June Rodgers

The pop­u­lar comic talks to Nancy Pre­vis about her Christ­mas show

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It wouldn’t be Christ­mas with­out the an­nual June Rodgers show. This year, as she’s done for over two decades, Ire­land’s queen of com­edy will once again de­light her fans with songs, dances, prances, crazy yarns and ca­pers, and a whole walk-in wardrobe’s worth of odd­ball cos­tumes.

“I was brought up dur­ing a time in Ire­land when va­ri­ety was huge on TV and that’s where I got my love for it,” says June, chat­ting dur­ing a break in re­hearsals. “And I want to keep that tra­di­tion alive.

“Mine is a show for all the fam­ily. We’ll have mu­sic from the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s, with Ir­ish themes of course and comedic twists, with plenty of com­edy sketches. I’m very much into vis­ual com­edy, so I’ll have 18 or 19 dif­fer­ent cos­tumes! I be­lieve that if a cos­tume gets a laugh you’re half­way there.”

She con­tin­ues, “As ever, I have won­der­ful singers and dancers, and they can do com­edy as well, so ev­ery­body will get a bite of the cherry! It’s re­ally a night where peo­ple can come along, leave the world out­side and sit back, re­lax, have a nice four­course din­ner and a good laugh.” The only dif­fer­ence this year from her an­nual fes­tive show, June tells me, is the venue. Af­ter many years at the Red Cow on the Naas Road, she says “I’ve moved it to Tay­lors Three Rock in Rath­farn­ham.” It was Tay­lors, she ex­plains, who in­vited her to re­lo­cate. “And I said I’d love to, be­cause they were able to give me the nights that I needed – I have a lot of peo­ple who travel up from the coun­try to see the show – so that’s how it all came about.”

June cher­ishes her fans, many of whom have been loyal since her early days do­ing shows in Clon­tarf Castle; many have be­come dear friends. There’s the fam­ily in Santry: they chat on the phone, mark each other’s birth­days and even go out to­gether.

June tells me about an­other lady, Co­lette, who would al­ways be at June’s shows with her mother. “I called down to see her be­cause her Mum passed away this year, and that’s what you do. We spent hours chat­ting about things. I’m very fond of her and was very fond of her Mum too.”

Pre­par­ing for her up­com­ing Christ­mas show is tough work, but June still makes time to per­form her monthly slot on Live­line’s Funny Fri­day. Not only that, she tells me she was thrilled a cou­ple of months ago when Bren­dan O’Car­roll asked her to be a spe­cial guest on his an­nual Mrs Brown’s Boys’ Christ­mas spe­cial. Un­for­tu­nately, she can’t give de­tails about her char­ac­ter. All she will re­veal, with a po­lite gig­gle, is that it’s “June Rodgers, prob­a­bly as you’ve never seen be­fore…”

When she’s not on stage or be­fore the cam­eras, June is a self-de­clared happy home­bird. Her 120-year-old gran­ite cot­tage in Fir­house (just down the road from Tal­laght vil­lage where she grew up) is es­pe­cially dear to her, be­cause she and her fa­ther bought it af­ter her mother died, more than 30 years ago. “The house had been left va­cant for many years, and when we bought it, there was a tap in the front gar­den and a toi­let in the back gar­den. My Dad did a lot of work on it, but sadly he didn’t live long enough to en­joy it. He never even had the chance to sleep in it. There’s so much of him in this house and that’s why it means so much to me. I could never see my­self sell­ing it,” June says fondly.

Twenty-one years ago, af­ter June got mar­ried, she and hus­band Peter Lane ex­tended the bath­room and added a din­ing area and an­other bed­room. The cot­tage, which was once in a quiet ru­ral set­ting, now has sub­ur­ban hous­ing all around. None­the­less, June’s large gar­den re­mains her pri­vate oa­sis of tran­quil­lity. “You’d never think you were in a built-up area. It’s a lovely big gar­den,” she tells me.

Weather per­mit­ting, it’s usu­ally where you’ll find her. A keen gar­dener, she works with her plants and the soil, learns lines or plays ball with Beauty, the black Labrador. She has an­other dog, Poppy, which June says looks more like a lit­tle fox. “Out there I can be learn­ing my lines while dead­head­ing the plants. It’s nice to pot­ter around, away from tech­nol­ogy.” The cot­tage has fur­ther ad­van­tages: it is con­ve­nient to all ameni­ties, some­thing which June says has be­come in­creas­ingly im­por­tant with age. “You re­alise that you’re get­ting that bit older, and then you start think­ing, ‘Well, we’re near the bus, the hos­pi­tal and the shops…’

“I have some friends who re­tired and moved down the coun­try and it was the big­gest mis­take they ever made.” How­ever, as much as she loves her cosy home, come Jan­uary, June will be away off, rid­ing the high seas. When the fes­tive shows are done and all her cos­tumes have been cleaned and care­fully packed away, then she takes the op­por­tu­nity to scarper.

“You can too eas­ily get wrapped up in this mad world… af­ter I had the fall in 2015,” (she fell just be­fore go­ing on stage to do her show, had to have shoul­der surgery and an ex­tended pe­riod of en­forced rest) “and I couldn’t do any­thing but sit and think.

“I re­alised what’s good in life, so Peter and I de­cided we should spend more time do­ing things to­gether. So last year, for the first time, we set off on a Mediter­ranean cruise. It was so laid-back and it re­ally suited us. Peter was able to chill out and there’s some­thing go­ing on ev­ery hour of the day. It was great to have some­body back home look­ing af­ter the house and the dog­gies, so we could get away for a week. We’re go­ing to do that again in the new year.

“And”, she adds, “my el­dest niece, Karen, has given birth to an­other grand-nephew, so I also want to spend time with them. Fam­ily and friends are very im­por­tant.”

The June Rodgers Christ­mas Show, 30 Novem­ber 30 and De­cem­ber 1, 6-9, 13-16, 21, 27-28 & 31, Tay­lors Three Rock, Rath­farn­ham. Tick­ets at Eventbrite and Tay­lors Three Rock, tay­lorsthree­rock.ie

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