Wednesday 13 November 2019

Beth joins the family business

A young Londoner from a famous Irish acting family doesn't feel under any extra pressure acting in Dublin

Theatre pedigree: Actor Beth Cooke is a member of the Cusack dynasty. Photo: David Conachy.
Theatre pedigree: Actor Beth Cooke is a member of the Cusack dynasty. Photo: David Conachy.

Anna Coogan

The apple really doesn't fall far from the tree. You could even say it's sitting snugly at the bottom of the tree trunk in the case of Beth Cooke, a 20-something-year-old who happens to be the daughter of Sorcha Cusack; the granddaughter of Cyril Cusack; the niece of Sinead, Niamh and Catherine Cusack, and who will soon take the lead role in an adaptation of Ingmar Bergman's Oscar-winning film Through A Glass Darkly at the Project Arts Centre.

The brunette with green eyes has a Cusack face - open, warm and intelligent - and smiles easily during our early-morning chat in the Fitzwilliam Hotel, after which she has to make a mad dash back to Rathmines and more intense rehearsals for the play in which she takes the role of a woman torn between love and duty, and a desire for freedom.

I tell her she even sounds like a Cusack; genteel and gracious. In fact, she sounds more Cusack than she does London, where she grew up with mum Sorcha, and dad, actor Nigel Cooke, and where she is currently living with a flatmate. She is staying with family friend and actress Ingrid Craigie during her sojourn in Dublin.

So much of a Cusack in fact, that she was promptly recognised the minute she got off the plane, something which brings the biggest of smiles to Beth's face. "My flatmate has a joke that I'm a 'Dublin celebrity'. It's because I'm totally not famous at all," she says.

"She knows my family and jokes when I get off a plane here there are paps waiting for me at the airport.

"I texted her shortly after I got off the plane because I got into a taxi and was having a chat with the cabbie, and when I got out and he got my bag out for me, he said to me 'you are one of those famous Cusacks, aren't you?'" Beth says.

"I texted her to say I had just been recognised and she thought I was joking because she had been joking," she says laughing.

Summers were spent in Skibbereen staying with extended family, and Beth concedes that she may well be a "half-Biddy."

Yet interestingly, this is only the young actress's second media interview, and which she attributes to not being famous, a status quo which she says she wouldn't mind preserving. "I've no intention to be famous. It's not my desire."

We last saw Beth in Dublin in the role of Cordelia in King Lear at the Abbey in 2013. Her TV work includes appearances in Casualty and Doctors for the BBC, and in the TV film The Suspicions of Mr Whicher: The Murder at Road Hill House, directed by James Hawes.

Before coming to Dublin she was in Budapest filming the part of Georgette Le Coin for the television series Maigret, directed by Ashley Pearce for ITV. And when she finishes the run in the Project she is off to France to chill and spend time with her family "on my dad's side".

But first to Beth's role as Karin in Through A Glass Darkly, which she feels will appeal to anyone interested in family dynamics. Karin is a woman struggling to deal with the conventional confines of family life.

"Karin hasn't got a job, you see. And she's got a very powerful imagination and creative energy, so where does that go when you haven't got an outlet?"

When asked as a child if she wanted to be an actress, Beth quickly replied in the negative. "I think because it was expected of me, I always said 'no'." But she got the bug and trained at The Drama Centre in London where she received a BA (Hons) in acting. She makes light of the fact that a CV describes her as a mezzo-soprano and having achieved Grade 6 piano. "I've sung in shows and play the piano."

She says she doesn't feel under any pressure whatsoever because of who her family is. "You can't spend too much time worrying about comparison. Anyway, you need all your energy to be creative."

When it comes to other people's reactions, especially when it comes to Irish audiences, she says, "I tend not to say I'm a Cusack."

Through A Glass Darkly will run at the Project Arts Centre from November 12 to December 5, and is directed by Annie Ryan.

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