My stage of life

THIS year, veteran actor Des Keogh celebrates five decades in “the business”.

My stage of life

From Birr, Co Offaly, he qualified as a solicitor, but decided not to practice.

Instead, he took up a post with Arthur Guinness in Dublin, leaving two years later in 1963.

His first professional performance as a full-time actor was in an open-air production in Blackrock Park of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, playing Festo the jester. “We had to wait for the trains to pass by before we could continue with our speech,” Keogh says.

In 2000, he received the Dublin Lord Mayor’s Award and is “very cuffed” that his handprints are in the pavement outside the Gaiety Theatre.

Married to renowned violinist, Geraldine O’Grady, the couple have one daughter, Oonagh. He is grandfather to Ruadhán, 12 and Aoibhin, 10. Now aged 77, there is no sign of him retiring. “As long as I have the energy and as long as there are shows to be done, I am hoping to keep going.”

Des Keogh is staring in his one-man show, The Love-Hungry Farmer by John B Keane in the Bernard Shaw Theatre, Carlow on Feb 2 and The Gaiety Theatre Dublin, from Monday Feb 4 -9.

What shape are you in?

As good as can be expected at my age.

Do you have any health concerns?

Nothing alarming — just wear and tear. I did have a bypass operation in 2001, but I am feeling fine ever since, thank God.

What are your healthiest eating habits?

Eating plenty of oily fish. Fortunately, I like it. I take no butter and, occasionally, a little cream — when Geraldine isn’t looking.

What’s your guiltiest pleasure?

The little drop of Jameson Irish whiskey.

What would keep you awake at night?

My barking dog, Collie — she is a great watch dog. This is my third collie in a row.

How do you relax?

I play a bit of tennis — in my youth, I played quite a lot of competitive tennis. Now, I meet with a group of oldies down in Donnybrook Tennis club every Saturday morning, and we make up a group of doubles and enjoy. I also like to watch sport on television.

Who would you invite to your dream dinner party?

A few of my favourite playwrights, who would be very good at conversation — Oscar Wilde, Noel Coward and John B Keane.

What’s your favourite smell?

The full Irish breakfast cooking in the morning. It’s a rare treat these days.

What would you change about your appearance?

A little more hair on the top of my head would be welcome. Though I wouldn’t do a Wayne Rooney with a hair transplant.

When did you last cry?

The last time I watched a soppy movie — I get so embarrassed some times. In the cinema I am thankful I am in the dark, because I weep.

What trait do you least like in others?

Affectation — it really annoys me when I hear people with affected accents.

What trait do you least like in yourself?

There are so many. But if I have to pick one, I would say irritation.

Do you pray?

Yes I do. I pray every night. I go down on my knees — I always remember my father doing that before getting into bed, as long as I knew him. I’ve carried on that habit and still do.

What would cheer up your day?

A call from my agent offering me a nice part in a play.

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