Razzle-dazzle 'em

 

She can sing! She can dance! She can act! Our guest model, Lisa Lambe, can carry off just about anything.

It's not surprising that Lisa Lambe has been on the stage since the age of three, or that she was a star among the Billy Barry kids. What is disarming - she can sing! she can dance! she can act! - is her unpretentiousness. Fintan O'Toole may have described her as Dublin's very own diva, but she's a diva with grace and good manners, not the big-headed monster you might expect. Ask any of her stage colleagues and they'll say she is a peach.

Lambe has been wowing audiences in a steady run of shows since she finished her degree in theatre studies at TCD in 2002. She is currently appearing in Improbable Frequency at The Abbey, delivering one of the most erotic scenes in full costume that you'll ever see (with Peter Hanley). Before that, she wailed gloriously through the wake scene in both the summer and winter runs of The Shaughraun, directed by John McColgan. Musical theatre is her gift, but her first Abbey performance was in Lorca's The House of Bernarda Alba - "Welcome to the women's club," said Rosaleen Linehan on the first day of that most decidedly female play.

Lambe won't be going to London with The Shaughraun in May, however, because she is moving to the Gaiety for Shay Healy's boy-meets-girl musical, The Wiremen, also produced by McColgan. Set in north Co Mayo, it deals with the rural electrification scheme, (do other countries go on about their rural electrification schemes?). No doubt she'll have another outing with The Shaughraun, if not in the West End, then on Broadway.

And Broadway, most theatre people mutter the minute they see her, is where she belongs. The voice is there, as is the timing. The clincher is her coquettish glance, cocking her head just so and peering out at the audience. And the hair is spectacular, too.

"We all have the curls," she says, of her 10 siblings - seven boys and three girls - of which she was the youngest growing up in Clontarf, Dublin. The boys were into sports, and the girls all had their day on the stage. But Lisa left Billy Barry when she reached 13. "I just wanted to hang out with my friends," she says, putting the pantos behind her. She re-focused when it came to auditioning for the Bachelor in Theatre Studies course at Trinity College, Dublin, and was one of 14 chosen from over 500 applicants. "Those were the toughest days of my life. Very demanding. They extracted every ounce out of us." Aaron Monaghan, who gives a fine comic performance in The Shaughraun, was a classmate, as were Ruth Negga and Judith Roddy.

She took a while to find her feet outside the bubble of college life, but found herself on the Abbey stage in remarkably short space of time. "The most important thing is to be working, to be surrounded by working actors. I have been able to work so consistently, with the best and most demanding in the business. Lynn Parker, for instance, has been amazing, always demanding more. Don Wycherley is an actor forever fine-tuning his performance . . . John McColgan has been generous. The thing is to never stop learning."