Liza Pulman: ‘Streisand sent my mum a handwritten letter, saying it was a privilege to meet her’

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Liza Pulman: ‘Streisand sent my mum a handwritten letter, saying it was a privilege to meet her’

Liza Pulman (49) is a singer, comedienne and part of the comic trio Fascinating Aida. Her mother is an actress, and her father was the well-known screenwriter, Jack Pulman. She lives in Cornwall with her husband, Steve


Liza Pulman of Fascinating Aida
Liza Pulman of Fascinating Aida

I love bread. The thought that I’m going to have a nice piece of toast actually wakes me up. I get up at 6.45am.

I live in Cornwall with my husband, Steve. But when I’m doing a show, I’m away touring. At the moment, I have a solo show where I sing the songs of Barbra Streisand. I don’t do impressions of her. It’s more my tribute to her. I will be in the NCH, Dublin next Saturday.

Cornwall is pretty beautiful. I was a born-and-bred London girl, and I never thought that I would live outside of a big city. But I love it here. We live on a creek, so we overlook water, and fields beyond it. It never ceases to take my breath away. We’ve got an upside-down house, so I sleep downstairs, and when I come upstairs in the morning, the views are breathtaking.

I’m a BBC Radio 4 listener – The Today Programme. I like to get my news and start shouting at John Humphrys early on. I tend to do emails while I’m having my breakfast.

I’m an actress, singer and comedienne rolled into one. The last couple of years have been heavily focussed on my own solo stuff. Prior to that, I was doing a lot of work with the musical-comedy trio – Fascinating Aida. I’m still part of that group. Initially, I trained as a soprano, and I was an opera singer until I was about 30. But I gave it up because I couldn’t express myself enough through the medium of opera.

My family are theatre people. My father was a very eminent screenwriter – Jack Pulman. He wrote the scripts for I, Claudius and War and Peace. My mum, Barbara Young, is an actress, and she is still working at the age of 88.

I grew up in the theatre. My mum was always doing theatre and television stuff. If she had to do a big shoot the next day and she needed to learn lines, I’d sit on the end of her bed and read scripts with her. As a result, I became unbelievably proficient at being able to read.

At home, I also sang close harmony with my sister. We’d sit at the piano, and sing for all the crazy theatrical parties that dad would have at the end of a big shoot. All the cast and crew would come to our house in Hampstead, and my mam would cook for about 100 people.

My dad died rather suddenly when I was 10. His study was next door to where our piano was, and my mum said that I really started singing the day after my dad died. We never made too much music during the day, because he was working, and it was always high pressure. Weirdly, out of the terrible tragedy of my father’s death, there was a slight liberation in terms of the sound I could make in the house. It was probably a way of grieving as well, this coming together, making music at the piano.

My dad started out as a tax inspector. As a good Jewish boy, he wanted to earn a living and do his mother proud. Then he met my mother, who was this bohemian, leopard-skin-wearing, Gauloises-smoking child of the 1950s. She persuaded him to pack in his job and start writing. He had a real gift, and his career propelled quite quickly. We were very lucky.

We had a beautiful house, and what seemed to me, as a child, like a great deal of security. You see this and think, ‘I’m going to do what my folks do’. But then you learn the reality of this life. It is quite tough. There are huge periods of unemployment, even when you are at your most successful. Sometimes you are waiting months for a cheque. It’s a tough life, and as I’ve got older, it has got easier, but I never take it for granted.

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My mother is not Jewish, and my dad wasn’t a religious man, but then there is the Jewish culture. It’s like ‘the force is strong with you’. When my mother married my father, my dad’s mum moved in to make sure that my mum could cook. She taught my mum all this amazing Jewish food – cold fried fish, and chutney balls. Although we weren’t a religious household at all, the cultural side was very strong.

Many years ago, when they were casting the film Yentl, my mum was asked to audition for the role of Barbara Streisand’s character’s mum. Streisand was also the producer, director and starring in it.

Mum met with her, and she read with her for about half an hour, but she didn’t get the part. I think she looked too young. Later she received a handwritten letter from Streisand, saying what a privilege it had been to meet her, and how she hoped their paths might cross again in the future. She must have been phenomenally busy, but she took the time to write that. It was such an extraordinary thing to do, and it meant a lot to my mother.

On the day of a performance, I go through the whole show in my head. If you don’t get nervous beforehand, you’re doing something wrong. But once I’m out there, I love it. I have so many great Streisand songs to choose from: Evergreen; Don’t Rain on my Parade, and People.

I tell stories about her life, and some about mine, too. I enjoy meeting the audience afterwards and signing CDs. I feel very privileged to be able to do that. My husband Steve always travels with me.

Then it’s back to our hotel, which is often some not-so-glamorous lodge at the side of a motorway. We sit on the end of the bed, eating hummus and some veggies with a good bottle of wine, which I’ve bought in a supermarket earlier on. We listen to music and toast the night. Tired but happy, then I fall fast asleep.

nch.ie lizapulman.com

@lizapulman

@liza_pulman

 

Liza Pulman sings Streisand at the NCH, Saturday, April 20, 8pm, tel: (01) 417-0000

Sunday Indo Life Magazine


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