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You’ve technically brought ‘Sea Wall’ back to plug a short gap in the Old Vic schedule, but had you thought of doing it again anyway?
‘We had. We’ve done it in a lot of places but we’d wanted to see what it was like in a slightly bigger space. And then Matthew [Warchus, Old Vic artistic director] called and this seemed perfect. It doesn’t feel like the sort of play you want to do for three months. I just miss the other actors! But I do think it’s a genuinely brilliant play and no less brilliant because it’s short.’
Did you hesitate before saying yes to the Vic? It really is huge.
‘I definitely did but it’s just a brilliantly built theatre and acoustics are really incredible. And it’s a play that discusses the sea and the wall of the sea and the huge nature of the abyss so actually, when rehearsing I’m finding the space really helpful. The nature of the play is if we do it here, we do it here, this is the room that my character is speaking in. I don't wish it was somewhere more intimate.’
Much like ‘Hamlet’, ‘Sea Wall’ is pretty harrowing – do these plays take it out of you?
‘I mean, this is wonderful because it’s so short. Last year “Hamlet” was three hours 50 minutes. But with both things the sadness plays itself for me, your job is to play the light, I think that is the challenge. But then also it’s extremely funny, which I think is why it’s so brilliantly written.’
Do you think there’ll come a time when you stop doing ‘Sea Wall’
‘Yeah, I do. We’ve always said we wanted to do it again in London in a bigger space, and now we are. I’m not going to say that this is definitely the last time. But it might be.’
You spent most of last year doing ‘Hamlet’ – how was that?
‘It was really exhilarating, like no other experience I've ever had or ever will have, though the stamina required was enormous. We did it and then two weeks later I did the movie of “King Lear” and that led up to December, and this year I’ve not done a lot of acting at all. It was really important to unplug, I definitely needed to.’
What do you do when you’re not acting?
‘I go to Ireland, I see my family. I’m interested in drawing and painting and architecture and design and all that stuff, and I get to see people without being totally exhausted. And I drink a lot of alcohol [laughs].’
‘Hamlet’ screened on telly over Easter – did you watch it?
‘I couldn’t bear to! Acting is one of the only art forms where you don’t see the thing you’ve created, which is great; it means you can not be self-conscious. I watched the first scene, which Hamlet’s not in and I thought: That’s kind of cool. And then I come on and I’m like: Oh. My. God. I just left the apartment. Well, first I cleaned the apartment from top to bottom because I was just nervous and like: Fuck, this is on. And then I was like: Okay, I’m going to get out of here.’
This was at like like ten, 11 at night?
‘Exactly! Some weirdo walking around. And then I was like: Is this ever going to end? It’s not a short play. But it was so cool it was on, and that a lot of people watched it.’
You’re Irish and the Eighth Amendment has just been repealed – I’m guessing you’re pretty happy about that?
‘I’m thrilled. It was totally archaic and disgusting and I’m so proud of us. Totally proud of Ireland. And I was a bit worried! To be honest I thought it would be repealed but I didn’t think it would be the landslide that it was and that’s just extraordinary. I think what the marriage referendum did is that it engaged the people politically, a huge amount of young people voted and it’s just incredible, the way it should be. I love London but being Irish is part of who I am. It’s nice to have a foot in both places. I definitely feel bicoastal!’ [laughs]
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