Comedy writers Seonag Monk and Calum MacKinnon are quietly thrilled with the news that their latest comedy written for BBC ALBA, The Woven Thread’s ‘Gaol@Gael’, has been nominated at this year’s Celtic Media Festival to be held in Inverness.
Nominated for the second year running, the writers are still fresh with the heady success of having last year scooped the highly prized and fiercely contested Celtic Media Entertainment Award for the fledgling channel BBC ALBA, with their Comedy ‘Dà La San Dàmhair – Two Days In October’.
“To win the festival’s prestigious Torc for excellence was such a delight,’’ said Seonag.
“To have again secured another nomination at this years festival for ‘Gaol@Gael’ is a bit surreal.”
The writers feel that this recognition for their work could not have happened at a better time. At the end of March, they will fulfil their long held ambition to tour the Western Isles with their smash hit Gaelic theatre comedy show ‘Gaol ’s Gàire – Love and Laughter’. At the moment their home on the outskirts of Stornoway is awash with various costumes, wigs, props and scripts with new ideas constantly being written on memos and post-it notes.
“I sometimes feel as if there are not just two people in this marriage but five,” quips Seonag, as she sits at her computer sharpening up a piece of dialogue.
“I can walk into the kitchen hearing a voice and wonder who it is that has popped in only to realise it is Calum rehearsing one of the characters from the ‘Love and Laughter’ show.”
Calum, from South Uist and Benbecula born Seonag have been writing together for twenty years and their writing credits run across film, radio, television and stage.
“Acting on stage is where I feel most as ease,” Calum explains, “and it’s great to be back with a new comedy show. I love the freedom the stage gives you, the energy you can get from the audience and how you can channel that into your performance.”
At the heart of the ‘Gaol ’s Gàire – Love and Laughter’ show is the Hebridean housewife and comedy character Seasaidh Lexy, brought brilliantly to life by Calum.
Her absurd take on life captured the hearts of the young and old among Gaelic audiences long ago, and the new show takes the audience through the life and times of the character and some of the events that have helped shape her.
“For me as an actor it’s a very interesting experience,” explained Calum. “Because I’m not only playing one Seasaidh Lexy I’m playing several different versions of her. We all change as we grow up, events push us in different directions and that’s what we as writers wanted to explore. We wanted to get under the skin of this character and present that to the audience.”
Seasaidh Lexy is only one element in this delightful and fast paced show which when staged in An Lanntair theatre in Stornoway last year sold out for both of its nights. Another of Calum’s comedy creations also graces the stage with his interpretation of a hapless MC in the guise of cringe inducing Murdo Louis.
The show also allows the writers to appear on stage together in roles which seem to suit them perfectly, as Calum takes on the role of a butler and Seonag an upper class lady in a slapstick homage to an old music hall sketch from the 1920s.
Joining the cast is gifted actor David Walker, whose list of credits runs from Para Handy to MacBeth. Walker is equally at home in drama or in comedy, always the bench mark of the gifted thespian. Completing the line up is up an coming musician Calum MacInnes. Singer-songwriter Calum is the brother of renowned singer Kathleen MacInnes.
“Calum has come to the production full of ideas of how better to use music to enhance the text,” says Seonag. “He has pushed us into being more adventurous with its use, his input has given a different feel to the show, with music playing a larger part.”
The writers have set themselves the task of creating an evening’s entertainment not just to equal any comedy that you would see in any of the finest theatres in Scotland but to better it and the hefty pile of audience feedback forms from previous shows seems to suggest that they are hitting the mark.
Both writers feel that this kind of reaction has been a resounding vote of confidence for their work and all the more reason that they repay their loyal following by organising this island tour.
“We have been asked many times to bring the show to the wider community of Lewis and to come to Harris, Uist, Benbecula and Barra, so we are really pleased that this is now going to happen,” says Calum.
“To hear the sound of raucous laughter from an audience and to know that you have had a part in making that happen is very magical wonderful thing,” enthuses Seonag. “We both hold in our hearts a particular reaction from a woman who had been very ill having undergone many months of chemotherapy, she came to see the show and laughed till tears rolled down her face, she told us she went home that night and slept soundly for the first time in many, many weeks. Calum and I both had a warm glow when we heard that and thought, yes we’re doing ok.”
Gaol ‘s Gàire / Love and Laughter tours in March 2015.
Clan MacQuarrie Hall, Borve 25th March
Balivanich Hall, Benbecula 26th March
St Peter’s Hall, South Uist 27th March
Castlebay Community School, Barra 28th March
Tarbert Community Hall, Harris 30th March
The show has received funding from Bòrd Na Gàidhlig, Comhairle Nan Eilean Siar, MG Alba and environmental service company MSIS.