Ethan Dillon actor who plays the role of the war poet Francis Ledwidge at Friars' Gate Theatre this weekend
From Cloyne in Co Cork my Dad is from Askeaton, and my maternal grandmother is from Kilmeedy.
I have a lot of family there and spent a lot of my childhood in both places. Because my parents are very much interested in the arts, we would often go to plays, films and exhibitions, and I suppose that had an effect on me. My siblings all did science-based subjects in college, but English, history and languages interested me more. My whole family, especially my parents, have been incredibly supportive of my decisions. With acting they knew that it was a tough career choice but they were just happy that I had finally found something that I enjoyed doing.
My education took place variously at: Cloyne NS, Midleton College, University College Cork , and the Gaiety School of Acting in Dublin.
Originally, I studied Drama and Theatre at UCC and also went to the Gaiety, which is theatre-based training. I did a few plays with the UCC Drama society, and since finishing in the Gaiety I have worked in theatre, both in Cork and in Dublin. I love theatre because you only get one chance to get something right, as everything happens in one moment. I, also, love telling stories, and the feeling of being on stage in front of an audience, there is nothing else like it. It doesn’t feel like work, I really enjoy getting-up for rehearsals. It allows you to meet so many different people from completely different walks of life.
It’s a great time to be an actor with so many films and TV shows being made here right now.
As a nation we have had quite a bit of success at an international level with the Oscars last year and so on. There are, also, more places for actors to train in Ireland than ever before, and the standard of new writing that I have seen has been very high. This is especially true in places like the New Theatre, Theatre Upstairs in Dublin, and festivals like the Dublin Fringe Festival and Scene and Heard at Smock Alley Theatre. This is especially brilliant for giving young and emerging artists an opportunity to make theatre. Indeed, our national theatre is finally showing plays written by Enda Walsh, one of the best playwright’s in the country, right now.
Seeing more of the world would be great.
My brother lives in Tokyo at the moment, so I would love to visit him out there. We were in UCC at the same time, and finished the same year, so when I was moving to Dublin he was leaving for Japan. I have been to America and Africa but never Asia. He says that it was a complete culture shock; the way of life is totally different over there, so it’s something that I would love to experience. He’s always coming home with mad stories and bizarre gifts. My Christmas present this year was dried squid. It is a bit strange having him living so far abroad but we are always in contact, and he gets home at least once a year for a few weeks.
I wouldn’t ever discourage someone from being an actor as it can be so very rewarding.
But I think you really have to want to do it. You can’t do it half-heartedly. It can be difficult, and a lot of the time you don’t know when your next job will be. Indeed, acting, also, forces you to be adaptable, as you are constantly changing jobs. In fact, the Gaiety School was really good at emphasising how important it was to create your own work and not just wait for the opportunities to come your way. We had a class called ‘Manifesto’ with John Delaney, where we basically had to create new pieces of theatre every week. This was a lot of pressure but I learned so much from it. I haven’t put on any plays myself yet, but it is something that I would love to do in the future along with more writing.
‘Ledwidge’ a play written by Gerard Humphreys and directed by Anthony Fox, will be coming to Friars’ Gate Theatre this weekend.
It is about the life of Francis Ledwidge, a poet from Slane in Co Meath. He was an Irish nationalist but ended-up fighting for the British in the First World War. I had never heard of him before auditioning for the play so it was really interesting to learn all about him. As an actor, it is brilliant to play a character who is so conflicted. The play deals with his choice to go to war, and what happened to him when he did. It is an amazing story that should be celebrated, as he wrote many beautiful poems, especially in the aftermath of the Rising.
Francis Ledwidge should be regarded in the same vein as the famous war poets Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen.
However, there is only so much you can learn about these real life characters from books and documentaries. In fictional plays, you might have to come-up with your own back story; but ultimately you can only use part of that. You, also, have to focus on the text and what that gives you. So we did have a bit of dramatic license in creating this play. Without giving too much away, Ledwidge had a couple of love interests in his life, so that is a fascinating battle to play out, both in my head and on the stage!
The New Theatre presents the play ‘Ledwidge’ at Friars’ Gate Theatre in Kilmallock, on Saturday, March 25 at 8pm. For booking information please phone: 063-98727 or visit the website: www.friarsgate.ie