Hilda Fay: On My Culture Radar

The actor on her love for Barcelona, The Honest Actors’ Podcast and Mick Flannery

Current favourite book

I’m reading Tana French’s The Wych Elm. It’s about Toby Hennessy, who’s left for dead and has to recover from his injuries. He looks after his uncle who lives in a big stately home, and he finds a skull in an elm tree, so that’s where the story lies. Tana is an old friend and I did the audio narration of The Trespasser, but I genuinely think she’s one of the most important crime novelists to come out of Ireland – her books are so thrilling and detailed. They’re making some of her books into a BBC drama, The Dublin Murders.


I love Terra Madre in Dublin – you walk in and you feel like you’re in a small village in Italy, not a tiny, candlelit restaurant on Bachelor’s Walk. The owner and waiter Marco makes you feel like you’ve known him for years. They have fresh produce and beautiful, homecooked Italian food – I particularly love their beautiful foie gras dish, and their bruschetta. I’ll have to go back soon to refresh my memory.


Alison Spittle encompasses everything I think is funny; she’s so satirical, wry, really sharp-toned. She’s not afraid to poke fun at herself, and I appreciate that she talks about mental health, which matters in her anxious generation. I think she’s really fresh.


I saw a fabulous play in the Axis Theatre in Ballymun in May called Electrolyte, which Mark O'Brien brought in from the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. It's about drugs culture, and mental health mixed within it. It was a spoken-word play, which has been done to death, but when it's done well, it's fantastic. This was directed by Donnacadh O'Briain, and Olivia Sweeney was the main performer. She was a breath of fresh air; I couldn't take my eyes off her, she was so luminous. It was a really refreshing play; I'm a hard critic when it comes to plays but I was raving about it afterwards.



I went to see Evening Train in Cork Midsummer Festival, which is a play by Ursula [Rani] Sarma based on Mick Flannery's album, so I've recently listened to that album a lot. He's a storyteller, his sound is raw and unfinished. Evening Train is not an album you'll bop around to, there's a Tom Waits/Jacques Brel feel to it. I imagine if Tom Hardy was to sing, he'd sing like Mick Flannery.


Coming from Dublin, I’d rather be in a city than the country, and I do love Barcelona. My husband took me there shortly after we got married because it’s his favourite place and he wanted me to see all the Gaudís and the museums, and he also took me to see the Spice Girls then. I’d love to go back, but with young kids, our holidays are taken up by their summer camps.


I like edgy actors like Patricia Arquette and Juliette Lewis, and Judi Dench and Cate Blanchett.


I love listening to The Honest Actors’ Podcast. There are brilliant interviews about working actors. Jonathan Harden doesn’t interview big celebrities or those with high-profile careers, he interviews actors who are constantly working or out of work. It’s insightful for me to hear what actors do in their down time, how they cope when they’re out of work, and the struggle to get work. It’s more useful than listening to an actor with a privileged career, where they give a sanitised version of the acting industry.

TV show

I hadn’t watched TV for years because it wasn’t my focus while I had young kids and was working, but at the moment I’m addicted to loads of shows. I’m loving Peaky Blinders, with Cillian Murphy who is, of course, one of our own. I’ve just finished Chernobyl and it’s probably the most ground-breaking TV show, especially because it was based on a real-life event. And The Virtues is incredible. It’s written by Shane Meadows and Jack Thorne, who’s rewriting a version of The Christmas Carol for The Gate’s Christmas show.


One that sticks in my memory is Whiplash, with Miles Teller and J. K. Simmons. The whole idea of a tutor or a director pushing an artist to their limit is intriguing to me. I found that film pretty special.

Hilda Fay appears in The Snapper, which runs at The Gate Theatre, Dublin, until September 15th.