Belfast-born West End star Rachel Tucker on her Abbey musical

Come from Away is based on an amazing true story of how the residents of Gander in Newfoundland, Canada, welcomed 7,000 air passengers when they got stranded on the island after 9/11, when the air space surrounding North America shut down. It’s a real ensemble piece, and all of us play multiple roles. I play Beverley Bass, the first woman ever to be ranked as an American Airlines captain, who was forced to ground her plane, and Gander resident Annette, a school teacher and one of the first on the ground to offer help. They’re both very different with different accents, so it’s a real challenge. It’s such a powerful story. Sometimes real life is better than fiction, and I love that, when faced with one of the worst tragedies in the 21st century, these guys used kindness, hospitality and generosity to turn things around. It’s such a well-crafted production. There are 12 of us on stage at all times, playing multiple roles, in various accents. There’s rarely a moment without music to carry the tale... It’s a test, and a real testament to what live performance can be.

This’ll be my first time working with the Abbey, but my first time working in Dublin was my first professional show at the Olympia, where I played Maureen in Rent. I was 19, and me and my best friend Samuel got the two lead roles. I love the vibrant culture of Dublin and I’m looking forward to getting to hang out in the city again.

I’ll spend Christmas in Belfast with my family, and my son and husband will join me there. We book the front row of the Grand Opera House pantomime every Boxing Day for the whole family. And I hope to celebrate New Year’s in Dublin.

I’ve never worked as intensely, with such time for detail, and at such a pace. Our director, Chris Ashley, and the rest of the creative team gave us a whole four days to sit around a table and discuss the script and the real life story. We were able to share our experiences and talk so openly about it. It’s been a wonderful mixture of work and play.

This is just the beginning of the Irish and UK Come from Away’s journey. We have London’s West End to look forward to in late January once we wrap up at the Abbey, so it will be fun to be back home with my husband and son, Ben.

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Saying “I’m in a show in the West End” will never get old for me – it’s something I dreamed of as a little girl and it is always an honour and a privilege to have a job like this.

 

This month, I’ll be…

Watching... Old movie musicals. This was a big tradition in our house, not only over Christmas, but all year round, so I’m looking forward to watching Christmas movies and musicals with my son and husband when they arrive in Dublin.

Listening to... Michael Bublé’s Christmas album.

Reading... I’m in the middle of The Day the World Came to Town by Jim DeFede, which is also about events in Newfoundland post 9/11.

If time and money allowed… I would love for me and my family to be able to see all the wonderful sites of Dublin. I’d love to see The Book of Kells, as I’ve always wanted to. I took my husband to Kilmainham Gaol years ago, but I’d love to return and take my son, Ben. And just enjoy living and spending the Christmas period shopping in Dublin.

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Come from Away runs at the Abbey Theatre until January 19, abbeytheatre.ie.

Photograph by Helen Maybanks

 

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