Monday, June 17, 2013

Experiences Like This Do Not Occur Every Day!

Back in early March, I made one of those decisions that, quite frankly I will thank my lucky stars for the rest of my life that I made. In was the simple act of auditioning for Jim Nolan for the chance to work with him in a large scale amateur production of Tom Stoppard's "On The Razzle". That experience alone would have genuinely been enough, but I was stunned to have been offered a leading role in this high class farce. As I write this we are half way through our two week run (two weeks and a full week of technical rehearsals - unheard of in am-dram) and as exhausted as I am - I am deliriously happy at the work we have done, and the reaction of the audience and critics to it. I got to work on the radio ad, I got a two page interview in The Munster Express but most importantly, I got to work with an amazing cast and crew, on a stunning set designed by John O'Donougue. There is a wealth of local theatre heroes out there and I have been blow away by the talented people - especially young folk who are working on this who write/act/direct/light their own pieces! We started rehearsals for this in the first week of April - and the weeks have just flown by. Take a bow Garter Lane for producing this smashing in-house production and to the Arts Council and Waterford City Council for funding...especially to Jim Nolan for his faith in me. I have learnt more about theatre in the last nine week than I have in the previous 40+ years.

Friday, March 1, 2013


Over the past number of weeks RTE have been broadcasting a short series presented by Irish (American) comedian Des Bishop on the subject of Irish drinking culture. Like Des, I haven’t had a drink since my late teens, so I am one of those seemingly rare breed of Irish folk – the tea-totaller. Unlike Des, I was not an alcoholic. I began drinking socially when I was sixteen. I was never drunk, could certainly go out without drinking at all, and in the main, I drank beer. So why give up? I was a very lucky young man. I had a circle of very good friends (most of whom did drink-but not in a stagger city kind of way) who were honest, and supportive of our peer group. I was at a house party (nothing rowdy – listening to music, joking chatting) one evening and one of the guys at the party (who I didn’t know especially well) suggested to me that I didn’t “need” to drink. Alcohol had a strange effect on me. Unlike most of my friend who got a little louder and braver as the night went on, I would go quiet. I am naturally a loud, opinionated and dare I say, confident, person, and drink made me the opposite. It put a seed in my head – life free of alcohol was a possibility. A few months later, my late father started to teach me to drive. The very first thing he told me was “as soon as you put the key in the ignition, you have control of a lethal weapon – be responsible”. From that very minute I vowed not to drink alcohol. So I went down to my local church (again unusually for a man in his mid-40s in present day Ireland – I’m still an practicing catholic) an took the “pledge” – something I deliberately did NOT do at the time of my confirmation. I did this not for religious reasons, but to get the “pin”. Because in 1986 people would have had the “a sure you’ll have the one” conversation – but they would leave you alone if you wore the pin. And that’s what I did until I sailed for London the following year, where I didn’t have to explain to anyone that I didn’t drink (well not much anyway). In the past few years I have come across a group called the “No-Name Club” who organise youth events (15-18 year olds) with a complete intolerance to alcohol and drugs. These clubs offer an alternative to the belief that you can’t have a good time if you can remember it the next day…they are packed with intelligent, articulate, engaged, talented young people. That’s why I use the word “seemingly” at the beginning. The culture of excessive drinking is alive and well – but there is movement out there to show that there are alternatives.
Thanks Des for a very insightful series.