Arts Interview: Pius McGrath

John Rainsford


John Rainsford

Actor and playwright Pius McGrath
Born in Thomondgate, I am a ‘Sodacake’ through and through.

Born in Thomondgate, I am a ‘Sodacake’ through and through.

I love Limerick with its unique blend of History, Arts, and Sport. Educated at C.B.S Sexton St. for both Primary and Secondary Education, I later attended the University of Limerick (UL) for a brief stint before the allure of acting and the theatre finally caught up with me. I was, also, very lucky to have had some very inspirational teachers at school to whom I will be forever grateful.

My parents, Pius and Lily, really supported and encouraged my career choices.

Being an actor isn’t as straightforward as other career paths, but they were there (and still are) every step of the way. Although, some second and third cousins on my father’s side of the family went to RADA (The Royal Academy of Dramatic Art) I had no immediate relations influencing my career path. Performing is in the family, though, with my uncle being the Limerick Song Writer, Denis Allen, who penned the famous Limerick You’re A Lady. So there is show business in the genes, at least.

Although, I do a mixture of both Theatre and Film, I would like to explore the medium of film a lot more in 2014.

Theatre is a much more intimate experience for both the actor and the audience. The concept of a shared experience and breaking down the fourth wall is an aspect of theatre that constantly fascinates me. However, I believe Michael Caine said it best when he said that; ‘Theatre is an operation with a scalpel, I think movie acting is an operation with a laser’.

Being an Actor/Playwright gives me enormous freedom.

It gives me the power to discover, observe and re-enact everyday events. To create a piece of work and to put it on show for an audience to view is a real privilege. Actors are, above all else, story tellers, who are empowered to enlighten, to provoke, and to entertain the audience. I learned my craft by touring, exposing myself to the realities of life at a relatively young age. While, most of my peers were studying for college exams I was doing multiple venue tours across Ireland. I got a real ‘On the Job’ education you might say.

Each day is completely different from the one that went before it.

There is a lot of versatility and adventure with each new project that I undertake. So, even if I could imagine myself doing anything else, in reality, I wouldn’t have time to think about it. Acting is a very personal thing. You can encourage people to an extent, but it isn’t something that you can explain to them until they do it for themselves. The need to get up in front of an audience

(or a camera) and to pretend to be different people, in imaginary circumstances, certainly could not be classed as normal. Sigmund Freud would have had a field day.

If you want to try acting (and feel that you might like it) by all means give it a go.

Be an optimist, in this industry paid work is always a case of feast or famine anyway. The state of the economy doesn’t affect the Arts to the same extent as other industries. Recessions actually bolster the Arts. While I am not saying that it is easy, you just need to prepare yourself for the lean periods when they do come around. Adaptability is a big factor to ensure that you stay afloat.

As Artistic Director of the Honest Arts Production Company, founded in 2013, I wrote /produced and acted in The Mid-Knight Cowboy recently.

My character, William MacCumhaill, is an ageing Celtic Tiger cub, who finds himself at a crossroads in his life. The play is intended as a social commentary on how society, today, no longer lauds the virtues of previous generations. Set against the back-drop of the Celtic Tiger years, with flashbacks to different eras, the piece attempts to explore Irish masculinity and its relationship to alcohol, money, and sex. It was an Idea that I had for some time. The Celtic Tiger male was fed a pack of lies about ‘the generation that couldn’t fail’. However, it wasn’t until my business partner and director, Tara Doolan, lit the fire under me that the whole process of writing the scenes kicked off. Tara is, also, General Manager with Honest Arts.

The Mid-Knight Cowboy is a fast paced, physical show, with sharp character changes and tongue- in- cheek dialogue.

The reaction in 69 O’Connell Street (formerly the Belltable) was phenomenal. Having played the piece in front of mainly international audiences up to that point, in the Edinburgh International Fringe Festival and The United Solo Theatre Festival on Broadway, New York, respectively, it was great to take it home. With everyone in the Belltable catching every nuance and colloquialism the energy was unlike anything that I had ever experienced on stage before.

We will be taking the piece on the road again this year, hopefully in late spring.

Recently, I appeared as ‘William Simpson’ in Bottom Dog Theatre Co.’s production of What Happened Bridgie Cleary by Tom MacIntyre.

I am, also, the production Manager for Theatre At The Savoy with Payday Productions. We are, now, in our second year, bringing top quality theatre to the Savoy Hotel on the last Thursday, Friday, and Saturday of every month. It has garnered a mammoth following, selling out nearly every show over two weeks in advance. As a co-founder and event co-ordinator of The Elemental Arts and Culture Festival, I am proud to oversee what is now a highly regarded event in Limerick’s Calendar. This is going to be a very eventful year with Limerick being awarded the status of National City of Culture.

To find out more about Pius McGrath please see the following websites: and and