'There haven't been as many hairy moments as I'd thought there'd be'


TALK TIME: EOIN BUTLERtalks to Clare Dunne, Irish actor currently appearing as Pegeen Mike in Druid's production of 'The Playboy of the Western World'

When did you first think that you might want to be an actor?

It’s hard to say. I was bright enough in school, but I was a giddy little thing. I used to talk all the time and get easily distracted. When I was 12 or 13, I remember saying to my mam that I’d love to be able to make people laugh. She suggested Speech and Drama school.

Were you bitten by the bug straight away?

Not exactly. My first teacher wasn’t the nicest woman in the world. As you can probably see, I have a birthmark on my eye. To be honest, I kind of look like a bit of a panda bear. So the teacher took me aside one day and said: “Look, youre not going to make it as an actress with that thing on your eye.”

Oh God, so what did you do?

I said: “Right, well feck you so.” Excuse my language! (laughs). I decided to find another teacher. Luckily enough, I found a lady called Maeve Widger in Churchtown and she was lovely. She did lots of improv, which was great fun.

Which was your breakout role?

I dunno if you’d call it my breakout role, but when I was 16, I was in Transition Year at Our Lady’s Grove in Goatstown. We did a production of Oklahoma! and, because it was an all-girls school, I had to play a man. I was Will Parker, a cowboy who comes back from the Big Smoke and sings a few songs.

“Everything’s up to date in Kansas City . . .”

Yes, that’s the one. Oh God, the memories . . . (laughs). It was only a comedy role, really, but a lot of people came up to me afterwards and said: “Wow, you’ve got a real knack for this.” It was only then that I decided that I wouldn’t mind giving this acting thing a go for real.

You’re currently playing Pegeen Mike in ‘The Playboy of the Western World’.

That’s right.

This is Druid’s 12th production of it. Bisi Adigun and Roddy Doyle’s version was recently revived in the Abbey. How would you explain the play’s enduring appeal?

Jeez, I don’t know. But I’ll tell you, every single time we’ve performed it so far, I’ve found something new. It’s a mysterious sort of a play, I suppose. It still confuses and confounds and inspires so much. What’s strange about it is that it’s a comedy, but it’s extremely sad at the same time. I think that’s very Irish.

Is it daunting to take on a role that so many great actors have played before you?

Of course, particularly since it’s my first professional job. I’m the least experienced

in the cast and, as a role, Pegeen is obviously quite a chunk. But there haven’t been as many hairy moments as I’d thought there’d be. I suppose I’m lucky that I’m surrounded by people who are amazingly talented and bring a wealth of experience to the production.

What’s on your iPod?

 I don’t have an iPod any more because it broke. But when I did, it had everything from Beyoncé to Duffy, KT Tunstall, Damien Rice, Lisa Hannigan, The Beatles and even Led Zeppelin.

What’s your favourite film?

It’s a very hard question. But I’m going to say The Snapper because, seriously, that’s my family. I always think Colin Meaney in that film is just like my dad, with a rake of kids around him driving him mad. It’s brilliant.

What was the last book you read?

Im in the middle of A Million Little Pieces by James Frey at the moment.

Wasn’t there some controversy about it?

Yes, it’s a very controversial book because it was originally published as a memoir, but it has since turned out that it isn’t very factual at all. It’s a tough read, but I’m enjoying it.

What do you do to unwind after a performance?

We’re currently on tour in the UK, so it’s difficult. Some nights, the cast will go out and have a drink. Other nights, I just go back to the hotel room and call my family or my boyfriend. He’s in Cardiff, where we’re both studying acting in the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama.

Finally, are you looking forward to performing the play in Galway?

Yes, everyone tells me this is going to be my favourite week of the entire tour. As you say, everyone in Ireland knows the play inside out. Apparently, they wet themselves laughing, heckle and even join in on their favourite lines. It’s going to be a riot!

‘The Playboy of the Western World’ runs at the Town Hall Theatre, Galway, from June 2nd-6th