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Art seen: Let's Get Physical

I was born in dublin, in the Coombe, but I grew up in Cork. I studied in UCC, doing classics and philosophy, and came back up to Dublin to form a band. I had always been a musician all through my teens and through college; I got into acting in Dublin and trained with a group called Down to Earth -- I learned on the job.

People do think of me as a physical theatre actor, but 'physical theatre' is a funny old one; all theatre is physical in one way, but it is certainly a genre. People would put me on that shelf. The word I keep coming back to when I perform is 'play'. I play. I think people who know me would recognise in me a great sense of play when I perform. And I take my play very seriously. I embody that playfulness physically; I feel very alive when I step onstage; I tend to plug into the big energy of play that is out there.

I'm one of those funny fish who has always had one foot in the adult theatre and one foot in theatre for children. I want it to stay that way, and I'm very happy to make the commitment to the children's sector. I'm delighted to be the theatre-maker in residence at The Ark. It's a circle for me: I did my first play for children in The Ark 13 years ago. Since then, I've performed on their stage more than 500 times, and my love for children's theatre began here under the mentorship of Nico Brown and Martin Drury. I really learned my trade with those two fellas; what I'm keen to do in the coming years is to pass on what I've learned. I really want to pass it on to someone in their 20s, because I was in my 20s when I started learning from Nico. To that end, within the theatre-maker residency, we have an actor-training fortnight later in the spring, which I'm really looking forward to.

The Girl Who Forgot to Sing Badly was written by Finegan Kruckemeyer. We had a two-week development process last October, and Lynne Parker, myself, Finegan, and the creative team got together and started throwing things up in the air. At the end of that, we had a rehearsal draft of the play. It's about a young girl called Peggy, who, through the course of a very epic adventure, discovers something really great about herself that she didn't know at the beginning, and she goes through a lot of exciting stages to arrive there. It's great fun.

I'm very conscious that when I speak of physical theatre, it's the very opposite of cartwheels and mime. Rather, it's a physical awareness, and an awareness of the signals that I'm sending out to an audience, to help them on their journey through my performance. I'm extremely aware of the audience at all times.

The flow of energy between myself and an audience of children is amazing; it's what I love so much. At the beginning of any show for children, I plug into that energy, and I try to help the entire audience plug in to a common energy; I'm the fella who knows where the story's going. We can't have all our own disparate energies flying about the place, like a playground. I certainly open myself very much to the audience and let their energies flow in and out of the performance.

The Girl Who Forgot to Sing Badly runs in The Ark, Temple Bar, 'til March 7th


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