A Question of Taste: Irene O'Mara

Irene O’Mara teaches acting & voice on the Drama & Musical Theatre course at Cork School of Music.

Originally from Dublin, she’s been living in Cork since 2012.

A Question of Taste: Irene O'Mara

Best recent book you’ve read: His Dark Materials, by Philip Pullman. Great preparation for the BBC series.

Best recent film you’ve seen: Joker — it was incredible. A masterclass in performance by Joaquin Phoenix, humanising a character we’ve only seen as a clown before.

Best recent show or gig: Sorry Gold — an aerial dance piece as part of Dublin Fringe Festival by Emily Aoibheann. Five performers on bright coloured silks, creating botanical images and moments reflecting nature, full of sound. Weirdest thing I’ve seen in ages. Loved it.

Best piece of music you’ve been listening to lately (new or old): I’m not a great music listener, but I’m still deeply into the latest James Blake album, Assume Form.

First ever piece of music or film or show that really moved you: E.T the movie. Two moments — the exhilaration when they take flight in the bikes and the huge sadness when E.T is sick.

The best gig or show you’ve ever seen: Lost in a Flurry of Cherry Blossoms which was performed years ago in the Granary Theatre by a Japanese company. There was a TON of cherry blossom petal confetti and it was mesmerising. I remember being blown away by the scale of feeling I had in such a small performance space.

Tell us about your TV viewing: I’m obsessed with watching TV — I’ve nearly completed Netflix! Recent favourites include: Succession (what a horrible bunch of people!), ATypical (a great show about a kid with ASD), Rick and Morty (adult cartoons at their best) and Queer Eye (cross-border kindness!).

Radio listening and podcasts: I never miss Morning Ireland — the best way to digest the important news of the day. I love podcasts. I’m currently laughing my way through the back catalogue of My Dad Wrote a Porno, but also a long time fan of This American Life, Radiolab, Invisibilia and anything released on the RTÉ Podcasts. I love complex ideas explored in an audio format.

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Your best celebrity encounter: I’m a big fan of the voice practitioner Kristin Linklater. I saw her the day after a workshop in our college in a nearby cafe. I really wanted to tell her how much I enjoyed the work, but she was engaged in a conversation with an older man, so I decided not to interrupt. I left the cafe, but as I passed by the window where they were sitting, I realised the older man was Bill Murray. If only I’d said hello!

You can portal back to any period of human cultural history?

Shakespearean England. It would be amazing to experience a piece live with original pronunciation, maybe even see Shakespeare himself and ask him about his work.

Who are your three favourite voices of all time?

  • Olwen Fouéré: her voice is beautifully deep and feminine all at once, with a true Irish tone.
  • Meryl Streep: there is a moment at the end of the Netflix movie The Laundromat where she switches between the two characters she plays in the movie and then herself, and it’s magical.
  • Kristen Schaal: Unusual and quirky and unmistakable and inherently funny. Proof all voices are beautiful.

Do you have any interesting ancestors or family?

My great great grand uncle was James O’Mara, who was a member of the first Dáil. But before that in 1903 he was an MP the House of Commons, he introduced the bill which made Saint Patrick’s Day a national holiday.

Unsung heroes: Cork Penny Dinners. Every year I sing with the Jingle Belle Choir to raise money for them, and I’m always blown away by the work they do and how little support they get.

You are queen for a day — what’s your first decree?

Taxes! Tax the corporations who avoid paying what is due, direct those taxes directly towards desperately needed services like health, housing, climate and education. If they don’t comply: Off with their heads!

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