Brian Beacom

KAREN Dunbar tells a story from her life as a seven year-old, which reveals so much of the woman today.

“I was appearing in the school nativity play,” she recalls, “and I had been picked to play Mary.

“But the night before the play as I was laying in bed I went through every single person’s lines, as well as my own.

“In my head I played out Joseph, the shepherd, the innkeeper, the angel, even the donkey, I knew the whole play, from start to finish.”

Had the Baby Jesus had a few words to gurgle, the comedy star would have learned them too.

What the story confirms is this is a lady with no half measures. “I’m in completely,” she says smiling of her approach to projects. “It’s all or nothing.”

This week, Karen’s heart, soul and every other part of her being, has been thrown into her first ever play.

#71 tells of three women who are in fact aged 71. The adventure begins when Chrissy (Karen) invites her two oldest friends, Jean (Maureen Carr) and Coco, (Clare Waugh) to her house because she has something dramatic to tell them.

“Hashtag 71 features Chrissy, a stereotypical Glasgow wummin, who is housebound with fibromyalgia and she takes hash for relief of pain,” explains Karen.

“One day, she invites the other two round to her house and makes a pronouncement.”

Much of the dynamic of what then comes about is driven by the mix of characters.

Jean, says Karen, is “a wee Catholic powerhouse,” while Coco is “a gallant Scots-French giantess.”

“I’m best friends with both of them. But the other two hate each other with a passion.

Jean is anti-drugs while Coco is a bohemian free spirit. To add to the dramatic cocktail, Chrissy’s husband died four years before.

“There is also my character’s increasing inability to cope with her illness,” says Karen. “And she comes to the conclusion “Mair hash equals less pain.”

Karen has researched the subject extensively. “All or nothing,” she says, smiling.

The comedy star has also looked into the effects of smoking hash, which can affect people differently.

What’s clear is Karen has loved creating the world which these three women occupy, enjoyed posing the question; even if we’ve known someone all our lives, do we really ever know each other?

“I almost feel the characters have become embedded in me,” she says. “I want to do so much more with these three women.”

Is she thinking of a possible sitcom?

“I was thinking of a Hollywood movie,” she says, grandly, “but yes, a sitcom may be a possibility.”

Karen, who has been working recently in London and New York with the Shakespeare Trilogy, the all-female productions, adds, grinning; “Hashtag 71 could be a cross between the Golden Girls and Sex and the City.”

The idea for the play first appeared when Karen wrote a sketch for women’s comedy collective, Witsherface, which featured three women in their seventies who were “hashed out of their nuts.”

“It was extremely heightened but it was too long, and it was put to one side.

“But it was an idea that was marinating in my head. Then when April Chamberlain of Oran Mor asked me to write a play, this sketch idea came to mind.”

Karen admits she became immersed in the world of Chrissy and co. “I would be writing from 9am until seven at night, just to get to Draft One.

“What you will see on stage is Draft Seven and a Half. It really was a learning experience.”

The plays is peppered with music, which Karen has put together She also created the publicity poster. Again, all or nothing.

“It’s a good job I can’t sew or I’d be making the costumes,” she says, grinning.

A warning should be posted however to anyone thinking of coming to see the play.

Karen has 16,000 Twitter fans and tickets are flying out the door. Book soon to avoid disappointment.

* # 71, Oran Mor, until Saturday.