Comedian Teresa Livingstone discusses touring, teaching and her famous granny
Belfast musical comedian Teresa Livingstone is about to embark on her first tour of the north. She spoke to David Roy about her show, Delighted, her former life as a music teacher in west Belfast what her famous granny Bridie Gallagher would have made of her colourful comedy songs
ON STAGE, comedian Teresa Livingstone looks like the embodiment of a particularly rough 'morning after the night before', where the 'night before' involved a succession of alcohol-fuelled mistakes and personal disasters.
Her artfully smeared make-up and birdsnest hair is all part of an anti-glam image perfect for the 'single Belfast lady on the warpath' persona that powers her songs and stand-up-fuelled comedy show, Delighted.
"It's an exaggerated version of myself," confesses Teresa – now happily married in real life – who played a sold-out gig at Belfast's Black Box last year, wrote and performed on the recent BBC NI comedy series Late License and is about to embark on her first proper Northern Ireland tour this weekend.
"The character is about being in your mid-to-late 30s, having played by the rules for the last 18 to 20 years yet things still haven't worked out the way they were supposed to: you're still single, you're struggling with your job and it's getting to that stage of 'I've had enough now – I'll just say what I actually think'.
Indeed, Delighted features Teresa belting out piano anthems about sleazy men in Belfast bars (That Would Be A No), health and lifestyle choices (Cake and Wine), the unbearably smug BT9 set (Nice Ladies), being depressed, single and unemployed while your friends are doing fabulously (Delighted For You) and wishing misfortune on those who have wronged you (I Hope Bad Things Happen To You).
"All of the things I have songs about are basically something that has happened to me in real life or annoyed me in real life," she tells me.
"They cover different aspects of my life in Northern Ireland and the people I encounter. The show has kind of evolved out of that.
"There's also bits of stand-up and stories linking all the songs together. There's some audience participation too. It's not just me standing and singing for an hour and 15 minutes.
"This will be the first time I'll get to do the show a good couple of times in a row and really get to tweak it and improve it as I go."
A lifelong pianist who studied music at university, Teresa was originally a teacher before catching the comedy bug via an improv class at Belfast's Crescent Arts Centre.
"I spent almost 10 years as a full-time secondary schoolteacher," she tells me. "I was the head of music at an all-boys school in west Belfast (Corpus Christi), before I moved abroad to teach in Spain.
"It's funny, some of the Belfast boys I taught back then are coming to see me on this tour. I got a message from them saying like 'Miss Livingstone?! Oh my god!'
"They're all in their late 20s now, but they would have been about 16 when I first started. Back then I was just a quivering mess, but you quickly learn to think on your feet.
"The main difference between then and now is that I can't put a stand-up crowd in detention or phone their mothers. At Corpus Christi, I had all the boys mothers' numbers on my wall!"
Interestingly, there has always been some showbiz in Teresa's genes: her granny was Ireland's first ever international music star, 'the girl from Donegal', Bridie Gallagher.
"I've been playing the piano since I was four – and it was actually her piano I learned on," reveals Teresa, who also admits that she didn't really appreciate the extent of her paternal grandmother's fame until much later in life.
"Myself and my three siblings were her only grandkids. When we were growing up, she was still performing – but I was completely oblivious, because we were so young. Then we were teenagers and were like 'yeah, whatever'.
"But about 10 years ago I got involved with a UTV documentary about her life and actually got to travel to New York to interview people who had seen her live at Carnegie Hall in the 1950s.
"They were crying while they were telling me about these performances, so I had really underestimated the impact that she had on people."
It seems that Bridie spotted Teresa's talents at an early age – though sadly she died in 2012 and thus never got to see her grand-daughter's new career begin to blossom.
"There was a lot of putting on shows in the house while growing up and I was a complete attention seeker," Teresa tells me. "Granny was always very much like, 'oh, you're going to be a star'. I think she thought I would maybe do something along the same lines as herself.
"Of course, this couldn't be further from she was doing! She would probably die laughing if she could see what I'm doing now – and she'd have a heart attack at my hair and make-up, because glamour was such a big part of what she did.
"But also had a massive sense of humour – and she would probably have agreed with everything I'm saying about women and men!"
Teresa Livingstone's Delighted tour begins on Saturday September 16 at Marketplace Theatre, Armagh. For full tour dates see FB.com/delightedforyou