First encounters: Jack Gleeson and Matt Smyth

‘When he’s with his friends, it’s all about us’

Jack Gleeson (left) and Matt Smyth met in West Side Story. PHOTOGRAPH: DAVE MEEHAN

Jack Gleeson (left) and Matt Smyth met in West Side Story. PHOTOGRAPH: DAVE MEEHAN

Mon, Aug 26, 2013, 12:17

Jack Gleeson (21) stars as evil King Joffrey Baratheon in the HBO series ‘Game of Thrones’. He is currently filming the fourth series while also a Trinity Scholar studying philosophy. He is a founder member of Collapsing Horse Theatre Company, which uses puppetry and comedy, and is co-producer of ‘Distance from the Event’, which opens in Dublin’s Fringe Festival next month. He is from Ranelagh, in Dublin

Matt and I met in a production of West Side Story: we were in the same drama group, the Independent Theatre Workshop (ITW), in Ranelagh. I’d been in the drama school since I was about eight and I was in first year in Gonzaga [boys’ school] at the time. Matt’s a few years older than me and was in Gonzaga too, in fourth year when I was in first. He and my sister Emma were best friends: when they’d have parties I’d come down, pretending to get a glass of water.

I’ve two older sisters, Rachel, who’s an actor and Emma, a costume designer for Collapsing Horse. Both my parents are lawyers.

Before I went to Trinity, I felt I was a member of Players [Trinity’s drama society] already. I’d been to almost every show my sisters had been in, knew a lot of Players members. It was nice to have a safe place to go in first year, see friendly faces. Matt and I were in one show together, South Park The Musical – we wore quite skimpy costumes. Emma watched in horror in the audience as her best friend and her brother canoodled on stage.

Game of Thrones was filmed the summer before I went into college, and released the summer before I went into second year. I was certainly surprised at its success. I do get stopped a lot when I’m out but my life hasn’t changed. People aren’t nasty to me because I’m the most evil person in Game of Thrones. In fact, everyone’s really pleasant and I don’t mind people coming up to me. Sometimes when I’m hanging out with friends it can be embarrassing, but when you see people are really enthusiastic about the show and happy to meet you, you can’t be a curmudgeon about it, you just enjoy it.

Collapsing Horse started with Aaron Heffernan, who’d made a puppet or two for his Leaving Cert art exam, that was the initial spark. Then Eoghan Quinn wanted to do a puppet version of Les Mis. It was just fun: before we even finished Monster Clock, we were talking about Distance from the Event: it’s evolved into a sci fi/noir detective versus bad guys/Flann O’Brien kind of play set in a futuristic Irish city.

Matt and I enjoy the same kind of TV shows, like Arrested Development. And we read the same kind of books, both like Flann O’Brien.

I’m going into fourth year in Trinity, and we’re filming the fourth season of Thrones at the moment. After that, I don’t know. I would be interested in doing a Masters but I go through different decisions every day.

But it would be a great shame for the arts in Dublin for Matt Smyth not to be a producer.


Matt Smyth (24) is a producer and one of four founder members – with Jack Gleeson, Aaron Heffernan and Eoghan Quinn – of Collapsing Horse Theatre Company. As a member of Players, Trinity’s drama society, he brought two successful comedy shows to the Edinburgh Theatre Festival. He is on Rough Magic’s Seeds programme for developing theatre makers. Matt lives in Dublin

Jack and I met in West Side Story. I was 16, had just joined the drama group Jack was in; I became best friends with Jack’s older sister Emma, who was in it too. She’s now the costume designer for Collapsing Horse. I remember Jack coming to Gonzaga. I was in fourth year. Jack’s family are really cool – a lot of us spent a lot of time in the Gleeson household. There was a big garden and we got on well with his parents, the loveliest people in the world.

Before Jack came to Trinity, I was in a sketch show, A Betrayal of Penguins, that we brought to Edinburgh [festival]. We got Jack to play a kid reporter in a filmed insert in the show. It was actually the first time Jack was recognised in public – Game of Thrones had just been released.

In Trinity, I studied economics and politics and joined Players. The only time Jack and I were in a show together in Players was when we did South Park The Musical – we played the couple in it, I was Satan, Jack was Saddam Hussein.

Jack’s fame doesn’t really affect us, because he never talks about it. We were friends with him before he was famous; now we’re better friends, we can exploit him. We just find it funny when someone spots him or if we see someone online, say, a fan in the States, being absolutely insane.

Collapsing Horse Theatre Company began when the four of us – Jack, Aaron, Eoghan and I – had a meeting in my dorm in college, talking about the show that eventually became Monster Clock. We’d all come back from Edinburgh that year; it just made sense to form a company.

I suppose I have decided to be a producer. You panic when you finish college and when I came back from Edinburgh, I started to do the HDip. Then a friend suggested I apply to Rough Magic’s Seeds programme – and I got a placement as a production assistant in the South Bank Arts Centre in London.

What do Jack and I have in common, apart from theatre? Latin – we studied it in Gonzaga. And Roman history. We read the same books – Flann O’Brien at the moment.

Jack is the most modest, unassuming guy on the face of the earth, despite all the amazing talents he has. When he’s with his friends, it’s all about us, not him.


Jack Gleeson and Matt Smyth produce Collapsing Horse Theatre Company’s show Distance From The Event, at the Samuel Beckett Theatre from September 5th-21st as part of the Dublin Fringe Festival. See fringefest.com

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