'Opening nights? They're not the Leaving Cert'
Named best actor in 2010 for playing Hamlet, Marty Rea says prizes were never a motivation. “I didn’t think about awards for myself when I was doing the DruidMurphy project, but I knew we were in something that could garner a lot of them. That was just from sitting in rehearsals and watching the others. I thought everyone involved should have got a nomination.”
Rea has just finished playing Philip Ashley in My Cousin Rachel at the Gate Theatre in Dublin. DruidMurphy aside, many of his recent roles have been in period dramas, he says. “It probably has to do with a certain look, in that I am tall and skinny and I fit a lot of clothes of the 1920s.”
As Christy in The House for the Abbey Theatre, Dublin
Awards night could be awkward for Conlon, as both he and his partner, Catherine Walker, are nominated in the best-actor and -actress categories in this year’s awards.
“There’ll be fierce competition,” he says, jokingly. “She has one already. I have a best-supporting-actor award and she has a best-actress one, so hers are pushed forward on the mantelpiece and mine are farther back, out of view. To be honest, it is a great help to have a partner who works in the same business. We both understand the oddness and insecurity of it.”
Conlon says that as soon as he read The House, he knew he was on to something special. “The role of Christy was a brilliant part. Initially in the rehearsal room, with Annabelle Comyn on board as a terrific director and a great cast, I thought it was shaping up to be a special show, and that’s not always the case. I’ve done wonderful parts before and had that feeling, but it sometimes didn’t materialise during the run.”
Conlon’s character, from the west of Ireland, is a pimp in London. Conlon had to resist being judgmental. “His intentions are good, but he is also violent,” he says. “I had to be open to that contradiction and not try and put a blanket decision, in moral terms, over the character. I have missed this part. I don’t always miss the characters. Some shows stay with you. But with others, as soon as it has finished it’s gone, and a week later I wouldn’t be able to remember a line.”
This month, Conlon takes up a role in Drum Belly, a new Richard Dormer play at the Abbey; he is one of the small number of Irish actors who are constantly in demand. Not that the acting life ever allows him to become complacent. “You get used to the insecurity because you have to,” he says. “It doesn’t get easier, but you get better at trusting that things come along. Catherine and I give each other space at home when we are in demanding roles.”