Her previous theatre roles include Grief (National Theatre) and Some Voices (Young Vic). Film roles include The Magdalene Sisters, Trauma and Leila.
Tell us about Molly Sweeney
Molly Sweeney is a strong, independent woman who’s been blind from infancy. She leads a very full and happy life. She marries Frank who encourages her to go for operations which may restore her sight. He is of the opinion that she has got nothing to lose. The story is told through the recollections of Molly, her husband Frank (Ruairi Conaghan) and her Ophthalmologist Mr Rice (Stuart Graham).
What drew you to the role?
It’s an amazing role and an amazing play and I’m drawn to anything that Brian Friel has written. He is such a good writer and we’re from the same area in Ireland so I feel like I know the world of the play very intimately. I had goose bumps when I first read the play because it was so good and it’s rare enough to find something that has that effect on me. The world of the characters is so well defined and so rich. It’s full of darkness and light, laughter and hope and every time I read it I discover another layer. It’s a pleasure to work on.
What’s it like working with director Abigail Graham?
Abigail is great! She is so enthusiastic and passionate about the play and has great vision. She has a lovely energy and creates a great space to work in. We have a lot of fun. It’s great to be working with such a talented young female director.
What’s your favourite time in the play?
It’s difficult to choose & changes all the time, but I think it would have to be the courtship between Molly and Frank. I love that magical feeling of being swept off your feet by someone and the romance of it all.
What made you want to be an actress?
I wanted to be an actress for many reasons, because I love stories and also, very simply because it is the thing that makes me feel most alive, that puts joy in my heart. I have been hugely affected by other people’s performances and the telling of stories in films and theatre and TV and I thought that it would be a wonderful thing to be involved in.
How did you make your way into the industry?
Well, my first real job was playing Rose in The Magdalene Sisters which Peter Mullan wrote and directed when I was 21. Until then, I’d been living in Tyrone and doing different bits and pieces. It was an amazing experience for so many reasons. I moved over to London after that and have been living and working here ever since.
What is your career highlight to date?
In theatre, I’d have to say playing Laura in the Joe Penhall play, Some Voices at The Young Vic. It was my first theatre job in London and I loved it! It’s a brilliant play; he’s such a good writer. More recently, I loved playing Maureen in Grief at The National. It was an amazing cast, I loved working in The National and the experience of working with Mike Leigh is always a joy.
I’ve been extremely lucky and worked with some amazing directors, Peter Mullan, Mike Leigh and Matthew Dunster, all of whom I’d love to work with again. My dream collaborators would be Ian Rickson and Marianne Elliott in theatre as I always love their work and in film it would have to be Ken Loach and Paddy Considine. I love Ken Loach’s films and Tyrannosaur was one of the best things I’ve ever seen.
What’s up next?
Molly Sweeney runs at the Print Room until 27 April