According to Sue Collins their Wikipedia entry would read: “Early Jurassic girl group created pre-boom, re-born post-boom in 21st century fabulousness. Harmony, choreography, sensible yet unbelievably glamorous, and affordable, stage attire their signature. One of them is married to David Bowie .”
Yes, The Nualas are back. Older, wiser, heftier — according to Anne Gildea, or Upbeat Nuala, as she prefers to be known on formal occasions. Anne, who grew up in Manchester before moving home to Ireland, is joined on stage by No Nonsense Nuala, aka Sue Collins from Dublin. The third Nuala — and she is the fifth third Nuala, if you follow — is Boston-born actress and singer Maria Tecce, who joins the original two members Upbeat and No Nonsense. The all-female comedy team are on the road again with their new show One Night of Dignity after a break of almost 10 years. So was it the usual reasons that drove them apart as well as bringing them back together? In a word, yes. According to the ladies, finding Jesus, establishing an Al-Qaeda Network, joining the Nolans, helping to track down the ‘God particle’ at the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland — all of that and much more absorbed the majority of their time. Welcome to the surreal world of the Nualas’ comedy.
“Some people call our humour sophisticated silliness. I’d describe it as surreal,” says Sue Collins. “When people come to our gigs they enter the Nuala World. It’s as simple as that.” Their mixture of off-the-wall humour, comic songs and sharp wit has brought the three women huge success. “We’re a very bookable live act. We’re not cynical, and we’re not edgy. But we appeal to a wider audience as well as comedy circuit-goers. “While our humour is surreal, it’s also accessible. The mundane problems of being a forty-something mum, for instance, might get the odd mention. But we work hard at the act, getting the material right; some of our songs take months to write. “I suppose you would have to call us a novelty act, but on the other hand we appeal to a widely diverse audience.”
What Sue omitted to say was that The Nualas are simply a very, very funny act, and over the years have written some stunning comedy routines. And while fortysomething mums certainly do appear, so do some very strange comic creations. To my probing journalistic question: “What’s the worst idea for a song you’ve ever had?” Sue responds with: “It was about a circus monkey being pursued for the tax he never paid. We only sang it once.”
Their latest song Yummy Mummy Recession Blues seems set to have a somewhat longer run than the monkey song. The Nualas performed it on The Late Late Show last year to huge acclaim, and successful live shows soon followed. The ladies seem certain to pick up from where they left off some 10 years ago. During their previous seven years together The Nualas achieved 17 theatre runs, six of which were sell-outs at the Edinburgh Festival, and extended seasons in theatres in London, Dublin and New York. Their two BBC Radio 4 runs remain probably the first — and very possibly the only — Radio 4 programmes to have a signature tune played by a bodhrán player, Seamus, who also doubled as the continuity announcer. Goodness knows what middle England made of the ladies.
The mechanics of how the very welcome Nualas reunion came about seems as subject to interpretation as their splitting up. As Sue, aka No-nonsense Nuala puts it: “Lots of people have been asking how we got back together. Well, I passed Nuala on Grafton Street, thought, ‘Hang on, that’s Nuala’, went back, put €2 in her hat, and the rest, as they say…”
But it seems there is another version of their reunion. Back in 2010 Anne got a call from an independent production company who was putting in a pitch for a one-off RTÉ series of comedy shows — and he wanted to include The Nualas in his lineup. Anne called up Sue, who said, yep, let’s do it. As it happens the production company wasn’t successful with their application. But the seeds of a Nuala reunion had been sown. Whatever the reasons and the practicalities of The Nualas’ reunion, those of us who have enjoyed the trio live, on the radio or on the box have much to rejoice about, particularly as they’re heading for the London Comedy Festival on October 14.
No wonder David Bowie was so keen to marry any — or indeed all — of The Nualas .
The Nualas appear at the London Comedy Festival at the London Irish Centre in Camden on October 14.