Actress and writer of warmth and intelligence


SIOBHÁN MILEY:THERE'S A photograph of the seven Miley family siblings and their mother standing in front of a house off Griffith Avenue in Dublin. Siobhán Miley, who has died aged 44, is the youngest. With her brother and five sisters, the clan aged eight to 15 is geared up for the future. Siobhán stands happily, already drawing the eye as the Abbey, Gate and screen actress she would become.

By the time she studied drama and classics at Trinity College Dublin in the mid-1980s, Siobhán had acted with the Dublin Youth Theatre and in a Project Theatre production of The Mask. She imparted an interest in mime to her peers. A young woman set to make her own the roles of Pegeen Mike in The Playboy of the Western World(Abbey), Mary Warren in The Crucible(Abbey) and Lady Chiltern in An Ideal Husband(the Gate), she was one of the bright stars of college. Glamorous, beautiful and talented, she had sown the seeds of her art: they flourished into a rooted earthiness and ethereal presence always compelling to watch.

A force of nature on stage, she had a burning intelligence. Instinctive and emphatic, she occupied theatre as her natural medium. Compassionate like all great actors, she was brave enough to walk in another person's shoes, taking on a new skin and offering something startling, something true.

Off-stage, Siobhán carried the gift of being funny. Away from the roles of great dramatists, she made you laugh. To swap words with her was to ratchet up your enjoyment of life, the conversation always spinning the world into a warren of jokes and wicked wit.

There was nothing remote or "theatrical" about her: the natural brilliance of her non-showy, intense acting was manifest in her friendship. Her intimate dialogue with the live audience was only eclipsed by her intimate bonds with family and friends.

Living in Stoneybatter and Great Western Square, she'd frequent the Stag's Head and the Palace, her acting career taking off in the city's two main theatres, as well as on television with Ballykissangel, Lovejoyand Fair City(she was the sinister nanny). She played in Diary of a Madmanand was offered a role on Broadway which, owing to the weight of requisite red tape, she ultimately had to decline.

She was fond of both Joe Orton and Jane Austen, read widely and loved films. She did what she could with her musical tastes - in later life finding amusement in offering a 12-inch Bauhaus record to a friend. She adored the Trocadero and chose it for her 40th. Within the restaurant's faded-star-lined walls, one night she met a waiter who had been a contemporary of her late barman father: she dined on the details of his anecdotes.

But the fine sensitivity of Siobhán's humane radar exposed her to an anxiety which became increasingly chronic. It took the form of stage fright - a sudden awareness of the self as distinct from the role being played - and this curse eventually made acting impossible.

In her apartment in Milltown, she took to writing scripts for Fair City, impressing with her subtle understanding of story and acting. Working against anxiety and agoraphobia, she delivered excellent scripts. Her recent work included a television script, No Place Like Home, and a stage play for Fishamble. When you called around, the TV was always on, a glowing box of potential drama. The white-water fountain on the lawns outside was often switched off. Then switched back on.

Siobhán died tragically on February 5th. At her funeral in a packed Corpus Christi Church, a quote from The Tempest was read:

Our revels now are ended. These our actors,

As I foretold you, were all spirits, and

Are melted into air, into thin air: And, like the baseless fabric of this vision, The cloud-capped towers, the gorgeous palaces,

The solemn temples, the great globe itself,

Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve,

And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,

Leave not a rack behind.

We are such stuff

As dreams are made on; and our little life

Is rounded with a sleep.

As her coffin was carried from a full house, she got a final standing ovation. Exit. Stage left. She is survived by her mother Ida, brother Liam, and sisters Marie, Freda, Catherine, Margaret and Anne.

Siobhán Miley: born July 5th, 1965; died February 5th, 2010