PUBLISHED: 11:59, Fri, Jan 24, 2020 | UPDATED: 11:59, Fri, Jan 24, 2020
Arabella Weir (Image: Handout)
Now, after a sell-out run at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, she is embarking next month on a 29-date UK tour of the show, based on her fractious, sometimes heartbreaking, often hilarious, relationship with her late mother.
It features stories from her dysfunctional childhood, her family rows and life as a single mum. To describe the comedian’s relationship with her mother as combative doesn’t really do justice to half a century of pitched battles.
Alison Weir died 10 years ago, managing even on her deathbed to make a derogatory remark about her daughter’s weight.
“I took in something to eat while I sat with her,” recalls Arabella.
As she settled herself down and opened her snack, her mother snapped into action.
“Have you any idea,” she demanded, “how fattening a coronation chicken sandwich is?”
Arabella smiles sadly. “To her dying day, she never let up,” she says.
Does she think she could have written and performed this show while her mother was still alive?
“Almost certainly not,” she says. “In fact, one of the jokes I tell is that I had to kill her first. Not true, obviously. But it’s taken this long to put together the little acts of cruelty that have shaped who I am.”
Alison Weir had been raised in an upper-class environment in the Scottish Borders, the only child of emotionally repressed parents.
Her father was the headmaster of a small boys’ boarding school and she was essentially brought up as one of the boy pupils, and not as their child.
“She was fiercely intelligent and very poorly parented,” says her elder daughter. “She lacked any domestic skills and treated them with contempt. She regarded them as grindingly menial tasks.
“If I were ever foolish enough to ask what was for supper, she’d reply, ‘Don’t be so bleeping bourgeois.’ She made it clear that I shouldn’t bore her with the tedium of my needs.”
Arabella with her father Sir Michael Weir (Image: PA)
But it was more than that. Arabella, 62, has two older brothers, who were both sent away to boarding school when they were seven, and a sister five years her junior.
“My mother picked on me. She thought boys were not only better but also less deserving of criticism,” she says. “I asked her one day why she treated me differently. To which she replied, ‘Because you’re the most annoying’.”
Arabella’s younger sister didn’t get the same treatment. Why? “Because she was thin,” she sighs.
Arabella’s father, Sir Michael Weir, was a diplomat and British ambassador. In 1981, he was sitting behind Egyptian President Anwar Sadat when the president was assassinated at a military parade.
Arabella continues: “My parents regarded themselves as part of the ruling class. They were winners. And winners don’t have fat children.
“Wanting to eat was not a necessity, it was greed. Hunger was good for you.”
Looking back now, says Arabella, she’s convinced her mother regarded her as a rival.
“Also, my dad, while emotionally pretty buttoned up, was very keen on me. My mother did once confess to being jealous of me.”
The marriage ground to a halt in the ’60s.
“The prevailing wisdom at that time was that it was the woman’s fault. She’d failed to keep her man. But she hadn’t got a clue as to how she was meant to behave. She was following a map