Jack Healy

Tipperary-born actor who brings his one man show to Friars' Gate Theatre

John Rainsford

Reporter:

John Rainsford

Jack Healy

Jack Healy actor who brings his one man show to Friars' Gate Theatre

Born in Tipperary, I lived in Fethard, until I went to study at University College Cork.

That was back in 1977 but I have lived in Cork since then. I was educated (both primary and secondary) at the Patrician Academy in Fethard. I graduated with a BSc from UCC (1980) and H.Dip in Education in (1983). I had an uncle, (also called Jack Healy), who was a founder of An Taibhdhearc Theatre in Galway, and a distant cousin who wrote plays. My mother often commented back then: “Jack should be an actor!” which stayed with me throughout these formative years.

Probably the greatest single influence on my career, however, was my old drama teacher, Mary Cummins, from Clonmel.

Mary was a diminutive, but very powerful Clonmel woman, who came to our school during my Leaving Certificate year, and soon had us singing and dancing. I thought that this was the best thing ever, a true life transforming moment. After that I owe my career, and much more to my friend, John Talty, who made my brother and I join the dramatic society at UCC (1979). The actor, Frank Kelly, (Father Jack), was also something of an influence. Indeed, as a teenager, one of my friends acquired an album of his sketches which we all learned to do, word for word. I seemed to have a particular facility for it, accents and all.

I have done a few short films, (‘Uisce Beatha’ with Sean O’Connor and ‘Not a bad Christmas’ with Enda Walsh), but other than that, it has been mostly stage work.

Based in Cork I have worked with the Corcadorca, Graffit and Meridian Theatre Companies. However, most of my work in recent years has been with my own company, Theatre Makers, or with The Everyman Palace Theatre. With Theatre Makers I did two other one-man shows: ‘Shostakovich’ (based on the life of the soviet composer), written and performed by myself and ‘The Great Hunger’ by Patrick Kavanagh. Between 2009 and 2012 the company toured extensively with the children’s play; ‘Aesop’s Fabulous Fables and Foibles’ written by myself and George Hanover.

My upcoming show at Friars’ Gate Theatre is called ‘The Tayman, the Tomcat and Others’.

It is a one-man show based on the stories of Eamon Kelly, who died in 2001. Eamon was a household name in Ireland in the second half of the last century. He was particularly known as ‘The Seanachaí’ (or story teller) as he regaled the nation, through his shows and broadcasts, using stories largely drawn from his childhood in Kerry. He was also a well known actor and was nominated for a Tony Award for his role as S. B. O’Donnell in Brian Friel’s ‘Philadelphia Here I Come’. I have worked on this play with Cork-based director and playwright, Ger FitzGibbon, and it is our intention to put a selection of these stories in front of the public again. It has already been performed at The Cork Arts Theatre and The Abymill Theatre in Fethard.

While encouraging everyone to be constructive, one should acquaint enthusiasts, with the difficulties of choosing a life in the theatre.

The main difficulty in acting comes from not being able to get work. After that, I think that it is no more or less difficult, than any other calling. The essence of success with it, for me, lies in making sure that I enjoy the experience all of the time. There are other jobs that you can get away with not enjoying. Not so acting. If you don’t enjoy it, that communicates itself to the audience. I, also, work in other areas of the theatre, especially writing and directing. I have not travelled much, but I did perform ‘Shostakovich’ at the Southbank Centre, in London, (2012), and ‘Aesop’s Fabulous Fables and Foibles’, at The Irish Cultural Centre, in Paris, (2008). These were great experiences so I would like to do more.

What I love about acting is the powerful idea of personal transformation that it offers, in a very real way.

I don’t know if I actually get inspired as an actor, but I have a simple enough technique that usually gets me to where I want to be. I am guided very much by my own sense of enjoyment about what I am doing. This, of course, is treacherous because you may end up as the only one enjoying your own performance, but, to begin with, it is also the only thing that you can be certain of. If there is a text involved, I keep listening to the sound of my own voice, and to the actions of my own body, in terms of what the author requires. If there are other people involved I keep on tuning into what they are doing with the script.

I try to listen to everyone while doing my best to avoid getting tired.

For me, being an actor is far less about pretending to be someone else, than it is about finding new things within. Acting, in some form or another, can be taught to anyone who wants to act. It can be many different things and can work in lots of different ways. For example, stage acting requires very specific techniques, involving voice and performance. Film acting, however, is a very different thing and may be more straightforward for the uninitiated. Depending, of course, on whether you are in the hands of a good director!

Jack Healy will be performing in, ‘The Tayman, the Tomcat and Others’, at Friars’ Gate Theatre in Kilmallock, on Friday, January 20 at 8pm and also at St John’s Theatre in Listowel on Thursday, February 23. For booking information about the former show please phone: 063 98727 or visit the website: www.friarsgate.ie