Playing the Big Fella as a young fella

NOT all had the shock of dark hair — and far fewer had the imposing stature of the Big Fella.

But details like that were not going to stop young actors hoping to taking on the role of one of Ireland’s most iconic figures, Michael Collins.

Trying to look nonchalant as they waited to go through their audition at Cork city’s Connolly Hall, nerves were clearly getting the better of them.

There are few better roles for a young actor to get his teeth into than that of the revolutionary leader, and a number had done their homework on the Big Fella.

“He was a great public speaker and I have watched a number of his speeches and have a book of his speeches in Irish at home,” said Cormac Heffernan, a 16-year-old Presentation school pupil.

The Togher native, who got into acting two years ago, is hopeful he can make the role his own, having faced disappointment last year. He got through the auditions for The Tudors only to have to pass up the role because it clashed with school.

Asked what characteristics he thought he needed to bring to the role, Crosshaven 17-year-old Callum Burke-O’Driscoll replied: “Strength, independence, an ability to change people’s minds.”

While a number of applicants had no experience beyond their school plays, some had gained valuable tips from acting school.

Cillian Buckley, 16, from Killarney but at school in Cork city, is currently at the Gaiety School of Acting. However, Cillian points to a special association with the Collins part.

“My great-grandmother was (Harry) Boland’s secretary so I have a special interest in the great man,” he said.

The producers were yesterday looking for someone to play Collins when he was 16-17 years of age. However, 20-year-old Cian Clancy was not going to let his slightly older years act as an impediment, especially given the fact he was born within a mile of Collins’ home in west Cork.

Cian had a good knowledge of the Big Fella’s characteristics, having studied him as part of his history studies at University College Cork. He has also played a number of roles with the university’s drama society.

Michael Collins the musical brings to life the events of the 1916 Rising, the War of Independence and the Irish Civil War, but also examines the relationships between four of the most well-known figures in Irish history, Michael Collins, Eamon de Valera, Harry Boland and Kitty Kiernan.

The production will run from March 19. To date it has been seen in the Theatre Royal, Waterford, and Cork Opera House in 2008, where it received impressive reviews.

More in this section