They’re young, gifted, and ready for their close-up. From film to food, Esther McCarthy talks to the next wave of talent set to emerge in the year ahead
Her scene-stealing role as a troubled character in Dublin Murders grabbed the attention of viewers of the crime series late last year. But 2020 is set to be even busier for Leah McNamara with a role in one of the most anticipated projects of the year.
She will play key character Rachel in Lenny Abrahamson’s TV-series adaptation of Normal People, Sally Rooney’s much-loved novel about a young couple as they move from school to university.
“It was a wonderful experience,” she says of working with the Oscar-nominated director of Room. “I think people who were fans of the book will be really happy. It’s going to be a very different and truthful story about two people.”
On Abrahamson, she said: “He’s so talented, a pure filmmaker through and through. He’s very generous with his time as adirector and considerate with everybody.”
Leah has just been signed to Hyperion Talent Agency in the US, which counts Shailene Woodley among its ranks, and is heading Stateside to meet casting directors and filmmakers this month.
From Castletroy in Limerick, Leah studied drama and theatre studies in UCC before taking a full-time acting course in Dublin’s Bow Street, whose former pupils include Barry Keoghan and Seána Kerslake.
“My parents would have done a lot of amateur theatre and my granny was a voice coach. I did Spotlight Stage School in Limerick which was brilliant.
Leah honed her skills in theatre before starring in the charming Irish indie drama Metal Heart in 2018, about two warring sisters forced to spend more time together.
She made the most of a supporting role in Dublin Murders as Rosalind Devlin, who is involved in a shocking reveal on the show.
“Feedback has been really great from the show overall and I was quite lucky with the part I got to do. It was probably my favourite thing so far in terms of a part that was so meaty.”
Not many chefs have worked in a three-star Michelin restaurant in their early twenties and achieved their dream of owning a restaurant by their mid-twenties — but not everyone is the force of talent that is Chris Fullam.
Last autumn he realised his ambition of opening a restaurant, Le Perroquet, that he co-owns with well-known Maitre D’, Nick Munier. What they offer is unique — beautifully created and cooked small plates in a cosy setting, inspired by French and Irish styles. It’s already become a hit on the Dublin dining scene.
“Me and Nick have a connection,” he says of the partnership. “After the first meeting about the restaurant I knew we wanted to work together.
“The idea of grazing, of small plates, came into play because we wanted people to come in and not want to leave, to stay there and lose themselves. It’s like a different world as soon as you walk in.”
At 26, Fullam has built up a career chefs twice his age would be proud of. After initially taking a course in engineering, he left after just a month to pursue his true passion for cooking. He studied nutrition and culinary arts at Cathal Brugha Street in his native Dublin, impressing mentor Pauline Danaher with his dedication. He spent the summer working at the Cliff House Hotel in Ardmore before going to Chapter One upon completion of his course.
He went to do a stage (period of placement) at the three-Michelin-starred De Librije, regarded as one of the best restaurants in the world. At the end of his first week, he was offered a job. “It was intense, to say the least, but I’ve never experienced anything like it. Having to figure out everything for myself was a learning experience on its own.”
When he returned to Ireland, Chris worked in top-end restaurants including Forrest Avenue and under Mickael Viljanen at Greenhouse. “He’s one of the best chefs I’ve ever worked for. I don’t think I’d be at the level I am so fast without working there. His work ethic, everything about that restaurant is special.”
Chris is thrilled at his experience of running Le Perroquet and growing the business in the new year. “The response has been amazing from the critics point of view and the people who do get the concept absolutely love it.”
With his raw, soulful vocals and emotional, skilled songwriting, Moncrieff looks set to be the next Irish artist to break through — underpinned by the success of his first EP, The Early Hurts, in November. The single ‘Like I Do’ is currently being widely played on Irish radio.
“The Early Hurts is a record of some of the earliest and most significant people, feelings, and events that have shaped me both as an artist and a person,” he says. “It’s a super personal and important record to me but it’s essentially the story of the coming of age of any young man.”
From Tramore, Co Waterford, and living in London, he always loved music and listened to a lot of soul from people like Otis Redding and Ray Charles growing up. His passion for hurling — he played inter-county at minor level for Waterford — initially won out over music. But personal tragedy — he lost a brother and a sister within a few years of each other — brought him back.
“Music became quite cathartic, the process of writing songs,” he says.
“I was doing law in UCC and in a band with my friends and I decided that if I was going to do something with this it was time.”
He even got to perform backing vocals with Adele for a BBC special. “Graham Norton was there to introduce her. It was a bit like a dream really.”
His stage name comes from an inspiring conversation he had with a fan who encouraged him following his first-ever live performance at an open-mic session in London. “That was his surname. It felt like a sign that I needed to continue to do music.”
2020 is set to be a huge year for Naoise Dolan, whose first novel will be published following a bidding war: There is much hype for Exciting Times, which centres around a love triangle.
Ava is an Irishwoman in Hong Kong who spends her days teaching English to rich children. She embarks on a relationship with Julian, a wealthy banker who likes to spend money on her, though she is unsure about the future of their relationship. When the enthusiastic lawyer Edith comes into her life while Julian is away for work, she has big decisions to make.
“The writing is the really fun bit for me. I think it’s exciting (the anticipation for the novel) but I try not to think about it too much,” says Naoise.
“I was always writing dribsand drabs as a child. I started to take it seriously in early 2016. As part of my degree, one of the modules was creative writing so I took that up as a contrast from the heavy academic stuff in my final year.
“I went to teach for a year in Hong Kong and that’s when I started writing the novel. I had a really limited selection of social contacts available to me. I thought it would be easier to write about what I had just entered.”
When her friend top novelist Sally Rooney offered to take a look at it, she later asked if she could put a chapter in Irish literary publication The Stinging Fly. “I got an offer from an agent. She sent it out last January and that was when the publishers came in. I have the first chapters of the second novel written.”
Exciting Times by Naoise Dolan is published by W&N on April 16.