Sunday 18 March 2018

Life lessons with Deirdre O'Kane: 'Getting older is crap'

Deirdre O'Kane: 'I'm a real mammy, that's for sure'. Photo: Fran Veale
Deirdre O'Kane: 'I'm a real mammy, that's for sure'. Photo: Fran Veale
Deirdre O'Kane and her husband Stephen Bradley

Meadhbh McGrath

Actress and comedian Deirdre O' Kane (45) was born in Drogheda, Co Louth. She is best known for her roles in Moone Boy, Intermission. After an eight-year break, Deirdre returned to stand-up in 2014 This year, she won an IFTA for her performance in the critically acclaimed biopic Noble - the film which she and her husband, screenwriter and filmmaker Stephen Bradley, developed based on the life of children's rights campaigner Christina Noble. The couple live in Chiswick, West London, with their two children, Holly (10) and Daniel (7), but are planning to move back to Ireland soon.

There's a lot I've missed about living in Ireland. You miss family, particularly when you've got kids. I miss the shorthand of the language in Ireland - our English is different from their English. I have to explain myself a lot over there, while two words could cover a lot here.

I'm a real mammy, that's for sure. You become a different person when you're a parent - your life changes entirely. Life's not about you any more, you have these little people to care for, and that's such a massive responsibility. It's quite overwhelming sometimes.

The notion that patience is a virtue is something you don't fully appreciate until you're a parent. You need endless patience with little ones. Even when they're your own and you adore the ground they walk on, they still push your buttons, and you have to learn to breathe and not blow.

Steve and I first met when we moved into houses next door to each other, so he's the boy next door! We've been together for 20 years now, and I think being in the same industry is a big help to us.

A great piece of advice someone passed on to me was to always make time for yourself. It's not easy, but get a sitter and get a night on your own, even once a month. We try to do that so it's not always all about the kids, because you get caught up and you actually feel guilty doing something without them. But you need that time alone to reconnect.

Growing up, I was your classic Catholic Irish kid. I went to mass every Sunday. Then in secondary school I went to boarding school and there was mass seven days a week before breakfast - it may have put me off!

I definitely consider myself a spiritual person. I don't do religion, and I haven't for a long time, but in fact, I don't connect the two. I feel that you need to call on something, particularly in times of crisis.

I'm doing my best to be mindful about how I'm living. To be kind and patient, and not to impose a bad mood on somebody else. Being mindful is as good a way to be spiritual as anything else.

I've realised that I don't do well when I'm not being creative. I spent a year doing promotional work for Noble, and Steve said to me, "Just write for two hours, you will feel better". And I did! It was a kind of therapy. Then once you've written it, you want an audience for it.

I really didn't think I'd go back to stand-up, but God it felt good. It felt like a little bit of rock'n'roll again. There must be a part of me that likes the danger of putting yourself on the line like that. When you've worked hard at something, that skill is in you, and it was like getting back on a bike.

For my new set, I began by writing about the frustrations of being a mum. It was the ordinary stuff, like everyday obsessions with the dinners - the more effort you put into it, the more they don't like it. If you threw up fish fingers six nights a week, they'd be delighted. There's absolutely no thanks for trying to be Jamie Oliver.

Do I enjoy getting older? Oh god no, getting older is crap! Actually, I enjoy being much more aware of who I am, what I want to do, and not apologising for myself.

It's not easy to watch the bloom going off the rose. It takes a lot longer to apply the make-up to look as good as you did before - there are an awful lot more cracks to fill in. In a way you have to own it and get the hell on with it.

I don't think there are that many roles for women of a certain age, and there's fierce competition for the roles that are out there. Most scripts are 80pc male, if not 90pc. That's just down to history - if it's a war film, it's men. If it's a political film, it's men. Because it's been a male-dominated world for so long, there's a lot of catch-up to do, so you end up playing the mammy and hope to Christ that someone will write a Dancing at Lughnasa.

Noble is the highlight of my career so far. It was a very personal job and it was a passion project for us. I'm very proud of it, but it was a massive undertaking, and bloody hell, it wasn't easy.

I am really happy, but you're never happy enough. There will always be more. I'd like to go to Broadway, I'd like to do a TV series in America like House of Cards, I'd like more work!

The new play is a bit of a rollercoaster. Audiences can expect the full whammy - laughing, crying and a bit of music. I don't know what more you could want.

Deirdre stars in 'Are You There Garth? It's Me, Margaret' which premieres at Dublin's Gaiety Theatre on October 14. She will be performing at The Vodafone Comedy Carnival Galway from Oct 20-26.

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