Tuesday 23 July 2019

How the GAA player 'who ran away to join the circus' stole the show with his crowd-pleasing strip-tease

'Roscommon kits aren’t very well stocked in Dublin' - Show producer had to plead with theatre goers not to nick Ronan Brady's GAA shorts

Ronan Brady, the GAA player 'who ran away to join the circus'
Ronan Brady, the GAA player 'who ran away to join the circus'
Ronan Brady on the pitch
Ronan during one of his performances
Kirsty Blake Knox

Kirsty Blake Knox

It takes a lot to upstage HRH Panti Bliss.

But Ronan Brady, “the GAA player who ran away to join the circus”, has managed to do just that.

Brady, who became an acrobat after an injury forced him off the pitch, starred alongside Panti in camp cabaret Riot as part of the 2016 Dublin Tiger Fringe Festival.

As part of the show Brady executed a series of gravity defying acrobatics.

Ronan Brady on the pitch
Ronan Brady on the pitch

He also performed a very, very memorable strip tease.

Wearing his county colours, and eating a pack of Cheese and Onion Tayto crisps, Brady stalked around the stage before whipping off his jersey and shorts and throwing them into the crowd.

The routine was a hit with audience members.

In fact, some punters were so taken with Brady’s dance they started stealing items of his discarded kit and bringing it home.

Needless to say, this eventually became an issue for the show’s producer Philly McMahon who had to plead with theatre goers not to nick his GAA shorts. 

"Roscommon kits aren’t very well stocked in Dublin," Brady said. "They were having difficulty getting replacements. And it was getting expensive.

Ronan during one of his performances
Ronan during one of his performances

"We had to come up with a designated jersey throwing location in the Spiegeltent to stop it happening."

The show returns this summer and will play at Vicar Street – where hopefully the crowd will behave a bit better.

Born in Elphin, Brady (29) played GAA while growing up. "GAA is the glue that holds the community together," he says.

He became interested in acrobatics after he was diagnosed with osteitis pubis in 2011 and had to a break from the sport.

Brady had to look elsewhere to "maintain core strength" and get an adrenalin kick so he ventured down to Carrick-on-Shannon Gymnastics Club.

There he began training in aerial acrobatics alongside aerial coach Shane Holohan.

"I really enjoyed it but it was when I was at the Irish Aerial Dance Festival in 2013 that I first saw a Cyr wheel."

The wheel looks a lot like an oversized metal hula hoop which Brady stands arms and legs outstretched in.

"First year I was terrible at it but that’s why I stayed with it. It was me versus the wheel," he said.

Brady was working as an engineering teacher in a secondary school in Swinford when he began Cyr training. He would use any down-time he had to practise in the school grounds.

Soon he decided to try and make it his full time vocation – which eventually landed him a role in Riot – the Tiger Fringe festival’s sell out show.

Described as "a disorderly cocktail of wild theatre, gut-punching spoken word", the show  features stand out set pieces from some of Ireland’s most acclaimed performers.

Emmet Kirwan recites his monologue Heartbreak, Panti Bliss lip synchs extracts from 1969 film The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, and the Lords of Strut perform a version of The Passion of the Christ.

“I don’t think we realised how popular it was going to be but people just really took to it," Brady says.

Asked if any of his former team mates had been to see his show he laughed; “I don’t think going to the theatre is high on a GAA player’s agenda – they have too much training to do.

“It’s a very different world to the one I came from. Being in the show has been a real learning curve – there is a lot of gender bending and I have been made aware of issues that women face that as a man I never had to.

"It celebrates the individual and I think that’s why people like it."

Riot plays at Vicar Street 6th – 8th July and 13th - 15th July and is predicted to sell out

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