First encounters


In conversation with FRANCES O'ROURKE


is best known as Mrs Doyle in Father Ted. She is also an author; her eighth book, which is for teens, will be published in May. She plays Noirín in Greener by Fiona Looney. She lives in London and Dublin with her husband Richard. Greener opens in the Gaiety Theatre on May 1st

‘I WAS AWARE OF Deirdre, had seen her in a few shows before I really got to know her . . . she was fantastic as Miss Funny in Druid’s Black Pig’s Dyke and in a play at the Gate. I noticed that she could wear red very well, had tiny pretty aristocratic feet. I think there might good blood there.

“When I started going out with Richard, the man who’s now my husband, it turned out that one of his best friends was Stephen, Deirdre’s partner. But Dandelions was the first time Dee and I got to know each other.

“I love doing Fiona’s plays, she writes great parts for women. But poor old Fiona, she had our voices in her head when she was writing the characters of Noirín and Jean. I always knew Deirdre was funny, but what I found out is that once she’s behind something, she’s 110 per cent behind it, a very positive force. Dandelions was Fiona’s first play: Dee got in contact with someone and helped to get the ball rolling. Once she makes decision, she’s off. “Greener will be a bit controversial. There’s a lottery win which changes people’s lives in unexpected ways and Noirín and Jean’s friendship is severely tested.

“I’m convinced I become Deirdre when I’m with her, I pick up the way she speaks. I admired some very high heels she was wearing one time, I though they were Manolos. She says, “Do I hear Aldo anyone?” She’s great for taking me in hand. When I got here for rehearsals, I realised I’d left most of my clothes in London. So she said “I’m seeing you in a white trouser suit, we’ll go late-night shopping on Thursday.” Like her, I did Irish dancing until I was an adolescent. But the sports bra hadn’t made it to Galway, so that fell by the wayside. But at one of Stephen and Deirdre’s parties – they used to live close to us on the North Circular Road in Dublin – I was up in their bedroom and saw a little Irish dancing costume hanging there. It was the cutest thing and I bet she can still fit into it.

“Dee’s great company, really witty, quick, you’re really engaged from the minute you’re in her company. And she’s incredibly positive, more likely to be smiling around you than not. In general, we’re both inclined to be happy people, well-adjusted, without being total eejits.

“The madness about this business is that unless you’re working with someone, you hardly get to see your friends. We don’t live near one another in London and she has a family there as well. But the thing is, when you’re good friends, you pick up where you left off.

“I’m turning a certain age this year, Deirdre is younger. But from now on, I’m going to be 38, I really like that as an age. I think I’ll let Dee go to 35.”


is a stand-up comic and actor who works in theatre, TV and films. She play Jean in Fiona Looney’s play Greener, the third of a trilogy that began with Dandelions. She lives in London with her husband, screenwriter Stephen Bradley, and their two children, Holly and Daniel

‘WHEN FIONA LOONEY wrote Dandelions she wrote it with our voices in her head. I played Jean, Pauline played Noirín, suburban neighbours and best friends. In Greener, the new play, we’re still neighbours and close friends but at different places in our lives. Our relationship is stronger than ever, we can finish each other’s sentences . . . and so do Pauline and I.

“Pauline and I knew each other before Dandelions [staged in 2006] through our husbands, Stephen and Richard, who were at primary school and in Trinity College together. But we became firm friends when we played in Dandelions. I knew of Pauline, of course, and we’d been at each other’s weddings, because of our husbands. I was in awe of her and admired her as a comedienne, absolutely.

“I’d started acting at school in Drogheda, did a six-week course in the Gaiety School of Acting and got a one-line walk-on part in Borstal Boy. I dropped out of the College of Marketing, and was working as an actress. I was employed, getting work, but disillusioned. I’d never really seen stand-up comedy when Richard Cook – Pauline’s husband – started the Cat Laughs Comedy Festival in Kilkenny.

“My then partner, now husband, Stephen Bradley was making a documentary about it and I went along to help. I had done a lot of comedy acting but had never written anything and was inspired. I wrote jokes on the way home and the next year was booked for the festival – all thanks to Mr Pauline McLynn.

“My love of language is what made me want to be a comic. Pauline loves a good turn of phrase and I’m good at phraseology. We up our game in each other’s company and I’m funnier in Pauline’s company than with other people. And we’re both great talkers, we’ve never any effort to connect, we’ve a million things to talk about. In rehearsal the director keeps telling us to shut up.

“I couldn’t write books too though, like she does. She is a bit of a workaholic. Something we do have in common is that we were both champion Irish dancers as children. I danced in the world championships in the Mansion House.

“It’s not hard to sustain our friendship, but it is hard to see each other – we hadn’t seen each other for two years before we started rehearsals for Greener. But when we walk in the door, we click. We’re low maintenance, don’t put pressure on each other.

“Pauline’s a real softie, a very gentle person, and extraordinarily generous to her friends in every way, in time and money. If I needed a friend and a favour, I could absolutely count on her. She steps up if one of us needs help. I really do love her – she’s like a sister to me.”