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Ali White: You feel a great bond with those who you perform for

As she takes to the stage in hit play God of Carnage at the MAC, Belfast actress Ali White tells Simon Fallaha why a love of live performing is very much in her blood.

Ali White says: "It's a great play for actors. You have four evenly matched and complex characters on stage all at once throughout." The Belfast-born actress is talking about God Of Carnage, Yasmina Reza's award-winning social satire about two sets of initially calm parents who eventually come to blows over their children's unruly behaviour.

Having enjoyed rave reviews on Broadway and in the West End, the play arrives in Belfast's MAC next week for its first ever run in Northern Ireland. Produced by local company Prime Cut Productions, the production is a pleasurable and refreshing experience for Ali, who's used to practising plays in "draughty old church halls". Playing Veronique, one of the four warring parents, has given her much scope for getting down to the nitty-gritty about a very recognisable character.

"Veronique comes from a world like mine, where we all try to be reasonable but there's much to deal with under the surface," Ali says.

Ali's own family background is artistically varied. Her sister, Cathy, is an actress, her brother, Andy, a musician, and her grandmother was a piano teacher. Both Cathy and Ali studied drama at Methodist College, Belfast, attending a drama club every Sunday, while Ali's own taste in music was shaped and inspired by the sound of punk and Bob Dylan from Andy's bedroom.

Yet both mother and father weren't exactly delighted to begin with when Ali told them she wanted to act: "They had hoped I'd follow in my mother's footsteps and go into teaching. But me, Andy and Cathy were all very strong-minded, and the parents saw that nothing would turn us away from our dreams."

Her father Barry White, no relation to the famous singer, of course, was a renowned Belfast Telegraph journalist. "In the darkest days of The Troubles, my dad would always try to give his columns a light-hearted slant so that readers could enjoy a bit of light relief," she says. "He was a big fan of satire and our family share his humour."

And as Ali's creative written work - notably as screenwriter for RTE's The Clinic and the writing and co-creation of RTE/BBC comedy drama Any Time Now - indicates, she has clearly caught the writing bug, too. But did the idea of writing reviews, features or reporting interest her?

"Not so much. My dad wasn't a reader or writer of fiction, so he still can't understand where so many of my original ideas come from!"

Such inspiration has clearly come in handy, although the writing process hasn't always been the smoothest. Any Time Now actually turned out to be rather different from her initial idea; by the time the show was broadcast, the parts she had originally written for herself and two friends had been given to other actresses.

"The conception and creation of the show was a steep learning curve for me," Ali admits. "But I'm glad I did it."

Still, Ali is very happy to be back in acting; to her, it is infinitely more sociable and much more fun than sitting at a desk for hours on end.

"Working with other actors on the stage feels different every single night, with changes happening minute by minute," she says. "Because theatre is so up close and intimate, you feel the greatest bond with who you're acting with and who you perform for. And while God Of Carnage is funny, the characters aren't playing it for laughs. It's very tense."

  • God of Carnage is at the MAC, Belfast, from next Tuesday, February 3, until February 21. For details, visit www.themaclive.com

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