This much I know: Stephen Brennan

Irish theatre is like the rest of the country, full of well intentioned amateurs, prostitutes, posturers and administrators.

When I was eight I played a part in a play on Radio Eireann, for which I was paid one pound, and ten shillings for a repeat. It was terrifying. I don’t know why I still put myself through it, and for only slightly greater reward.

When I left school I joined an advertising agency, with a view to being groomed as a junior executive. A childish belief that I should have something to fall back on. But who wants to fall back? I left one Friday lunchtime having collected my £5 wages and headed for my first juve lead in RTE television down the road. The die was inevitably cast.

I have a sort of love/hate relationship with fate. It has led me to some wonderful things certainly, but when I huff and puff and try to change it, it usually mocks me. I hate the idea that any part of my life is predetermined, because then there are no surprises.

Samuel Beckett and Galileo overtook my God some considerable time ago, but I do think it’s a lovely idea, if somewhat divisive.

In 1992 I played Dr Frank ’n’ Furter in The Rocky Horror show. I enabled the bit most men are scared of — fishnet stockings, a basque, high heels, heavy make up, and I rocked my socks off. I lived the dream. Leather jackets, shades, nightclubs every night. Trouble with dreams are you have to wake up. “Don’t dream it, be it!”

I think it’s a pity that we are the only animal on earth that knows it is going to die. The idea that you return to the state you were in before you were born, that is to say, non-existent, is a bit scary. Maybe that’s why we’re all afraid of the dark.

The most important good trait that anyone can have is the love and care of children, and I happen to have been blessed with that since childhood. Perhaps that explains why I have six of my own.

I wish I could paint brilliantly. I wish I could excite something in others that they had not seen. Maybe that is why I’m an actor.

I always wanted to try and explain something outside of myself that I had learned or felt I understood about this rigmarole.

My worst habit is probably temper, temper, temper! Usually with inanimate objects like plastic packaging, which not only frustrate, but also maim.

There is no life/work balance anymore. I am being led by the nose through a recession, and placed on a treadmill not of my making. And there is no strict daily routine.

If you are a 50-plus male and you don’t regularly attend to your health, you’ll probably get what you deserve: an early exit.

The best advice I ever heard is “Remember your lines and don’t bump into the furniture,” by Noel Coward. My own advice for aspiring actors is to be the best you can, but never do less.

Any free time I have is spent with my children, or gardening, or cooking, or some other creative pastime. Usually several of these at the same time.

If I wasn’t acting, I fancy I would be ensconced in a cottage in the West of Ireland painting. None the richer perhaps, but I’d be in charge of my poverty.

I enjoy acting on stage and screen, they each have their own requirements in terms of technique, and an equal measure of both would, for me, be a balanced diet. Lately, I have been having a wonderful time honing the difficult art of well crafted comedy with my fellow actor Eleanor Methven and director Matt Torney, in whose intelligent, well educated young hands, we have easily placed our trust for Plaza Suite.

So far life has taught me that the wrong people always get the best jobs.

* Stephen Brennan appears in Rough Magic’s acclaimed production of Plaza Suite by Neil Simon at Dublin’s Gaiety theatre from Feb 20 to Mar 3.

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