ONE of the most instantly recognisable faces in Limerick, actor, director and playwright Myles Breen has been honoured with the Limerick Person of the Month award for his outstanding contribution to the arts in the Mid-West region.
Since his first introduction to theatre as a boy growing up on South Circular Road, Myles has nourished his love of life on stage and in doing so has brought audiences from all corners of the county on a journey filled with laughter, tension, tears and triumphs.
“I’m thrilled,” said the man himself at the Clarion hotel on accepting the monthly award.
The thespian – who turns 50 next month – has been performing, directing and writing for the past 27 years.
He has played characters as diverse as Widow Twankey in Aladdin to Claudius in Hamlet and has appeared on popular television soap Fair City.
His cites his mother, Bridie, now a hale and hearty 93 years of age as the first influence on his future career.
“When we were young, my mother was really into theatre, music and dancing so she dragged us along to everything, everything,” he emphasises, “made us do Irish dancing and piano.”
Myles went to college in University College Cork to study commerce and soon became involved in the dramatic society.
He got the degree, “just” he smiles, “and I went back to my mam and dad and said ‘yeah, I don’t think I’m going to be doing the commerce or the accounting – I’m going to become an actor’.”
Bridie and her late husband Myles – who ran Myles Breen’s pub on Shannon Street – were supportive, if a little bit surprised.
Myles secured a professional job with a community theatre company in Cork almost straight out of college and “that’s where it started”.
He spent around 13 years in Dublin before moving back to Limerick about five years ago when he set up Bottom Dog Theatre Company with Liam O’Brien, Mike Finn and Mike Burke.
“To be honest, I have been very busy since I came back. I have done the odd job outside Limerick but it’s nice to be home,” said the Henry Street Mews resident, “and there is quite a buzz in Limerick at the moment with City of Culture.”
So far this year he has penned two plays - “that’s a much lonelier life, the writing” he points out.
“When you are working as a director or actor you are in the room with all the people but when you are writing stuff on your own it’s very different.”
He recalls having “this thing bubbling in my head for a play” and as a result of Bottom Dog receiving funding from City of Culture was able to sit down and write The Bachelor of Kilkish which ran in the Lime Tree for three nights and toured to Kilmallock and Kilkee.
A proud Limerick man he says he gets great satisfaction from his work with the Daughters of Charity and Limerick Youth Theatre. “This is our fourth year doing it - I write and direct a play for about 30 actors and on top of that, having received some funding from City of Culture which we are very grateful for, we also had about 40 dancers with special needs. On top of that again we had a choir from Laurel Hill Colaiste and they also had some members from Daughters of Charity in the choir. It was called A Night in the Library. In the end there was 120 people in it.”
Myles, who would love to have a “nice meaty role in a Shakespeare play” recalls great days with Island Theatre Company which “sadly is no longer with us”.
“I did 20 or 25 plays with them including Pigtown – one of the highlights -–and it was always lovely coming home to work with a professional company here in town.”
His advice to young people thinking of going into acting? Have faith in yourself but also be realistic.
“I am not discouraging anybody but it is a tricky life. It’s uncertain - it’s an up and down one. If you feel you can deal with that then great but if you want security then this may not be the business for you.”
The other thing he advises is to get training. “It’s very rare for an actor to spring out of nowhere. You need training for two reasons – one to develop your skills but also in training they show you how to view it as a business – to make contacts, deal with agents, contracts. There is a business element – they don’t call it show business for nothing!”