'Opening nights? They're not the Leaving Cert'
Nominee: Garrett Lombard. photographs: steffan hill and catherine ashmore
Nominee: Marty Rea. photographs: steffan hill and catherine ashmore
Nominees: Aaron McCusker. photographs: steffan hill and catherine ashmore
Nominee: Declan Conlon. photographs: steffan hill and catherine ashmore
The four nominees for Best Actor at the 'Irish Times' Irish Theatre Awards talk about their acting lives and their futures
Three of the four best-actor nominees in this year’s Irish Times Irish Theatre Awards made the shortlist for roles in plays by Tom Murphy, underlining his status as an actor’s writer. The fourth, Aaron McCusker, who played Algernon Moncrieff in The Importance of Being Earnest, is more unusual, given his recent focus on television and the casual way his stage role came about.
Here, the four actors talk about their parts and how they deal with the uncertainty of an acting life.
As Tom in Conversations on a Homecoming for Druid Theatre Company, Galway
As well as having the astute direction of Garry Hynes to guide him, Garrett Lombard says he also benefited from the presence of the Tom Murphy, the play’s writer, during early rehearsals for Conversations on a Homecoming. “Tom and I had several discussions about the character. It was great to be able to access his insight. I think he understood I had a firm grasp on it from an early stage, and he didn’t interfere at all. He just had a nice wry grin on his face.”
Lombard had been talking to Hynes about the role for two years before it came to fruition, so by the start of rehearsals he had read a lot of material related to Murphy’s work. But it was a personal connection that helped Lombard unlock the character of Tom.
“The main thing for me was that the character was not able to get out of his environment. In my own case, if I didn’t do what I do, and had stayed at home in the small town I’m from, I could have turned out not too dissimilar.”
He perfected the accent by listening to Murphy speak and by trying to mix a midlands and an east Galway accent. The character is still at the back of his mind, and he is rejoining the cast for an upcoming tour.
As one of Ireland’s most in-demand stage actors, Lombard is well placed to assess whether Irish theatre is capturing the mood of the country. “Theatre is not in a bad state by any means, but I understand questions as to whether or not we have addressed what happened to Ireland in the past five or six years. I think maybe we should be investing more in new writers and encourage them to get out some big, epic plays about the recession and about institutions letting us down. We are probably a bit lacking in that respect, but it’s not because of a lack of talent.”
Lombard did channel into Tom some of his dissatisfaction with Ireland’s economic state. “He brings up a lot of grievances with the world. His take on the church, the government and the state of the nation are still applicable – and possibly even more now since the recession. His anger about all those things really clicked with me. I am quite angry about it too.”
As Algernon Moncrieff in The Importance of Being Earnest at the Lyric Theatre, Belfast
McCusker hadn’t taken on any stage work for several years, in part because of his success playing Jamie Maguire in the Channel 4 series Shameless. He called the Lyric Theatre in Belfast to ask if any roles were coming up, then auditioned for the part of Jack Worthing in Oscar Wilde’s play. He met its director, Graham McLaren, who suggested he take on the role of Algernon.