Mrs Brown’s Boys D’Interview

MRS Brown’s Boys may have started as a radio segment in Ireland in the 1990s, but these days it has three series under its belt, a sleigh-full of Christmas ratings smashers, live tours and, by 2014, had made it on to the big screen with Mrs Brown’s Boys D’Movie.

Viewers in their millions have taken the foul-mouthed matriarch and her family into their hearts. Not so the critics, who over the years have called it ‘the worst comedy ever made’ and ‘lazy trash’ — with one claiming he found the recent Christmas special ‘physically painful to sit through’.

Yet while the reviewers may continue to shake their heads in disbelief at the show’s success, nobody is more surprised than Mrs Agnes Brown herself, aka Brendan O’Carroll, who is about to take the latest incarnation of his comedy creation on tour with Mrs Brown’s Boys D’Musical.

At d’movies: Mrs Brown and friends made it to the big screen in 2014

‘It would be very clever of me to say I had a plan and it all worked out… I had no plan. At all,’ he admits candidly, still seemingly bemused by the success that has made him and his wife and co-star Jennifer Gibney multi-millionaires.

‘Honest to God, this was a five-minute piece for radio. That piece then turned into a novel, then two novels, three novels, four novels! Then it was a stage play, then five stage plays, then a movie with Anjelica Huston, and then a movie with me playing the part of Mrs Brown,’ he exclaims, barely pausing for breath. He’s now looking forward to taking a new musical version of the show to arenas across the UK.

‘When you hear 5,000 people burst into laughter spontaneously it actually makes your clothes vibrate. It’s the strangest thing. You just go, “Oh my God” as you feel it,’ he says in awe. ‘The pace has to change a little bit because you have such a large crowd, but the only real difference is the fact that it’s terrifying. It was a very different way of working, I didn’t know whether to write the songs first and then the story, or write the story first and then come up with the song afterwards.’

He talks at a mile a minute, ever enthusiastic, the accent/intonation is the same as Mrs Brown, but his voice is lower. ‘Basically, the storyline is that in the movie Mrs Brown has won a court case but she has a £75,000 legal bill. She sets up a GoF***Me site, that’s what she thinks it’s called, and dodgy phone calls come in all day, then she stops and realises that musicals make money.

‘The closing scene of the show is the opening scene of her musical.’

The songs are mostly original, apart from one of the closing numbers, which got a bit of help from a celebrity songwriter. Brendan explains: ‘It was written for me by The Script — called Hail, Rain Or Sunshine — about working on the market whatever the weather.

‘We always have a good time whether it’s hail, rain or sunshine. I used to run errands for women on the markets and it always struck me that even when things were at their worst they still believed that their ship was over the horizon, that tomorrow was going to be a better day.’ Do things ever go wrong on stage? ‘All the time,’ he hoots. ‘I’m disappointed if it doesn’t. I insist on ad-libbing in every show. One of the things our audience loves is you can come to see the show twice in one week but you won’t see the same one.

‘Once we’ve become comfortable and we know the show inside and out and back to front then you can play. When you play, the rest of the cast have no idea what Mrs Brown will do next. It’s half of the fun.’

O’Carroll singer: Brendan will be donning his frock to tour the muscial later this month

Brendan hopes the show will mean audiences can, at least briefly, forget about Brexit, Donald Trump and other gloomy news.

‘People want to come to an arena and sit in the dark for two hours and laugh their socks off, tap their foot for some music and not think. If we can’t do that, we would all explode. Just sit down and have a laugh, we will take you away from everything — at least for a little while.’

It is perhaps this innate understanding of the pleasure of simple escapism that holds the key to Brendan’s success. And it can’t be said he’s not enjoying it while it lasts.

‘My mother used to say to me, “Sometimes success is like disco music. Don’t try and analyse it, just dance to it.” That’s what I’ve been doing, I’ve been dancing.

‘You prepare yourself for the fact that you might be flavour of the month, then the month is up and it’s someone else’s turn. You have to accept that, otherwise you’ll go insane.’

We reckon Brendan will be dancing for a long time yet.

■ Mrs Brown’s Boys D’Musical is at Glasgow SSE Arena, March 29, and then touring,

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