Monday 14 October 2019

Sisters follow parents on to the stage...

With successful actor parents, Sarah Brennan and her sister Kate Stanley Brennan didn't lick it from the stones

Sisters Sarah Brennan and Kate Stanley Brennan inherited their love for drama. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Sisters Sarah Brennan and Kate Stanley Brennan inherited their love for drama. Photo: Steve Humphreys

Andrea Smith

Family lore has it that Sarah Brennan's nose was put out of joint initially when her baby sister Kate came along when she was five. Sarah is the eldest of Stephen Brennan and Martina Stanley's four children, and after Kate arrived, she was followed by their younger siblings, Holly and Johnny.

The sisters lived in London initially as Stephen was working with the National Theatre there, and then the family moved back to Rathfarnham when Sarah was 10. The age gap between them meant that the sisters didn't hang around together when they were very young, although Sarah was Kate's protector and even recalls warning off a junior infant who was hassling Kate.

"I got a fright when Kate had to go into hospital because she took Mum's iron tablets," Sarah recalls. "She was about two and she managed to open the child-lock on them one morning while our parents were asleep."

Kate (33) recalls that Sarah (39) was the cool older sister that she and Holly looked up to around music. Sarah was 18 and Kate was 13 when their parents broke up and they have remained very close to both. They now have two gorgeous younger brothers Dylan (9) and Jamie (6), whom Stephen has with actress Dawn Bradfield.

While Holly and Johnny became graphic designers, and Johnny is also a DJ, Sarah and Kate pursued acting. They began drama classes as children with Ann Kavanagh, which they loved, so it didn't come as a surprise to anyone when Sarah decided to do a BA in acting at Trinity College. The sisters' dad is one of the most successful actors in the country and their mum Martina is equally well-known for her long-standing role as Dolores in Fair City. Stephen's late parents, Daphne Carroll and Denis Brennan, were actors, as are his siblings Barbara, Catherine, Paul and Jane. "Mum and Dad were members of the Abbey Players and I have great memories from those days," says Sarah. "It was a really golden, glamorous time, with amazing people around."

After she graduated, Sarah's career path included setting up a theatre company with a friend and moving to London. She also taught at Young People's Theatre, and ultimately discovered that she preferred teaching and directing to acting. Sarah and her friend Suzanne have now set up their own children's theatre school, SB Theatreworks in Rathfarnham.

She is married to contemporary urban artist James Earley, who does a lot of street art and spray murals, such as the one on the facade of Blooms Hotel. His claim to fame is that one of his murals made it on to a Leaving Cert paper this year, says Sarah. They have a daughter Ruby (3) and son Jules (almost one). Sarah has also done a master's in creative writing so she has been busy.

Kate says that Sarah is a wonderful mother, who took to the role so naturally. "Ruby is obsessed with Kate and I don't get a look in when she is around," Sarah says. "Kate is great at making things, and she is incredibly giving and would do anything for anyone. She has an amazing heart and is so passionate and brave, and I'm so proud of her and always want the best for her."

Having completed two years of theatre studies at Trinity College, Kate lived in New York for a year, where she had "amazing fun", prior to returning to Ireland to join a touring theatre production. Her career has gone very well with many theatre and film productions under her belt, and she is also a musician, performing under the name Miss Kate.

Kate is currently in rehearsals for Druid's production of Crestfall at the Galway International Arts Festival. It then runs for two weeks at the Abbey Theatre (August 1-12).

Crestfall is Mark O'Rowe's unflinching portrait of three women on the precipice of catastrophe, and is about love in a dog-eat-dog world. It also stars Siobhan Cullen and Amy McElhatton.

"Sarah taught me when I was growing up, and she was the biggest inspiration to me, apart from my parents," says Kate. "She actually taught Siobhan too, as did I for a time at Young People's Theatre. Sarah has been a real mentor to me, and she has always been there and pushed me to do things that I wouldn't have done without her guidance. She is really cool as well - I respect and trust her opinion on everything. She is also really kind and loving and generous."

The sisters acknowledge that having such successful parents in the industry can be a challenge on the odd occasion, but they both have huge admiration for them. They are each other's best friend and are looking forward to Sarah directing Kate in her own musical show in September, details of which will soon be announced.

Kate is currently single, and her big sister gets great fun from teasing her about her romantic liaisons. Sarah gives great advice, says Kate, although in the time-honoured tradition of younger sisters everywhere, she doesn't always take it. "She never listens to me, but then again, before I met my husband, there were plenty of square pegs in round holes for me too," laughs Sarah. Druid presents Crestfall at Galway International Arts Festival 2017 from July 14-29, playing at The Mick Lally Theatre. It will also run from August 1 -12 at the Abbey Theatre, Dublin.

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