'It was the one part I would dream about'
The Globe Theatre is set to bring its production of ‘As You Like It’ to the Kilkenny Arts Festival – and with it a rising new star
A LOVE OF words first drew Dublin-born actor Deirdre Mullins to the stage. Passion, energy, an irresistible sense of fun and a visceral performance style has done the rest. Her Rosalind in the Globe Theatre’s exuberant production of As You Like It soon to shine in the forthcoming Kilkenny Arts Festival in the open air setting of the castle courtyard, is wonderful.
Even in a company of gifted performers she stands out, a Rosalind to remember. At 29 she embodies the questing spirit of a 17-year-old and makes it all look so easy, even her violin pieces. “Now that was tricky, I hadn’t touched one for about 15 years, and here I am, fiddling away!”
Irish theatre audiences will already know her from her Abbey debut last year as Chekhov’s ill-treated muse Lika in Marina Carr’s 16 Possible Glimpses. Before arriving at the Bristol Old Vic where she trained, Mullins had attended Mount Temple School and later, Trinity College Dublin. “My father is professor of statistics there,” she says, adding that probably because “going into college each day seemed more like a continuation of school” she took a year off and, although she had studied French and German for the Leaving Cert, went instead to Spain.
“I had heard about a travelling theatre company that was looking for people.” She didn’t get a place. A mental image of her standing erect, hands on hips, shoulders squared with Ganymede defiance flashes into mind. “So I taught English in Madrid.”
Mullins presents the immensely likeable face of adventure. Her first-year results in Trinity were good enough to secure her a place at St Andrews, outside Edinburgh. There she began studying anthropology.
“The course included an English module; I enjoyed it so much that I switched to English literature.” She got a first honours degree and having previously been a member of Players at Trinity and then Mermaids at St Andrews, decided to apply to several British drama schools. “I had acted a bit but mostly I was behind the scenes, I’m interested in directing, I’d like to do that.”
Aside from her candour and perceptive intelligence, Mullins possesses instinct. She has a natural feel for what she is doing. “We moved to Howth when I was about 10. Before that we lived in Stonybatter. My father’s from Clonmel, his father was a garda and my mother, she’s very impressive. She works for Christian Aid, she’s a banker’s daughter, so she grew up all over the country.”
It is not surprising to hear that Mullins got auditions at the leading theatre schools. Why did she choose the Old Vic? “Well, some of the places were saying ‘we make stars’ but at Bristol it was different. There it was about telling the story and being part of a group. Ensemble players. I liked that.”
No wonder she loves Shakespeare and has to date appeared in Twelfth Night and toured with A Midsummer’s Night Dream and Measure for Measure. “Oh I can’t tell you how much it means when audience members come and say ‘thank you, we could understand every word.’” Shakespeare for her is the ultimate truth. Rosalind is a dream part: “It was the one part I would dream about playing.”
Many actors, Vanessa Redgrave included, have gloried in it, but Deirdre Mullins brings something special. “And to be performing it in Ireland” she says, laughing when I mention that her delivery of: “tis like the howling of Irish wolves against the moon” will not go unnoticed in Kilkenny.
“I should hope not,” she exclaims, reverting for a moment to her fearless, irrepressible Rosalind.
The Kilkenny Arts Festival runs from Aug 10-19.
See kilkennyarts.iefor more