays. My dad loved Anglesey, so, we used to go there every year. I’ve been to Wales a few times. and absolutely love it. I’m really looking forward to it. I go down to Bristol, and that neck of the woods quite a bit. I really like it.
Did you have any funny experiences when you were in Edinburgh?
There was a funny little moment where I tried to buy my favourite brown eye shadow. The shop assistant said, “We haven’t got it, it’s sold out,” and I said, “Oh, no! Can you just check if there might be one somewhere?”
She very slowly went and opened the drawers and said “No, I’ll check online.” She was one of those people who have got those extra-long nails with big shellac’s clicking. Clickety, clack on the keyboard, like argh!
Then, she did a little vocal fry which I talk about in my set, a little croak, for no reason, because it’s very fashionable. She said, (slowly) “It’s been discontinued because, hmmm it’s not trending right now.” I said, “Not trending?” She replied, “it’s not trending!” I said, “Well it’s brown! Are my eyeballs not trending? Like half the population have got brown eyeballs, and we’re not trending?”
She looked at me, like – (Sigh’s) I walked out of the shop, I couldn’t stop laughing. I’m going to do a post about that because I thought it was hilarious.
What do you hope audiences will get from the show?
Hopefully, we’ll have fun and have a laugh for an hour. It’s light-hearted, and I think they’ll get that from what people who said to me.
There’s nothing worse than if you’re the mum or dad on the school pick up. You’re trapped in the playground because that can be tough to negotiate. This is what I mean, it’s not On The Run from my kids, it’s On The Run from the whole bit that goes around it, in that you feel trapped in for years which we all have to do.
It’s that realisation when I see people in the audience nodding as I’m talking about stuff. They get it! I think they’ll get a relatability. Not everything, as not everyone’s got a Spanish mum! I do my Spanish mum character.
The general gist of it is you get to your 50s and think there’s got to be something, not that you don’t like your job, but what else is there? I’m not saying everyone wants to be a stand-up comic. For me, I just happened to be, and people seem to enjoy it!
For the sake of making you feel like an ex-Beatle, do you ever think there might be a day in the future where you get together with Doon MacKichan and Sally Phillips again, and do something else as the Smack the Pony team?
We talk about it every now and again. The thing is, we’re all going off in our different directions, busy doing other things. It’s something that we’d consider because we talk about it, and I think, you know; it would be a good thing.
- For ticket availability of Fiona Allen’s On The Run, check out The Riverfront Theatre and Arts Centre’s website.