'We rarely go for the same parts'
In conversation with FRANCES O'ROURKE
has been nominated for a best actor award in next month’s Irish Times Theatre awards. He has been involved in drama since he was a child in Gorey, Co Wexford. He graduated from the Samuel Beckett Centre in Trinity College Dublin in 2000, and since then has worked in theatre and on TV. He and Rory Nolan appeared in ‘DruidMurphy’ last year. He lives in Drimnagh
Rory and I both came on to the Dublin theatre scene around the same time. We were in our early 20s: he was at parties in my house, I was at parties in his. We knew of each other, but didn’t work together until 2010, which is weird in a small town like this. We were both in plays at the Edinburgh festival around 2007, and became brothers there over a pint – or 12.
Rory and I went to rival acting schools . . . there’s a bit of slagging. If I was passing, say, someone making balloon animals in the street I’d say, “ah, Gaiety School . . .” I’m joking, it doesn’t actually matter, both are just a springboard into the real world. Acting is competitive, always has been. But after a number of years you establish yourself by the kind of parts you play, by your own personality. Bedroom Farce is unusual for me: up until now I’ve focused on more “serious” plays. I do a good line in serious, intense, angry bastards.
DruidMurphy was tough work and does put pressure on you. But Druid creates such a fantastic family atmosphere: Rory brought his fiancée Tara and son, Max, on tour, to England and the US. It’s very unusual, but that’s Druid, being brilliant, taking care of actors. We all reared Max basically.
It’s true that my Gorey fans have been coming to see me in every single production I’ve been in since I was in college – they fill a bus, 52 people. They’re embarrassingly proud of me. My parents have been involved in Gorey drama forever: I was six in my first speaking role and I’ve been on the stage ever since.
It’s nice if you can mix theatre gigs with a couple of TV gigs, that’s my goal. It’s constant juggling. I was in Alexander [the 2004 film directed by Oliver Stone], which was an amazing adventure and I’ve just finished filming Quirke [a BBC TV thriller based on John Banville’s writing as Benjamin Black] . . . I play Father Harkins, a Catholic priest who has a few tete-a-tetes with Gabriel Byrne.
I’m single, live with my brother and my dog, Tom, in a house in Drimnagh: there’s a pool table in the front room, it’s very much a bachelor pad. It’s a good house for a party.
Apart from theatre, Rory and I are both into rugby, both Leinster, thank God. And Rory is more like Ross O’Carroll-Kelly than he’d care to admit . . ah no, no.
But the main difference is that originally I’m a country boy and he’s a city boy. He slags me and I slag his south Co Dublin accent.
started acting in UCD’s Dramsoc and graduated from the Gaiety School of Acting in 2003. Since then he has been one of Ireland’s busiest actors, appearing in plays that include ‘King Lear’, ‘A Christmas Carol’, ‘Improbable Frequency’ and ‘The Last Days of the Celtic Tiger’, playing Ross O’Carroll-Kelly. He lives in Dalkey with his fiancée and son
In the Irish theatrical social scene, everyone knows of each other before they know each other. I would have seen Garrett’s work, and of course saw him being brilliant in Pure Mule. That was 2005. We had mutual friends and began to hang out a lot. Then we were both at the Edinburgh festival in 2007, Garrett with Druid, me with Rough Magic, and saw a lot of each other. If getting to know someone over a pint has any meaning, then Edinburgh was the place it happened. The irony is that our first time working together was in the Gate in 2010, playing brothers in Death of a Salesman. We looked at each other and said, “can you believe we haven’t worked together before?”
We found we had a shorthand working with each other, didn’t have to go through the usual bollix of saying, “do you mind if I try this line like this?” And that’s stayed with us right up to DruidMurphy and Bedroom Farce that we’re rehearsing now.
I grew up in Killiney, went to CBC Monkstown, then UCD – for me that was the observation deck for people like Ross O’Carroll-Kelly. I loved playing Ross. And I have the best fun calling Garrett a bogger.
Garrett and I rarely go for the same parts: if you look at the work we’ve done, casting directors look at us as people who play off each other. I go for comedy roles . . . I do a good line in gormless eejits.
There’s always a night when Gorey comes to Dublin to see Garret, in every show we do. I remember going round to Neary’s during the theatre festival after DruidMurphy. It wasn’t “well done on the show”, it was “how close were you to Garret on the stage?”
The joy of rehearsing for Bedroom Farce is that our director, Alan Stanford, has said we know that it works if in rehearsals you’re corpsing [making another actor laugh out of character] the actor you’re playing off . . . it’s a lot of fun. You’d never do it on stage of course.
Outside of theatre, I don’t have a profile like Garret’s, although I did get to do a couple of days work on a Juliette Binoche film that was shooting over here in November. But I’m very fortunate. I never take it for granted.
If one of us was more successful than the other, it would never affect our friendship, not in the slightest. Garret and I are rarely up for the same part – but if I don’t get it, I want my best friends to get it.
Garrett Lombard and Rory Nolan both appear in Alan Ayckbourn’s Bedroom Farce, now previewing and opening at the Gate Theatre on Thursday, January 31st