On My Culture Radar: Mary McEvoy

The actor on the appeal of Helen Mirren and discovering the artistry of Odilon Redon

Current favourite book

I've just finished reading The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker. It's a telling of Homer's Iliad but it focuses on the women. It's written from Briseis's point of view, who was a Trojan noblewoman who was awarded to Achilles and then ended up with Agamemnon. It's that timeless story of the plights of people who are flotsam and jetsam in a war, and it's an incredible read.

I've now started Soon by Lois Murphy. I wasn't expecting much from it, but it's a wonderful literary horror novel. It's about a town in Western Australia which is suffering from economic neglect and corporate takeovers. At night, a mysterious mist comes and mimics what happened in the day, and also can kill. I've yet to finish it, but I'm seeing it as a parable about people staying in a situation that's absolutely horrific because they're afraid of changing. It's beautifully written, and I'm intrigued by it.

Restaurant

I tend not to go out because I live in rural Ireland, but if I'm in Dublin it has to be Trocodero because of the service and atmosphere. Otherwise I love my local coffee shop, the Coffee Boutique in Delvin. Myself and my partner have lunch there every day – they do wonderful soups and home-made apple pie, and they serve the best coffee I've had. Cafe culture could be the saviour of rural Ireland, but the coffee has to be good.

Comedian

When I heard Bill Hicks had died in 1994, it was like learning that John Lennon had died – I was in complete shock. He didn’t spare anybody but at the same time, he managed to be funny and transcendent. I love that mix of truthteller and mysticism. There’s a lot of people who try to go for that style, but they can’t quite hit the mark.

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Artist/designer

Matisse or Chagall are my all-time favourites, but also I adore Odilon Redon, who was from France in the early part of the 20th century. I went to the Musee D'Arcy in Paris especially to see his work – they have a room dedicated to him. His paintings, like the Buddha, are luminescent. The oriental style was an influence at that time, and he expressed it beautifully.

Album

Los Paradiso's self-titled album. Admittedly my partner, Garvan Gallagher, is the bass player, but it's an extremely good album. And part of the reason why I pick it is because I'm fed up of Irish people who think they're cultured and pay a €150 for a ticket to see an American act at the 3Arena, yet complain about a cover charge to see an Irish band in a pub, which is often where our excellent musicians make a living. Los Paradiso's music is all original, and they're such a tight and amazing band. They had a residency in the Leeson Lounge, which has now gone. All over Dublin – not so much in the provinces – similar places are closing, so musicians have nowhere to play. We can only blame ourselves.

City

Paris used to be my second home, but after the attacks, it stopped being my happy place – it just carries such horror for me. Many of my friends were out that night and I had to phone and let them know the latest, because they were hunkering down in metro stations and bars. So Venice would now be my choice. I rarely go to St Mark’s Square. Instead, I wander down the back streets to find little trattorias, and most people don’t realise you have sun, sea and sand 10 minutes away from St Mark’s Square on a vaporetto. The Lido has one of the best beaches, plus you can avoid all the tourist nonsense there.

Actor

I love Cathy Belton as a person, but also she's very talented. Internationally, it's La Mirren. She's bloody good at what she does, and she's flying the flag for older women. It's like her acting has punctuation in it: she gives a naturalistic performance but it's heightened in parts. She has charisma and sexuality; she's got that natural authority that draws you in all the time.

Social media

Mis Papelicos (@mispapelicos) is excellent on Instagram. She's an artist from Malaga in Spain, who paints with clothes. I love style, and I love older people who express themselves through clothes.

TV show

Spiral is now its seventh series on BBC Four. I’m madly in love with all the brilliant cast, but especially the lead, Caroline Proust, who’s this Jack Russell of a policewoman. It’s a French police procedural drama, which makes it sound like a standard show, but it’s much more than that. It doesn’t make heroes of the police – they do ghastly, awful things in a really grimy Paris – I’d say the French tourist board would like to sue them.

Mary McEvoy is performing in The Matchmaker alongside Jon Kenny at the Gaiety Theatre, Dublin, November 4th to 9th. gaietytheatre.ie