First encounters


PHELIM DREW is an actor. He is currently on tour with 'Port Authority' by Conor McPherson. He will next appear in an Abbey production of 'King Lear'. Son of folk singer Ronnie Drew, he has a country blues band, The Baskervilles

I knew of the Nualas before I met Sue in a pub, introduced by mutual friends: a friend told me he’d seen their show in the City Arts Centre and said they’re really funny – and also quite hot. When I met Sue I thought she was beautiful, but also had a strong face, was extremely intelligent and very funny. We just hit it off. We took it quite gently initially, but I ended up spending so much time with her I sold my own place and we moved in together.

I remember going into Nearys to tell my parents – they adored Sue and my mum and dad were thrilled. We had a fantastic time at our wedding, stayed around for a few days. The day after the day after the wedding, my dad said “I can’t wait to go home and put my feet up and just watch the ads” . . . it was proof that he’d had a wonderful time.

I’ve worked as an actor since I left school, would be well-established in the Irish theatre community. Being a son of Ronnie Drew’s, people sometimes ask why I didn’t go into music. But whether it’s writing, acting or playing music, you have to feel the need to do something, and that’s the way I feel about theatre. Right now I’m doing a tour with Conor McPherson’s Port Authority with the Decadent Theatre Company – it’s run by a guy called Andrew Flynn, a real powerhouse . . . it’s a three- four-week tour that’s taken us from Galway to seven different cities and towns so far.

Most of the time, I come home to Dublin after a show. If I’d been offered this job even two years ago, it might not have been possible – because it’s so stressful being on your own with four small children. Now they’re that little bit older, it’s not quite so daunting. Sue has been incredibly supportive while I’m doing this.

We both just grab time to work . . . we don’t have a study, the house is not that big. The Nualas are absolutely fantastic – it’s not easy writing new material, they work incredibly hard.

I suppose I am quite domesticated. My father wasn’t a new man, he was spoilt by my mother – but she was a very strong woman who ruled the roost at home. When we got to the age of six or seven, my mother would put a cloth into our hands and we’d be told to go and clean the sittingroom. My dad was a very good cook, but his idea of doing the dishes was to throw everything into the sink and fill it up with water. I would be slightly neurotic about keeping the house clean, having a nice dinner, but you do have to lighten up when you have four children.

Port Authority is in Cork on November 18th-20th and in Limerick on November 21st-23rd.

SUE COLLINS is one of the founders of musical comedy trio, The Nualas. From Dublin, she lives with Phelim Drew and their four children in Dublin 8

Phelim and I met in May 1999 in Fallon’s, a pub in the Coombe. It was a beautiful bank holiday evening and I’d been rehearsing all day – the Nualas did a 10-week run that summer in the Tivoli theatre. Phelim lived nearby in New Row Street and dropped in for a pint on the way home. We knew of each other and had mutual friends, Susannah de Wrixon, then one of the Nualas, and our pianist, Conor Linehan, who waved him over.

Romance was the last thing on my mind: I was coming out of a relationship. We chatted all evening, swapped numbers – and that was that. We got married one-and-a-half years later in Kinnitty Castle, Co Offaly, on September 20th, 2000. We waited a while to have children – now we have four.

What was it about Phelim? He’s a gentleman, quite old school, chivalrous, believes in opening doors, ladies first. That struck me. And we had quite a lot in common. My mother, Audrey Park, a violinist, was leader of the RTÉ Symphony Orchestra, and had a high-profile career, although not as high profile as Ronnie Drew’s.

He’s definitely a new man, completely – he’s better than I am at cooking and cleaning house. We juggle things 50/50, we co-parent. It’s the only way we can get through – although having four young children definitely puts a strain on things. We live in the Tenters and Gabby, our great childminder, lives up the road.

Ann Gildea and I created The Nualas in 1995, along with Tara Flynn. I was acting and fell in love with comedy after going to the Comedy Cellar. I knew Ann Gildea, who’d done stand-up in London, and started doing comedy improv myself. The Nualas combined stand-up comedy, writing, singing, directing. We wore minis, tight T-shirts, runners and sparkly glasses to nerd it up. The name Nuala conjured up a country girl living in a flat in Rathmines, finding her inner Nuala. They’re very straight-up, confident, no messing – it’s not a sexy name.

We had a great time – we were festival favourites at the Edinburgh Festival , got an amazing review in the New York Times when we went to New York. We came close to hitting the big time quite often, but never did. I’m philosophical about it. We officially finished in 2001. I created a character called Carmel and did stand-up on tour – I’ve a million and one gags about being pregnant, because I was so often on stage with a bump. The Nualas reformed in 2010, with a new third Nuala, Maria Tecce, and we’re touring around Ireland. People love nostalgia: we try to keep the material a little edgier, a little younger – but our audiences are still forty- and fiftysomething women.

The Nualas Christmas Special is at The Button Factory, Temple Bar, Dublin 2, on December 16th. See

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