Saturday 21 September 2019

Fall for one another? Oh yes they did

Panto stars George McMahon and Rachel Smyth have a beautiful baby girl, Frankie, who is a stage star too

George McMahon and Rachel Smyth. Photo: David Conachy
George McMahon and Rachel Smyth. Photo: David Conachy

Andrea Smith

'If you had told me 10 years ago that myself and George McMahon would end up together, I would have laughed at you," says dancer Rachel Smyth. Smiling at George, who is holding their adorable baby daughter, Frankie, Rachel explains that they're engaged and plan to marry in Nerja, Spain, next August.

The pair met when Rachel was working with fellow dancer Linzi Cowap, who was dating George at the time. Actually George and Linzi did this Bondings interview together back in 2005, but time moves on!

"George and I always got on well as he was very bold and mischievous and so was I, so we put each other up to do things," Rachel says. "People think we were together for years, but we genuinely weren't, we were just good friends. We developed another part to our relationship two years ago, when we were both single again and were doing panto in Limerick together. It kind of happened overnight really."

Rachel says that while she is super-organised and gets stressed more easily, George is more laid-back.

"I always thought Rachel was gorgeous," he says. "I was single for a year and wasn't enjoying it because I think dating is awful. Rachel helped me through it and used to accompany me when I got a plus one for events, and then I just fell in love with her."

Baby Frankie was born at the end of May, and is very laid-back and chilled like her dad. When she was 10 days old, she made her debut playing baby Georgina in The Snapper at the Gate Theatre for three months. It came about because actress Hilda Fay who played Veronica Rabbitte, is Rachel's first cousin, and she let the pair know that a baby was needed.

George and Rachel are thrilled with Frankie, and they now live with Rachel's mum Tressa in north Dublin. They hope to buy their own place in the new year, and George says that having a baby has made them more of a unit. Having Rachel's mum there is a big help, and George's sister Kim is also very helpful, and while they're delighted with the baby, she came a little earlier than planned.

"I blame my mam, as we were planning on having a baby but not as quickly as it happened," Rachel says with a laugh.

"We wanted to get a house first, and she said that as I'd been on the pill for ages, I'd want to think about coming off it as you hear stories about it taking a year for people to get it out of their system. I was off the pill for four weeks when I got pregnant, so Frankie just came a little earlier than planned."

George (34) grew up in Lucan and his family moved to Straffan when he was 12. His mum Dee and dad George's marriage ended when he was 18. His dad is now married to June and they live in Waterford, and his mum moved to Spain and has a partner, Stuart.

"My mam kind of did a 'Shirley Valentine'," he smiles. "She didn't fancy being on her own with a grey sky, so she took the dogs and cats and reinvented her life over there and has never looked back."

George started with the Independent Theatre Workshop and Helen Jordan when he was 12, and eventually started going for acting auditions and getting a few gigs. He is best known for playing lovable rogue Mondo in Fair City. "I knew when I was 13 that acting was what I wanted to do," he says.

Rachel (31) is from Santry, and has three older sisters, Arlene, Erica and Ava. They all began ballet classes with the famous Dublin teacher Marie Cole. Arlene and Rachel are still in the business and have their own dance schools. Rachel's parents, Tressa and Paul, broke up when she was 19, and there's synchronicity there with herself and George as Rachel's dad has also moved to Spain.

Her first panto was with Twink, Gerry Ryan and er, Barney, in Sleeping Beauty (sort of) at the Point Theatre when she was eight. When she was 16, she went off on tour with Tony Kenny, and still dances in the Irish show at Taylor's Three Rock in Rathfarnham and also teaches. Rachel took only eight weeks maternity leave - the perils of being self-employed and looking for a mortgage, she says.

She has a stage school, Glitz Stage Academy, based in Stamullen and The Naul. George also has a stage school, PAA (Performing Arts Academy) in Celbridge. They both teach at each other's schools.

The loved-up pair are also both involved in a touring production of Sleeping Beauty this Christmas. Rachel will choreograph the production, which stars George and his Fair City colleague Aoibheann McCaul alongside RTEjr's Clara Murray, It will run at the National Opera House, Wexford, before transferring to the INEC Killarney. They are thrilled to be working together and say that they're lucky to be able to see one another at work, unlike many of their friends in the business.

When asked what George likes best about Rachel, he says she has lovely eyes and "a really nice bum". She brings out the best in him, he says, and is great fun and always up for adventure. "I think George has so much character in his eyes," says Rachel. "He's very caring and he's good to go to for advice. He can be a bit scattered and is always leaving things behind him, and while it's one of the things that makes me want to kill him, I also love it about him so I just laugh it off now."

'Sleeping Beauty' runs at National Opera House, Wexford, from Dec 27-30 and INEC, Killarney, from Jan 3-5. l Everyone loves a Christmas panto - and we have more on page 22

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