My Life in Culture: Writer-performer Michelle Read

The last thing I saw and loved… was The Eternal Daughter, a film where Tilda Swinton plays a mother and her daughter (at the same time!). It was extraordinary and very moving. I think I’m in that head space at the moment because my new show is about remembering my mum and I do talk to her and as her and about seeing her in my own face.

The book I keep coming back to… well, the book I came back to after more than 20 years, and which didn’t disappoint, was Catch 22. It starts off deceptively simple and then gets properly deep and I fell in love with the characters all over again. It’s very funny but also very sharp about war and how it always affects the people at the bottom of the pile the most.

I find inspiration in… lots of things. For this show, it was objects – things that maybe have no intrinsic value but you keep them because they are kind of memory containers; when you see them or hold them they just make you smile.

My favourite film is… Bladerunner. Sexy, intelligent, sci-fi – three of my favourite things!

My career highlight is… tap dancing with several thousand other little girls on Record Breakers on the BBC in the mid 70s. That’s a hard act to follow, but my current highlight is definitely this show.

The song I listen to to get in the zone is… Uptown Top Rankin by Althea and Donna. I love it!

The last show I recommended is… there are two – Anne Gildea’s How To Get The Menopause & Enjoy It! and The Dirtbirds ‘Girls World Tour. I have known Anne and Sue from the Dirtbirds since I first arrived in Dublin in 1991 and have watched them make so much brilliant comedy over the years. They’re inspirational women, go see all their shows!

I never leave the house without… at the moment, it’s my lines in my head. I’m running them as I’m walking or cycling into town!

The best advice I’ve ever gotten… don’t borrow if you can’t afford it. It was my mum’s advice. Plain and simple but very effective over the years. She was a great manager on a tight budget and I think I somehow absorbed that from her, despite my addiction to having lunch out!

My favourite thing about this show is… despite it being about my mum, the audience often say they find they can really relate it to their own experiences. So I love that it’s really specific but also very relatable.

After a performance, I… love to hang out and chat to the audience, especially after this particular show because people often to want to talk about their own experiences or memories – it’s fascinating to hear them and it’s also lovely to share that.

If I wasn’t in theatre, I would be… in a ditch, probably. Or making millions. My natural propensity for drama means I can only give myself quite extreme storylines, sorry alternative life paths.

The magic of theatre to me is… being in the space together. It’s a communal activity. Everyone is alive and in the same place at the same time giving this great big act of shared commitment and suspension of disbelief. When it works, it’s so awesome (in the entirely true sense of the word). Theatre rocks!

Imagery courtesy of Michelle Read

Michelle Read’s evocative new show On A House Like A Fire plays at Bewley’s Cafe Theatre from May 20 – June 8. Find out more information and get your tickets here.


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