Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 23 August 2014

Relatively Speaking: Roma Tomelty and Colin Carnegie

Actress Roma Tomelty is currently being directed by husband Colin Carnegie in their Centre Stage company's production of Kennedy's Children at Belfast's Grand Opera House. Their daughters – Ruth, Rachel and Hanna – are also following in their parents' footsteps

Name: Roma Tomelty Age: 68

Occupation: Actress

Relationship: Wife of Colin

Colin and I both remember where we were when John F Kennedy died. Colin was still at school in England and I was taking the famous 77 cross-town bus from the Falls Road in Belfast to the north of the city. Everybody was talking about it; JFK was Catholic and of Irish descent and such a hero to many here.

Colin's from a very different background – English public school boy and all that – but we hit it off very well when he came to Belfast to audition for a production of Richard III I was involved with, in 1969.

We were friends first; it was about three years before it became romantic. We were building a set for one of dad's plays and had to go to a mill for some canvas, and on the way back there was more of a spark between us. But then I went to America to work for three years, between 1971 and 75. He never tried to stop me and I liked that about him. We did the long-distance romance thing and got married soon after I came back.

Working and living together only gets more complicated when I'm acting and he's directing but we don't discuss performances at all at home. That's a no-no. We might discuss ticket prices and publicity and so on but that's it. Never anything personal.

We do our own thing at home. Colin has a computer in his study and he's on it most of the time while I'm downstairs in my makeshift office in the kitchen. He likes classical music so he gets sent off to recitals in Wigmore Hall in London for birthday and Father's Day treats. The thing that annoys me about him the most is that he's usually right. He's more methodical than me. He'll take things apart to fix them – that annoys but pleases me.

He has a good sense of humour and that public school-bred propensity for debate and fairness. He's very logical and thinks things out, unlike that Irish hot-headed way. He's Church of England and from a line of Anglican clergy. It was never a problem when it came to our daughters – they were baptised Catholic and went to a Catholic primary school until we sent them to Lagan College.

Like the cast of the play, they don't remember Kennedy. Colin and I feel very old in this production – one of the actors didn't even know who Jackie Kennedy or Khrushchev were on the poster! Frustrating, but chastening."

Name: Colin Carnegie Age: 65

Occupation: Theatre director

Relationship: Husband of Roma

I was acting in Dublin when I got the call for an audition with Roma in Belfast. We got on well but she was my boss – I was working for her.

My first impression was of a very strong character, very forthright, and I was slightly in awe of her.

It was always very pleasant though and, as I got to know her better, we became friends.

Women are better at remembering these (romantic) things. I do recall the two of us going off together to buy fabric and props and so on, and one time thinking "Oh hello – there might be something going on here."'

But the proposal? Goodness! I could in deep trouble with Roma over this ... . We were in England at the time; we'd both missed out on university when we were younger so she went to study at York and I went to Bradford.

It wasn't one of those drop-down-on-the-knee things – it was more of 'would it be a good idea to ...?'

We have different interests. We don't watch the same sort of things on TV and I like classical music more than Roma does.

I'm also a little bit of a techno-geek; I find doing things on my computer relaxing. Roma's the complete opposite.

She's not the tidiest person in the world. I'm certainly more tidy – not immaculate, but there comes point where I'll say, 'I have to sort this mess out'.

I'm a bit of a fusser; she's more decisive. What I like most about her I suppose is her strong forceful personality. She's not afraid to say what she knows is right.

Poignant take on dark day for US

Kennedy's Children is Robert Patrick's darkly humourous and poignant Tony Award-winning play, being performed to mark the 50th anniversary of President Kennedy's assassination

Originally from Portaferry, Roma Tomelty is one of the daughters of the late, great Joseph Tomelty and sister of actress Frances

She leads an intriguing cast of characters – including a frustrated model, flamboyant actor and a drug-addicted Vietnam veteran – who meet in a New York City bar on Valentine's Day 1974, as their dreams dissolve, to explore their more hopeful revolutionary days

Roma's husband Colin was born in Burma.

Kennedy’s Children runs on the Baby Grand stage at the GrandOpera House nightly until Saturday October 26. For more information and tickets tel: 028 9024 1919 or go to www.goh.co.uk

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