The mother in law ... and me!

Kathleen Ruddy as Aunt Athy in 'The Devil Wears Primark'
Kathleen Ruddy as Aunt Athy in 'The Devil Wears Primark'

Often, mother-in-laws are the butt of a joke but, with ‘The Devil Wears Primark’ she lies at the heart of a comedy play.

A mother-in-law is someone a lot of women can relate to and it’s Kathleen Ruddy’s own experiences, as well as those of others, that have helped shape the role of the leading lady in the show.

Kathleen, who is the writer, director and Aunt Athy in the production, said: “My husband is half Scottish and half Greek-Cypriot.

“My mother-in-law is obsessed wtih her son and no one is ever good enough.

“The first moment she saw me, she said in Greek ‘don’t bring her back’.

“It wouldn’t matter who I was; she wouldn’t have approved.

This is the first time I have been in Kirkcaldy. It’s really beautiful and really quaint.

Kathleen Ruddy

“She treats me like I’ve stolen her husband and not married her son.

“I feel like a boxer going into the ring. I’m the bantam weight and she’s the heavy weight.

“I keep getting knocked down but, for the sake of my husband and kids, I’ll go back into the ring again.

“It was this that gave me the initial idea for the play.

“Then when I started doing research, I found there were websites where people would share the stories of their mother-in-laws.

“My own experience with my mother-in-law was so horrific that, when I’d tell friends about her, they’d say ‘that’s not true, you’re making it up’.

‘The Devil Wears Primark’ is about how unhealthy a relationship can be between a mother and son.

“No matter who it is that comes to the house, they wouldn’t be good enough.

“I see the character as a mix of Mary Whitehouse and my mother-in-law.

“My husband has seen the play and he can’t see a resemblance to his mum. He thinks it’s a fictitious character.”

The story unfolds as ageing agony aunt, Aunt Athy, gives her listeners sex advice and orders the women to get back into the kitchen where they belong.

In her world, men wear the trousers and women spit-iron them.

She’s about to be awarded an MBE for services to show business and summons her estranged family to show face in support of their overbearing mother.

Aunt Athy is a formidable character who uses the situation to re-attach her steely grip on her children’s lives.

‘The Devil Wears Primark’ features a top cast, including Penni Tovey, Mark McDonnell, John Ritchie and Dawn Chandler.

The team are currently preparing for the first night of their tour at the Adam Smith Theatre in Kirkcaldy on Saturday.

Kathleen said: “Everything is going to schedule and, when I’m directing a play, it’s always a good sign if I nearly wet myself on stage several times. That’s the way I gauge it.

“It (Kirkcaldy) is a good place to start because it’s so beautiful.

“We have always had good audiences around these parts when we tour.

“I think it’s the same sense of humour as the central belt.

“This is the first time I have been in Kirkcaldy.

“It’s really beautiful and really quaint.”

And later in its tour, the show returns to Fife with a date at Carnegie Hall in Dunfermline on Saturday, April 18.