ACTOR and writer, Pat McGrath, has used his life-long hobby of model-making as material for his debut play which is on tour as part of the Bealtaine Festival.
Small Plastic Wars is a one-man show that McGrath has written and is performing as part of the annual festival that celebrates creativity in older age. McGrath, who is 51, has found a new lease of life as a writer.
“Writing is something I always played around with,” he says. “Somebody said I should write a play for ‘Show in a Bag’ which is run by the Dublin Fringe Festival, Fishamble Theatre Company and the Irish Theatre Institute. I wondered what I could write about and the person said I should do something on the model-making I’ve been at for years. So I did that and tied it in with the recession and made it a personal story. The Dublin Fringe Festival produced it last year and then handed it over to me to do with it what I want.”
With the help of Gavin Kostick from Fishamble Theatre Company and director, Alan King, McGrath edited his script down from 90 minutes to 70 minutes. The play “is not primarily aimed at model-makers. It’s a funny show with pathos in it. I play a number of characters.”
McGrath, a former member of the defence forces, says, “I make tanks and science fiction models. The appeal of it lies in the control you have. You’re not in control of reality so you might as well create something you can control.”
Model-making is a big part of his life. He is a member of two model-making clubs and is in touch with other model makers all over the world. The main character in Small Plastic Wars he says, “is a guy who breezed through life during the Celtic Tiger years. Suddenly, he finds himself without a job, with plenty of time to build models and no money to pay the bills. He was a chef and went back to college to become a social worker. But he’s told not to come back to work. The hobby saves him. But he goes through a crisis. He develops rivalry with another character and is deter-mined to beat him at model- making to the extent that instead of talking to his wife about how to pay the bills, he’s tearing up the bills and making papier mache out of them for his models.”
McGrath, who makes miniature models on stage during the show, says he fell into acting by accident. His initial career saw him serve three years in the army. Asked what drew him to the defence forces, he puts it down to watching war films as a child. Also, his father and uncles were in the Irish Army and his grandfather was in the British Army. He left the army to study sculpture at DIT which helps as he makes model figures out of clay and putty. Acting was something he was invited to do. At art college, McGrath was approached to take part in a student show.
“Joe O’Byrne of Co Motion Theatre Company saw me in that and asked me to do a show. Then Paul Mercier of the Passion Machine asked me to be in a play. Through that, I got an agent and I’ve never really looked back.”
McGrath has had small roles in TV’s Game of Thrones, (in which he played a hog farmer) Moone Boy and Love/Hate. Film is his favourite medium. He has appeared in The Butcher Boy, Spy Game and Once, in which he played a drunk. McGrath is currently in the TV series, Scúp.
* Small Plastic Wars is in the Half Moon Theatre in Cork on May 10.