A chat with Yvette Parsons aka Irene McMunn[by Sharu Delilkan]
I have known Yvette Parsons for a number of years now.
And I’ve been a big fan. In fact I would go so far as to say I consider her one of Auckland’s greatest actors.
Naturally I’ve seen Silent Night during both the Auckland seasons and am hoping to go along to the show again this month at TAPAC (The Auckland Performing Arts Centre).
And when I heard the show was back in Auckland, by popular demand, I jumped at the opportunity to meet up with the talented Yvette at her fabulous character-home in Westmere.
I was greeted by her lovely partner Jason when I arrived who said, “Yvette is running late. That’s so uncharacteristic of her.” To which I replied “Do I detect an air of sarcasm?” I believe we hit it off thereafter.
While Jason made me a cuppa, I couldn’t help observing all the wonderful memorabilia in their home reminiscent of the set of Silent Night. I soon realised that quite a few of Yvette’s personal treasures, collected over the years, are part of the living room where Silent Night takes place.
Before long Yvette joined us and invited me to sit in the garden to enjoy the evening sun.
Chatting with Yvette, who’s full of beans, is always a pleasure. The only difficult thing is making sure we keep on track, as we tend to talk about ‘every man and his dog’ whenever we meet.
Having toured the show throughout the country to rave reviews over the past year, it was interesting to discover that the TAPAC show will be Silent Night’s third Auckland season within just one year – something I’m told which is no mean feat.
“Auckland is my hometown so I’m really happy to be doing the show here again,” she says.
Silent Night is a story about Irene McMunn who is preparing her unit for her Christmas ‘party-tea’. She does this while regaling stories of her past that include the Tangiwai disaster, courtship and marriage to her late husband Len and recollections of the McMunn family life.
The show is also filled with poignant and hilarious moments. Based on past experience I can divulge that the show also includes some quirky eccentric X’mas touches which “have to be seen to be believed”.
Like most playwrights Parsons has chosen to write about what she knows, which she says has really moved audiences.
Parsons’ insight into the psyche of old folks that live by themselves is unsurpassed, having grown up in an old folks’ home.
“There’s nothing like writing from the heart. Otherwise the audience will be able to see right through you. I’ve had so many people come up to me after the show saying ‘I know that person’ or ‘I can’t believe you wrote that’,” she says.
The 50-year-old character actress, who plays McMunn the elderly widow, is in her element as she describes the character she’s created:
“I absolutely adore playing Irene. As soon as I start getting bored and the show loses meaning for me, I know it will be a sign to stop. But for now I still can’t wait to do the show each and every time. In fact I have often thought she could have her own TV show.”
For those that have seen Silent Night before, Parsons has good news. In addition to being a drama riddled with a lot of home truths that touch a chord with most, she has added a few extra songs to add to the Silent Night’s yuletide-flavour.
“The songs add to the pathos and I find that melodies betray much more emotion than the spoken word,” she says.
Having pretty much done her dash throughout the country, Parsons is currently setting her sights on the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.
“I haven’t worked out how I’m going to get there but I know that Irene is ready to do the circuit.”
TAPAC and Pandora Productions present Silent Night at TAPAC from Dec 14-18. For details TAPAC.