First encounters


In conversation with FRANCES O'ROURKE

Aaron Monaghan

is an actor who studied drama at Trinity College and has worked with the Abbey Theatre and Druid. He has toured with the DruidMurphy production for most of this year. He is a founder member of Livin’ Dred Theatre Company based in Cavan. He lives in Kilmainham, Dublin

I’m from Cavan town and I’d been involved in youth drama in school but I was heading off to do architecture. Someone gave me a form for the Samuel Beckett course in TCD and the next thing I was doing a course I’d never even heard about.

Bryan had graduated the year I started. I met him in my second year when he came to assist our movement teacher. I kept my distance, respectfully. He talks of our first meeting but I don’t remember it. I just thought there was something interesting about this guy . . . there’d be jokes about Monty Python, or Back to the Future, when I’d think, oh, he got it.

We both come from modest, poor-ish country backgrounds. My dad died soon after I’d finished TCD. Bryan’s dad had died three years previously, so there was an understanding.

We didn’t see each a lot of other for a while after I graduated; we were both touring. But when I went to visit him, I loved talking to him. Every conversation we had it was, ‘oh, you had that experience too’. We laugh at the same stupid jokes, love movies, comic books and have a deep, deep passion for Batman.

We’re flatmates but we’re not a couple. If either of us was gay, it would be the greatest love story ever. One weekend, we’d gone to the movies, out for a pizza and I’d texted to say I loved hanging out with him. My brother showed the text to my mother, who said: ‘ Is there something you need to tell me?’

Our friends have accused us of having a bromance. When girlfriends come into our lives they have to be people who’ll get along with both of us. But Bryan is the most lovely charming man so it’s hard to see how they couldn’t, although I’m no picnic.

We devote a lot of time to each other. We’ve had a flat in Kilmainham for a year-and-a-half and find ourselves thinking, if he’s had a long day, it’d be great to have some hot food ready. We’re not party people: on Saturday nights, we watch movies, eat chocolate. But our aspiration is to have family, children.

I adapted A Christmas Carol for two people and we staged it for the first time last year in a small Cavan theatre. I have eight brothers and sisters and 14 or 15 nieces and nephews, most of whom came to see the show. It was lovely to do a play with your best friend that all your family could come and enjoy in your home town.

A Christmas Carol is at The Ark, Temple Bar, on December 8th, 15th and 22nd

Bryan Burroughs

is an actor who trained at Trinity College Dublin. He teaches physical theatre at the Lir Academy, Dublin, and is also a movement director. He is staging A Christmas Carol with Aaron at The Ark. He lives in Kilmainham, Dublin

I ’m from Carlow town, from a family – I have three brothers and two sisters – of farmers, mechanics and bricklayers. I loved drama in secondary school and wondered, could you have a career in this? I applied to TCD and got in. I was very lucky because I’d put all my eggs into that basket.

I got an apprenticeship teaching on the drama course. That’s where I met Aaron. He was very quiet, unassuming. He wouldn’t stand out in a group.

He was standing at a vending machine . . . something about him reminded me of family. He had headphones on and I asked him what he was listening to – it was Eminem. And I remember wanting this guy to like me.

We came to the end of that year and both went off with different theatre companies. Then both our dads passed away; it was a dark period. And my best friend, the captain of the Carlow football team, died. He was just 24 and had a young daughter.

We came through tragedy together. It’s friends and family get you through and now we feel there’s nothing we can’t handle. Part of our bond might be that notion of coming up to the big city and taking it on, but it’s more the notion that our families are very similar. We’re not the life and soul of the party, we love our apartment.

We’re not gay but we wish we were . . . and we’re living in a very safe environment if we were gay. It may be unusual at this stage of our lives to have best friends. But we know what we’ve been through and it’s good and natural. We’d both love to settle down, have families – that’s the next stage.

When Aaron was in the Synge cycle with Druid, someone asked, is it difficult for Bryan? It’s the opposite, I celebrate his achievement.

We’re getting the sense that some people are surprised we’re putting on a show for young people and yet we want to create a beautiful piece of theatre.

One of the highlights of the production last year was watching Aaron’s nieces and nephews at the show, watching their pride. We’re hoping to bring the show to Carlow – I have four nieces and nephews there. For my Christmas present, I’ve asked my family to arrange for them to come to see the show in Dublin. This is the first time Aaron and I have worked together, and the Ark has given us this chance. We play storytellers in A Christmas Carol, just using costumes; it’s pure theatre at it’s most simple and magical.

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