Tuesday 23 October 2018

A family getting in on the act

Andrea Smith

Andrea Smith

GARRETT Lombard and his dad Gary share a huge passion for acting, but with one fundamental difference. While Garrett has carved out a professional career to date, dad Gary is quite happy to combine his legal career as a solicitor with a devotion to his amateur dramatic society, the Gorey Little Theatre group.

As a boy Garrett was already showing an aptitude for character-acting. "Garrett was always very free-spirited," says Gary, who is married to Veronica. "He started dressing up as other characters from the age of three. We always had a great relationship, although when Garrett got to about 15, he went through a bit of wild period, but we weathered that storm."

"I was very wild and rebellious between the ages of about 15 and 20," agrees Garrett, who has four siblings, Aoife, Rionagh, Tomas and Ross. "I kicked up against anything I could kick up against - responsibility went out of the window. I didn't think my actions had any effect on anyone else, but they did, of course.

"Apart from that, Dad and I have always got on very well. We're very similar, with fairly logical minds, and we're both very interested in rugby and acting. Dad was always very interested in travel, and bringing us around and showing us historical places, and I have great memories of him reading to us at night."

Gary became involved in amateur dramatics after leaving school, and he divided his talents between local groups and UCD's DramSoc, which he joined while he was in Dublin studying law. He met Veronica on a production of Tomas McAnna's play about Killkea Castle, and after a year of acting together, he plucked up the courage to ask her for a date. "We were engaged after five dates," he says.

The couple became involved in Gorey Little Theatre group in Co Wexford, and the theatre that the society subsequently built there, and like the rest of his family, son Garrett, 29, became involved from an early age.

"I didn't have much choice in the matter," he laughs, "and I got a real taste for it around 11 and 12. The more I did the more I liked it, and I decided that was what I wanted to do professionally."

Garrett completed the acting degree course at Trinity, and after graduation, found himself wondering if he had made the right choice after all, when he found himself working on a building site.

"I did my showcase and I was expecting the world to open up to me, but nobody picked me up and I didn't have an agent, which was a bit worrying," he says. "I sent out my CV to all the theatre companies, and eventually got an audition for Alone It Stands, which was my dream job. I got the part, and was so lucky, because it opened the whole acting world for me. We did a big tour of Ireland, and travelled to the West End and Australia, which was fantastic."

After that, Garrett got steady theatre, film and television work, including the RTE series Pure Mule, and playing a general in Oliver Stone's film Alexander, which gave him a taste for travelling. He is currently working on the Druid production of Year of the Hiker, and has just completed a BBC series, Rough Diamond. Gary admits to having initial doubts about his son's career choice, but once he saw how passionate he was about it, he didn't try to dissuade him. "I remember talking to him about how much pleasure his mum and I got out of acting as a hobby, but once we saw how serious he was, we went about looking at all the courses on offer.

"I've been asked whether I'm jealous of Garrett, because he's doing what we love professionally, but I'm not at all because I also enjoy what I'm doing immensely. My own father died when I was 16, and I qualified as a solicitor with the intention of taking over his practice. It never entered my head to go into theatre professionally, but there weren't the same opportunities back then anyway. I always saw it as a fantastic hobby."

Gary says that Garrett has inherited a mixture of both of his parents' acting skills, which he feels gives him a great versatility.

"He definitely got the best of both of our talents," he says. "Veronica has the music and dance side, and also a lightness, whereas I'd have more gravitas. I love seeing Garrett on stage, and I'm really proud of him. When I see him on stage, his approach to acting is very similar to mine."

Garrett has been going out with Deirdre, a nurse, for the past four years, and he met her through his sister Rionagh, who is also a nurse.

He still maintains close links with Gorey, and goes to loads of the Little Theatre Group's productions. He is particularly looking forward to their panto production of Old King Cole at Christmas, in which his dad plays the title role. "They write it to suit the locality, with a lot of local jokes included, and it goes down a bomb," he laughs. "It sells better than any professional play!"

'The Year of the Hiker', by John B Keane, is at the Pavilion Theatre, Dun Laoghaire, November 27-December 2, 01-2312929, www.ticketlord.com; Backstage Theatre, Longford, December 4-6, 043 47888, www.backstage.ie; Riverbank Arts Centre, Newbridge, December 8-9, 045 448333, boxoffice@riverbank.ie; Dunamaise Arts Centre, Portlaoise, December 11-16, 057 8663355, www.dunamaise.ie; www.druidtheatre.com

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