This much I know: Raymond Keane, actor

I keep doing the things that I find to be the most challenging.

When I began performing, I was terrified by it but that seems to be a recurring theme in my life.

It could have something to do with the destructive side in me, as well as the need to create.

I come from Dungarvan in Co Waterford. Growing up, I wasn’t aware of the possibility of having a career in the arts.

My father ran everything in town — pub, undertakers, fish shop, plant hire, auctioneers — and he was a Fianna Fáil councilor.

The most natural thing would have been for me to go into the family business but instead I trained as a hairdresser and started in Peter Marks in Cork.

My father wasn’t too pleased. Hairdressers were pansies. Different. That’s probably what attracted me in the first place.

As a child, I was always a messer. School did not work for me. I was always in trouble. I was a dreamer and a spacer.

I went to London, then Amsterdam, which is when I got interested in performance and physical theatre.

I suppose it is not such a huge jump from hairdressing to stage, they both require a certain amount of flamboyance. I performed on the streets before I ever did a class.

I met Thom McGinty, the actor and street performer known as The Diceman, when he came over to perform in The Milky Way with nine hippies from Dublin and stayed on our kitchen floor.

He took one look at all my books and expensive make-up and gave me a costume and an imaginary bugle and took me out on the street. Later, back in Dublin, I helped set up Barabbas Theatre Company.

Clowning is a technique, in the same way that acting, dance and mime are techniques. I’m more interested in the philosophical approach.

Some cultures see their clowns as being more akin to shaman. I’m a clown who aspires to be a fool. Fool, clown, trickster — they are all the same.

The fool is naked from the waist down, willing to show what others prefer to hide. I try to expose what I really am and to say the unsayable. For me, Beckett is the ultimate clown. He gets this state of human being, of very existence.

My biggest challenge so far has been myself, dealing with myself. The clown makes you face yourself. The clown is you.

I had self esteem issues early on. I thought everyone else was greater than me.

I’m not so sure I consciously worked on changing this, but I had people around to tell me ‘you are better than that’ — my wife, my children, the public.

Sometimes, we all need to be told we are okay. I have two grown up sons of 24 and 27. My wife and I are no longer together.

The arts in Ireland at the moment is just politics. I have stopped applying for funding. It has freed me up. I no longer care. The problem is when institutions start prescribing what you should be.

The fault is with the system, it’s not a criticism of the people who work within it. Arts organisations are like any other institutions, they look after themselves.

I like to think I am disciplined. I’m a Virgo so I have that bloody perfectionist thing. I’m a hard worker but can also be a procrastinator. I’m an early riser, I’m up by 6am or 7am. That is the best time of day. I start off with a coffee and a cigarette. I like to get all the administrative things out of the way first — emails or whatever — and settle down to work.

If I could be somebody else for a day I’d be a brilliant musician. I play a little guitar, it’s my therapy, and can just about hold a note.

My idea of misery would be working as a policeman or a soldier. I’d hate to be a guardian of morality.

I don’t drink. I think we are all way too fond of alcohol in this country. And I’d love to leave the smoking behind. I started at nine and was a smoker by 13.

The trait I most admire in others is loyalty. So far life has taught me the importance of humility. When the ego runs riot we become this ugly thing, self obsessed and greedy for more. Our tendency then is to put others down to make ourselves feel better.

n Raymond Keane is appearing in Orla Murphy’s Remember to Breathe in Tiger Dublin Fringe Festival from September 9 Boys School, Smock Alley Theatre @8.45 Tickets €14 / €12. In 2014 a draft of the script was shortlisted for the BBC International Playwriting Award.

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