Ciaran Bermingham: Confessions of a talented Cork actor

CORK actor Ciaran Bermingham’s unique selling point is that he is “a small, chubby, balding guy. There’s not many actors like me around”.

Ciaran Bermingham: Confessions of a talented Cork actor

The self-effacing Bermingham, who stars in God Bless the Child, has the kind of looks that lend themselves to character parts, although he did have a starring role in the acclaimed Fred and Alice.

Bermingham has joined Shane Casey and Gary Murphy in Pat Talbot’s adaptation of three of Frank O’Connor’s funniest stories, My Oedipus Complex, The Genius and First Confession.

Following its successful run at the Everyman last summer, God Bless the Child has been touring extensively and is returning to Cork, with Bermingham stepping into Liam Heffernan’s shoes.

The play, in which the actors play myriad roles, including short pants-wearing young boys, was well received at the Lyric Theatre in Belfast, despite the Cork accents and idiom. Bermingham was concerned that Belfast audiences wouldn’t ‘get’ the play. “But they loved it. We had a blast.”

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It was the writings of O’Connor, recognised as one of the greatest short story writers of the 20th century, that sparked Bermingham’s interest in reading as a young boy.

“Frank O’Connor has a brilliant flair for language and has a great way of getting into the child’s mind. Performing First Confession brought back memories of school and the Christian Brothers. I went to Bunscoil Chríost Rí and Coláiste Chríost Rí.

"I can still remember preparing for First Communion. We were walked down to the church and there was an absolute fear of going into confession. I was this little dot going into the confessional box, closing it and then hearing the shutter opening and the grill going back.

"Then there was the muttering voice of the priest. It was quite daunting for a child. You can see why Jackie, the young boy in First Confession, got it so wrong.”

Bermingham seems to have got it right when he chucked in his secure job at Musgraves in Cork 14 years ago to pursue an acting career. His wife, with whom he has two daughters, encouraged him to follow his dream.

It has seen him play Mord in Game of Thrones. Bermingham describes this character as “a manky horrid gaoler who beats and punches people and is vile”. He hopes to resume shooting the role in the autumn for season six of the hit HBO drama.

But Bermingham, who was memorable as a frisky dog named Heskey in Liam Heylin’s crime caper, Love, Peace and Robbery, admits that acting is a precarious way to make a living. “To be honest, it hasn’t been easy.

There have been times when I’m kind of going ‘Jesus, I wish my wages from Musgraves were coming in’, but you just suck it up and go with it. The thing is, I love what I do. I love going into rehearsals, discovering my character, learning the lines and then being in front of the audience. It’s just the best feeling in the world.”

In between acting jobs, Bermingham drives a taxi. And in a case of art imitating life, he and writer, Ray Scannell, have written a musical, Hail, which is based on Bermingham’s taxi diaries. They tested it out at the Mick Lally Theatre at the Galway Arts Festival last year.

“It was packed out. The audience loved it. Hopefully, it will go ahead in 2016. It’s a very honest show. It’s basically my life on the stage, going from being in a huge TV show to working in a cab to pay the bills. We have introduced other characters as well. It’s very funny and quite sad at times. But it’s very real.”

God Bless the Child is at the Everyman, Cork, from April 13 to 18

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