First Encounters: Paul Howard and Lisa Lambe

Lisa Lambe: ‘I’m so proud of him. He’s the bee’s knees’

‘She’s preposterously generous,’ says Paul Howard of Lisa Lambe.  Photograph: Alan Betson

‘She’s preposterously generous,’ says Paul Howard of Lisa Lambe. Photograph: Alan Betson

 

Lisa Lambe is an actor and singer whose career has included playing Nora in ‘A Doll’s House’, touring with Celtic Woman, and playing Sorcha in three Ross O’Caroll Kelly stage plays. She has just launched her first solo album, ‘Hiding Away’, recorded in Nashville. From Clontarf, she and her husband Simon Morgan live in Blackrock

I was a huge fan of the Ross O’Carroll-Kelly books. In early 2007 I got a call asking me to record the voice of Sorcha for The Twelve Days of Christmas audiotape. I was starstruck and so excited about meeting Paul. I found he was just the loveliest, kindest, most warm-hearted person I’ve ever met, even to this day. He was really complimentary about my take on Sorcha. That first introduction to Paul laid the foundations of our friendship.

I love Sorcha and all the characters: Paul’s books and his column give me belly laughs, especially when he writes characters phonetically. I love reading Sorcha out loud, I find my self chuckling away at different passages.

I was in Sweeney Todd in the Gate when I got this lovely message from Paul. It was a beautiful card left at the box office for me saying Landmark Productions was casting the role of Sorcha and were thinking of me for the role. I still have the card. I was very lucky to have met Paul and he’s become not only a person I work with but a dear friend, along with his wife Mary. He is so endlessly positive, and works really hard; he has a great heart, he’s just so thoughtful, that’s why everyone is drawn to him, he oozes natural effortless warmth. Even in the rehearsal room, he’s not precious about losing a line or changing something. He’s so quick at making everything relevant, whether in the rugby scene, or the news. In rehearsals, we laugh so much, it never seems like hard work.

I met Paul’s dad and his brothers and his own circle of friends; it was wonderful to see him spend time with my family when he came to my wedding in Italy. They see him as almost another brother, they fell into each other’s worlds seamlessly. At my wedding he read a word of advice from Ross to my husband. We sang at his wedding to Mary. Sorcha is a world apart from me but when you put on those Jimmy Choos every night, you feel, yes, this is great. In Breaking Dad, Sorcha’s got her eyes set on the presidency.

Mary is amazing, the four of us have had great times together. One of my best memories is of when I was touring in the US with Celtic Woman. Paul and Mary happened to be in LA when we were there, they came to the show and brought me to the Ivy for lunch. We just had the best time. There are periods when we don’t see each other very often but when we do, we fall back into the old habits, the jokes, the memories, it’s effortless, I’m Paul’s number one fan. I’m so proud of the playsand proud that he’s my friend. He’s the bee’s knees.

Paul Howard is the creator of fictional rugby jock Ross O’Carroll-Kelly. As well as his weekly Ross column in ‘The Irish Times’, he has written 14 Ross novels, three stage plays and has a Ross TV sitcom in the offing. He has also written a script for a ‘Billy Elliott’-style movie about cricket. From Ballybrack, south Dublin, he lives in Avoca, Co Wicklow with his wife, Mary

The first time I met Lisa was in the autumn of 2005: Richard Cook, of the agency we were both with at the time, had the idea of producing a Ross O’Carroll Kelly comedy CD, The Twelve Days of Christmas. Lisa, who I’d never met before, played Sorcha. Everyone on the CD was great but she was the stand-out. She completely got who Sorcha was.

About 18 months later, when we were putting Ross O’Carroll-Kelly on stage, I said there’s only one person who can play Sorcha, Lisa Lambe. Anne Clarke, the producer, spoke to her agent and she’d been offered something else. Anne said, sometimes a letter or a card, a nice persuasive message, can work. I was on the way to Prague for the weekend and scribbled a note to Lisa and left it at the stage door of the Gate, where she was appearing in Sweeney Todd. It was a Friday afternoon. By the time I got back on Tuesday, Anne called and said, whatever you said in the letter, I think it worked.

So Lisa did the Last Days of the Celtic Tiger. She’s a great actor and extraordinary singer but she had something that’s not common amongst actors, she has great comic timing. My wife Mary and Lisa are terrific friends, and I get on great with her husband Simon. They were guests at our wedding in 2009 and they both sang.

Another reason we hit it off is that she comes from a big working-class family like me, and very male dominated, numbers-wise – she has seven brothers and two sisters. Our house is the same, there were four boys, no girls, a very male environment. When Lisa’s brothers all get together, when they start slagging each other and other people, it brings me back to growing up in our house where it was exactly the same. At mealtimes you had to park your sensitivity outside the room and you still do. All Lisa’s brothers are hilarious but her father, Pa Lambe they call him, is one of the funniest men I’ve ever met.

She’s preposterously generous. I think that comes from coming from a big family. Hers are very open, you can just feel the love they have for each other and that’s what my family is like. You can’t go to Lisa’s house, look at something and say, “that’s lovely” – she’ll put it in your bag or in the boot of your car. It’s too much, so we have this tit for tat thing going on with her.

I’m friends with other members of the cast but Lisa’s the one that Mary and I are closest to. Lisa and Simon came down to stay over Christmas for a night with us in Avoca and we get on so well – we just have great fun.

Breaking Dad continues its run at the Gaiety theatre, Dublin until Saturday, February 28th

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