From the Cripple to the Guerilla

After a stint in the West End as an understudy to Daniel Radcliffe in The Cripple of Inishmaan, Brian Fenton is back on home turf for a starring role in an adaptation of Tom Barry’s memoir, Guerilla Days in Ireland.

From the Cripple to the Guerilla

The 25-year-old Fermoy-born actor is a graduate of English and theatre studies at UCC, and after Guerilla Days in Ireland finishes its run at the Everyman and the Olympia, he will continue to base himself in London.

Fenton’s links with Britain go back to his training at Oxford School of Drama. “The school was in a little Cotswolds village and it’s a pretty unique place,” says Fenton. “There were only 14 people in my class. The training I did there was very much classical stage training doing Shakespeare, Chekov and Ibsen.”

Fenton graduated from the stage school two years ago. “I got an agent. London is where a lot of the work is happening. I wanted to be an actor rather than just an Irish actor. The irony is that I’ve found being Irish very useful. I’ve done mostly Irish work; they love Irish stuff over there.”

Not surprisingly, his days with The Cripple already rank among the highlights of his career. “I got a shot at playing in it a couple of times, but mainly it meant four months of sitting in a dressing room. It was a case of reading novels and playing Cluedo — being paid to do nothing, really. Obviously, I was being paid to be on standby in case anything happened and there was a bit of sickness.”

Fenton was impressed by Radcliffe’s devotion to his work. “He’s the hardest worker I’ve ever met. He’s very much trying to move on from Harry Potter. It’s incredible the way he manages his success. He has such a machine around him. I don’t know how he keeps a straight head.”

The production transferred to Broadway and recently finished there. “I didn’t go although I had the choice. I could have gone to New York and sat around for another four months but I got cast in a Billy Roche play, A Handful of Stars, in the West End. That only finished two weeks ago and I came straight to Dublin for rehearsals for Guerilla Days.”

Fenton, who was signed to a new agent recently as a result of being seen in the Billy Roche play, says that having an agent is very important. “A lot of my friends haven’t got signed and they’re finding it hard. Having a foot in the door is vital. I find there is so much going on in London. If you work hard and keep your ear to the ground, it’s not a terribly scary place. It’s probably portrayed as being terrifying. It’s easy to be invisible if you don’t work hard and meet people in the business.”

Fenton’s agent is hoping to get him some TV roles. “I’ve done some film work. I play a young James Joyce in Shem the Penman Sings Again (directed by Cork-based Padraig Trehy). That was great because I’m a big fan of Joyce.” That experimental film will be screened in October and it’s hoped it will do the festival circuit.

He likes the idea of working both in Ireland and the UK. “I suppose I’ve never been one for resting on my laurels. I plan ahead. You have to in this game. I haven’t had to sell beer or anything.” And in the fickle world of acting, that sounds like the ideal outlook.

Guerilla Days in Ireland is at the Everyman in Cork from Aug 18-23; and the Olympia, Dublin, Aug 26-31.

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