Tuesday 23 December 2014

Coming home to Dublin stage

Siobhan O'Kelly got her first big break as an actress when she was still in school, but her career hasn't been plain sailing since then

HIGHS AND LOWS: Actress Siobhan O'Kelly got her first job at just 17 on TG4 flagship drama 'Ros na Rún', but since then she has experienced her fair share of bad auditions and rejections. Now she is starring in a play at the Gaiety Theatre
HIGHS AND LOWS: Actress Siobhan O'Kelly got her first job at just 17 on TG4 flagship drama 'Ros na Rún', but since then she has experienced her fair share of bad auditions and rejections. Now she is starring in a play at the Gaiety Theatre

A young actress who lands a role in a TV soap just out of school would be forgiven for thinking they had it made. At 17, Siobhan O'Kelly did just that, getting her first job in TG4's flagship drama Ros na Run. She spent four years on the show but since then work has been less consistent.

"I might not work as much, but I'm a better actor ... I was probably earning more on Ros na Run as a 19-year-old than I am now", explains the 32-year-old, sitting in a production office above the Noel Coward Theatre in London.

O'Kelly may not be a household name but she is a familiar face. As well as her work for TG4 (including a presenting role on music show Pop 4) she has had small parts on television in the UK and Ireland, some theatre and film work, and bread and butter parts in TV commercials.

In the flesh, O' Kelly is full of energy. When she speaks, her green eyes widen. She is actress-thin, but looks strong, not starved.

She is warm, friendly and self-effacing but the best thing about her is her honesty.

"I don't think I'm very good at auditions", she says, before telling the "cringe" story of auditioning for a part in The Importance of Being Earnest.

She recalls not being able to give the casting director the "something" he was looking for. She left the audition feeling dejected and got on a bus home before having a flash of inspiration.

She turned around, went back, knocked on the door and asked for another chance.

It has the makings of an X Factor-style underdog-triumphs-in-face-of-adversity story, but not the way O' Kelly tells it. "I did [the scene] again, and I did it exactly the same way. I was useless."

One audition she did nail, was for her latest 'dual role' in The Private Ear and The Public Eye, a double-bill of one-act plays by acclaimed British playwright Sir Peter Shaffer (he of Equus fame).

The comic plays are having a revival after 50 years, with a UK and Irish tour including a four-night run the Gaiety Theatre from September 10.

O'Kelly plays two parts, the 'beautiful but shy' Doreen and Belinda, a wife suspected of infidelity, and has already invited "half of Dublin" to see her perform.

O'Kelly grew up in the village of Carraroe, Co Connemara. In the heart of one of the most populous areas of the Gaeltacht, she attended an Irish-speaking school, but struggled with her confidence speaking the language.

At home, she spoke English and was "a real little performer ... always impersonating people and making people laugh doing voices".

Ros na Run proved to be an education in itself. "I didn't know anything about scripts and cameras and make-up, I just learned that on the job", she says, describing the cast as "like a family", who she watched and learned.

With her soap experience, she moved to Dublin in search of meatier, lead roles on the stage, but found it tough to adjust.

"It was much harder in Dublin, I was looking to work in the Abbey or the Gate and it was hard to get in there".

Sunday Independent

Promoted articles

Also in this Section

Promoted articles

Top Stories

Most Read

Independent Gallery

Your photos

Send us your weather photos promo

Celebrity News