Neil Cooper by
It will be more of a dream come true when Clare Grogan takes the stage this weekend in Barefoot In The Park. A fan of Neil Simon’s 1960s New York romantic comedy, in which newlywed couple Corie and Paul struggle to come to grips with the social mores of the period as well as their new apartment, the Altered Images singer and Gregory’s Girl star has always been a fan. Grogan plays Corie’s scene-stealing widowed mum, Ethel, in the recent Pitlochry Festival Theatre co-production with the Royal Lyceum, Edinburgh.
“It’s really extraordinary and interesting and funny and scary and a little overwhelming and overall very gratifying to have the opportunity to do this,” Grogan says as she gushes about the experience during a break in rehearsals. “I have a very clear memory of the first time I saw the movie with my mom, dad and sisters, and I’ve just loved it ever since, so I was really excited that someone would bring it to the stage.”
On Twitter, Grogan shared her enthusiasm and was shocked when she got a call from her agent saying that Elizabeth Newman, the artistic director of PFT, wanted to speak to her.
“We spoke on the phone, and then Elizabeth said, “How would you like your mother to play, Clare?
And I said, ‘I’d love to.’ I think at the time the decision was very much based on my circumstances, because my dad had just passed away and I suddenly realized it was going to be a very cool way to reconnect with my parents.
I was wondering,’ Why am I being asked to do this? ” You’re not saying no, you’re saying yes. In terms of other stuff that I was supposed to do, I moved heaven and earth to make it happen, but I found myself unable to say no, and so something was going on.
The gut feeling of Grogan fits why, in the first place, she fell in love with Barefoot In The Park, starring Jane Fonda and Robert Redford.
I’m a hopeless romantic,” she says. “When I saw the film, I was really young, but I loved the idea of married life, of having this beautiful apartment and true love, and I just thought the film was very funny as well.
“My sister Kate and I had our own video and we kept rewinding the part where the mom falls down the stairs and we laughed even harder every time,” she said.
The amazing thing about it is that it almost seems like a sitcom on the surface, like Dharma & Greg or Friends’ best episodes. But below that, there are layers and layers of other stuff going on, and that’s the beauty of it, because we don’t all bring our pain or our happiness as we go through life. We’re so good at masking ourselves, and I think Ethel masks what she really is.
She has lost her husband, and now her daughters, who have left to get married, and in her life she must begin this whole new chapter,”She’s lost her husband, and now her daughters, who have left to get married, and she has to start this whole new chapter in her life,”
While Ethel is overjoyed, for the first time, she finds herself living alone and is left behind, not knowing what her role in life is anymore. She was a wonderful wife and a very good mother, and now she doesn’t know where she belongs.
The experience of many mothers and fathers is empty nest syndrome. They don’t know what to do with themselves and have almost forgotten who they are. So for me, the journey is not to know who she is, but to find a little bit of her teenage self again and to find out that there are no limits and that it is only you who restrict yourself.
It was pretty hard for a woman in those years to make the jump at the time the book was published. There were all sorts of freedoms for young people, but maybe not for her age.
It feels like Grogan is going full circle. She is now, as she prepares for Barefoot In The Park, also fronting a new, all-female ensemble of Altered Images, having begun her career by mixing acting success with pop stardom at a very young age.
It is exciting to know that this is going to be my 40th year doing all of this. There’s something really poignant about the fact that I started with all these dreams here as a child, and it wasn’t easy because it never was,’ she said.
But I think I always kept on to my passion about something my best friend wasn’t really for. I still had jobs, but it was tricky sometimes. And I guess it’s e