Pantisocracy - Room at the Table - RTÉ Podcast

Pantisocracy - Room at the Table - RTÉ Podcast

I recently was a guest on ‘Queen of Ireland’ Panti Bliss’ RTÉ Podcast ‘Pantisocracy’.

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Pantisocracy Season 3 Episode 7 – 'Room At The Table'

In this episode of the ‘cabaret of conversations’ called ‘Room at the Table’ host Panti Bliss’s guests are architect Grainne Hassett, singers Susie Q and Síomha, actor/writer Stephen Jones, and visual artist Vukasin Nedeljković.

In this show Panti hosts a conversation around what makes a more open society. Vukasin Nedeljković shares his journey, from war in the Balkans to making a life here by turning his experience as an asylum seeker, in Direct Provision, into art in his Asylum Archive. Meditation coach Susie Q performs her song ‘Home’ inspired by images of children escaping conflict and architect Grainne Hassett talks of how similar stories of refugees fleeing war, prompted her to go and work in the refugee camps in Calais.

Writer and actor Stephen Jones shares the story of his play From Eden and talks about making the film Dublin Oldschool with fellow Tallaght native Emmet Kirwan. Síomha, who comes from County Clare, the heartland of traditional Irish music, performs her songs ‘Spéir Rua an Iúil’, and ‘Why Did We Fall in Love?’ and explains why the Marriage Equality Referendum made her decision to move home from Canada all that bit easier.

You can listen to the full episode at the link below

https://soundcloud.com/athena-media/the-panti-monologue-pantisocracy-s3-e7-room-at-the-table

Here is a video excerpt of me performing a piece from my play ‘From Eden’

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My Camino - The Podcast

My Camino - The Podcast

I recently did an interview with Australian Podcaster and Pilgrim Dan Mullins for his superb 'My Camino - The Podcast'.

Have a listen to the 35 min interview below.

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THE LONELY HEARTS CLUB BAND - Episode 1

THE LONELY HEARTS CLUB BAND - Episode 1

1. THE JACKET

 

The three of us were about 21 or 22. There was me, Richie and Seán. It was a Thursday night, which meant it was free into the Plaza. Thursday was 70’s and 80’s night. Everyone we knew went, so ya always saw the same faces. The same lot would be there on Sundays too for the €15 in / €2.50 a drink night.

All the Tallaght heads would do Thursdays and Sundays, ya see. The outsiders, as we called them, the Clondalkin and Crumlin heads would be up there on Fridays and Saturdays. We’d only ever show our faces on those nights if we were bored and went up casual or if we didn’t bother trekking into town and fancied ‘a birra strange’.

Sometimes we would even go across to the Abberley Court. But very very rarely now. The niteclub there was were all the heads that were barred from The Plaza went. So ya knew it was bad. The niteclub at the Abbo was called 'Level 4' even though it was only two stories up. We all called it ‘Sticky Floor’. Ya wanna see it, your shoes would be literally stuck to the dancefloor. Spatula job trynna scrap them free. One lad we knew, Purdy, used to call it ‘Level Schmeck’ but I haven’t a clue why.

Some of the heads that'd be in there though, oh my days, especially the birds. No word of a lie, I saw a young’one in there one night with a tattoo of the Umbro sign. 'Love' and 'Hat' tattoo'd across her knuckles ‘cos she was missing a finger, ya know the sort. 40 Johnny Blue and Sovereigns galore. Those nights were more like goin’ on Safari.

It was approachin’ 3am and we were still outside the Plaza. The usual. Chattin’ and acting the bollocks and decidin’ whether or not to get chips and whether we should walk it or just hop in a taxi. It had been a fairly laid back night. Nothin’ mad. Richie was talkin’ to a group of people he knew from his college, Seán was around somewhere and I was just leanin’ against a wall, waiting for the lads and havin’ the odd random ‘howaya’ ‘howaya’ ‘good night?’ ‘ah yeah the usual’ sort of convos with whoever passed.

People were still emptying out from the club. Then this lad comes out. Loud like. Brash ya know? He had this mad lookin' jacket on. Richie made his way over to me. Nodded. We looked around for Seán. Couldn’t see him. The lad in the jacket starts singin' loudly…

“WELL IT’S SERGEANT PEPPERS LONELY HIGH SCHOOL BAAAAAAND”

He did this two or three times. He had dark hair in a classic Beatles cut, floppy like... and the fuckin' jacket. He had one of his mates with him. His jacket was normal. He wasn’t sayin’ anything. Just enjoyin’ his rock star mate.  Next thing, John Jacket heads over towards me and Richie.

“Alright boys!” He's throwin' shapes like he's Liam Gallagher now.

“Alrigh'”

Gives us both one of those ‘It’s not quite a high five, it’s not quite a handshake’ hand grabs.

“WELL IT’S SERGEANT PEPPERS LONELY HIGH SCHOOL BAAAAAAND” he sings at us.

There's a slight beat. I'm slightly baffled. Then Richie says... “Hearts Club" but the Jacket doesn't hear him.

“... SERGEANT PEPPERS LONELY HIGH SCHOOL BAAAAAAAAAAAAAND”

“Hearts Club.” Richie says again.

“Wha’?”

“Hearts Club.”

“What’cha mean?”

“Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band… Hearts Club”

Your man takes a second. Looks at his mate. Nothing. Looks at me. Nothing. Looks back to Richie. 

“Aww what are you?... Some sort a’ fuckin’ Beatles expert are ya?”

“No… just stoppin’ ya makin’ a fuckin’ eejit out’ve yourself.”

Jacket can’t believe it. He looks around. He's not a small lad so I wonder if this is gonna kick off which, to be honest, is the last thing I'm in the humour of. And Richie loves a row by the way. Ya wouldn’t think it but he’s one of those quiet, friendly, funny, well-mannered lunatics. But a lunatic nonetheless. The Jacket's face changes. He smiles.

“Trev!” He calls out.

A bloke not far from us turns around. Trev, obviously. And holy good Jaysus. Trev is about 6’4 and about 22 stone. He's a bleedin' monster. Says ‘good luck’ to the people he’s talkin’ to and heads towards us. I’m not exactly delighted about this. I’m on the verge of sayin’ to Richie that maybe we should knock this on the head ya know... Make like a banana and get the fuck ou’a there but it's too late. Trev lands in.

“Alrigh’” he says to Kenny Jacket.

“This fella here thinks he’s a fuckin’ Beatles expert, fuckin’… correctin’ me.” 

"Richie!!! Howaya!?” Trev says and he shakes Richie's hand. 

Turns out Trev knows Richie’s brother-in-law or somethin’. The Jacket can't believe it! Trev's phone rings. He answers it. "Yeah, where are you?" he says and he turns away from us.

 “Where d’ya get your jacket?” Richie asks.

“Why? What’s wrong with me jacket?"

"No just..."-

-"Fuckin’ deadly jacket this is righ’?... Carl Barat gave me this jacket!” 

“Did he yeah?” Richie says holdin' back a rye smile.

Jacket’s mate looks at me. He’s knows it's bolloxology and I can see that he's mentally thrown in the towel.

“Yeah he did.” And Jacket bursts into song again, this time it’s The Libertines, who are Carl Barat's band.

“IF YOU WANNA TRY, IF YOU…” but Richie cuts him off.

-“The jacket makes you look like a fuckin’ eejit mate.”

“The jacket makes me look like a fuckin’ eejit?”

“Yeah.”

Jacket makes a face. He's pissed off. He sees a lad close to us, whos half leaning, half sitting on a bollard texting. Big bloke, tanned, slick hair, absolutely ripped, wearing a t-shirt that looks a few sizes too small for him. Jacket taps him on the arm.

“Here mate, whatcha think of this lad here slaggin’ me fuckin’ jacket?”

Tanned bloke looks up from his phone. Unimpressed. Not the sort that likes a randomer talkin’ to him, let alone touchin' him, let alone annoyin’ him with this shit. Looks Jacket up and down. Looks at us. Looks back to Jacket.

“Yeah well he’s right to... the fuckin’ state of it!”

The Jacket scoffs... “Yeah says your man in the gay pink t-shirt!”

BANG. Daz, the fella in the pink, who happens to be one of Tallaght's biggest dealers knocks Jacket spark out with one punch. He splayed out on his back. We look down at him.

His sidekick does a legger. Daz walks off and Trev comes back over to attend to Jacket. He’s seen who's puched him but he’s made the quick decision not to start anythin'. Trev sorts of mutters “ah jaaasus” to himself as he puts Jacket into the recovery position.

Seán arrives on the scene along with everyone else who has seen or heard the bit of commotion. The bouncers start makin' their way through the crowd.

“Fuck happened?” Seán says. I look to Richie.

“Your man in Carl Barat’s jacket got a dig I think.” Richie says and we get out of there.

We decided to leave the chipper and walk it. I tell Seán the story.

Hearts Club... I'm just stoppin' ya makin' a fuckin' eejit ou'a yourself." I say and we laugh. Richie says nothin', he just walks ahead of us.

We pass by Michelle’s house. Richie's ex. He’d been with her for about 4 years. He looks up towards her bedroom window and then walks on. Further down the street theres a house that has huge bushes over it’s front wall. Richie turns to us.

“I used to fuck all the johnnies I used on Michelle into that bush.”

“Oh yeah?”

“Yeah. Probably all still there.”

Podcast: Playing Personality Bingo

Podcast: Playing Personality Bingo

So, I recently joined Tom Moran to play Personality Bingo, his brilliant new Podcast hosted by Headstuff.org

Here’s how the show works:

60 Balls. 60 Minutes. 60 Questions. In those 60 minutes, Tom rolls his 13 euro Argos bought Bingo ball machine and asks his guest the corresponding question to that number ball. At the beginning of the show, the guest receives 6 numbers and if their 6 balls are drawn, they get to pick any question to ask Tom and he has to give a totally honest answer.

 

Listen to the podcast and then scroll down as I write a little about some of the topics we touched upon and link in videos to some of the things we talked about.

 

The Questions

Q. What is your relationship, if any, to the gym?

It still remains very little. I'm not a member of a gym but would definately like to start going to classes. Being told what to do and not being allowed to let myself off the hook really helps me. Also, if anyone has good food plan tips gimme a shout!

We veered off on our first tangent (of many) and began talking about former Sky One show Dream Team. The ridiculous dramas surrounding Premiership Football Club Harchester United.

Here are some of it's tragic moments.

 

Q. Did you ever get detention in school?

I did just the once and I was an innocent man. I was framed!! And now I'm walking out the front door wi' Gerry!!

 

We then started chatting about my Leaving Cert and how I went on to UCD where I became interested in acting after joining the drama society Dramsoc. We touch on my Scrapbooks that I keep about my career and the rejection letter that I still have from RADA - The Royal Academy of Dramatic Art and how I use it in a very cheesey way to motivate myself. You can see more of my scrapbook pics by checking out the hashtag #InsideTheActorsScrapbook on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

 

Q. What's your opinion on Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson?

Smart and talented man. Here is the video I mention very briefly in the podcast about The Rock talking about depression and his decision to follow his dream.

 

We began talking about Movies and how I try to avoid trailers and reviews. I have the Unlimited card for Cineworld and I try to judge films on what they are trying to achieve as opposed to what their score will be/should be on Rotten Tomatoes. It definitely has enhanced my enjoyment of seeing films. As I type this I have seen 79 films on my Unlimited Card since October 2016 so I should be able to get over the 100 mark by the time my renewal comes around.

 

Q. How do ya feel about being the age you currently are?

Yeah. No bother at all. I'm 31 but I was a 4 year old girl for a scene or two in the last play I was in so it's all good. Young at heart.

We got on to some advice for actors which is not to worry about other actors because there will always be someone more famous and better looking and more successful then you out there.

 Yeah but is he happy?

Yeah but is he happy?

 

Q. Do you consider yourself good at keeping secrets?

Yes because I'm like Mary J. Blige, no more Drama in my life. I've enough of it as it is.

 

Q. Do you have any theories on the disappearance of Madeleine McCann?

As I said to Tom I don't think the parents did it. I don't think we will ever know the full story. The internet is obviously full of mad theories and everyone has an opinion. As usual, sometimes we forget that it's a real girl who is missing and it's a real family (and their extended family/friends) who this has happened to. It's like when you read about conspiracy theories about a 'False Flag' operation at Sandy Hook in Newtown Conn. People forget they are talking about real people.

Here is Panorama's non sensationalist documentary about the case 10 years on.

 

Q. Do you have a nickname?

As a Jones everybody calls me 'Jonesy' but as a kid it was 'Ice Cream' because this is me as a kid.

 Milky Bar kid hadn't shit on me

Milky Bar kid hadn't shit on me

 

Q. Tell us about a time you laughed until you cried.

I mentioned my Dad telling his rubbish joke about the boxer. I deleted the video of him telling this joke so instead here is something small that made me howl with laughter the other day.

 

Q. How often do you find yourself facebook stalking ex girlfriends?

Never, to be honest. Plus in todays world there is no stalking on social media really as it's all out in the open. Good luck to em all anyway.

We got on to Tinder then and of course I've never used it because I've gone out with the same person for years. I'm fascinated by couples who go on together though just for the laugh... something slightly cruel about that I think... or is it just for the laugh? hmmmm

 

Q. How do you feel about the word 'Millennial'? 

I mentioned this so enjoy this excellent sketch from these funny... ugh... millennials!

 

Q. If you had the opposite set of genitals for a day what's the first thing you'd do?

Jasus...

 Ya ask tough questions ya get tough answers

Ya ask tough questions ya get tough answers

 

Q. What's the greatest lesson you've learned about acting?

As I mentioned in the podcast on any given day there would be a different answer but I mentioned Gabriel Byrne talking about his discovery that acting was about trying to be yourself. Here is the interview in which he said it. He was discussing going back to the stage in a production of Eugene O'Neill's 'A Moon for the Misbegotten'

Fascinating interview in which he touches on many things including the differences between theatre and film and the work of O'Neill himself.

Watch the whole thing but the part I mention happens at around 5.10 into the clip.

And writing...?

It's about not being afraid to put yourself and you're work out there! Just do it! Plus kill your darlings and cut cut cut!!!

Have a listen to the radio version of my play From Eden. It was the winner of the Stewart Parker Trust / BBC Northern Ireland Radio Drama Award and features myself and Seána Kerslake.

http://www.rte.ie/drama/radio/plays/2017/0106/843048-from-eden-by-stephen-jones/

 Alan and Eva

Alan and Eva

 

Q. What is your biggest downfall when it comes to being healthy?

I think my latest twitter poll can answer that.

 

Q. When was the last time you said a prayer?

As an Atheist I don't pray in the traditional sense but I do always ask my Grandad Jimmy who passed away for help especially a few minutes before I go on stage. I mention it in a previous blog about Pre-Show Nerves/Rituals. Read it here

 

I hope you enjoyed listening to the podcast and these little extra snippets. I really enjoyed doing it and always love the way conversations can veer in so many different directions. If the conversation sparked one new interesting thought for you then it was worth it!

Big thanks to Tom Moran for having me on. He has a fantastic new webseries that he created himself called FIX ME. Watch the first episode. You'll enjoy it for sure.

You can see me in THIS LIME TREE BOWER at The Viking Theatre in Clontarf from May 29th until June 17th

All info here

Stephen

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Irish Movies you must see! #1 - War of the Buttons

Irish Movies you must see! #1 - War of the Buttons

 

War of the Buttons is a 1994 movie directed by John Roberts, based on the French novel Les Guerre des Boutons by Louis Pergaud.

Set in Co. Cork in the 1960's, it is the story of two rival towns Ballydowse and Carrickdowse and the young boys (and some girls) who begin a 'war' against each other. Each time a member of one of the gangs is captured their buttons are cut off and kept as trophies.

 

THE GANGS

The Ballys

The Ballys are the good guys of the story. The working class lads. They are led by FERGUS. What a leader this lad is by the way. Tall, strong and a bit older than most of the other boys. Fergus would be the type to do anything for a mate. If ya needed someone to take a girls annoying friend out because said girl won't go unless it's a double date type of thing then FERG would be your man to call. Sound as a pound. A good skin. However, he's only a youn'fella in this and he doesn't have things his own way at home because his Step-Da makes him work hard alongside him on the farm and isn't shy about dishing out the odd whipping.

 Fergus... Spit Shakes before every battle to the death... Respect!

Fergus... Spit Shakes before every battle to the death... Respect!

Then there is BIG CON and his little brother LITTLE CON (who just says 'fuck it' and keeps his thick Dublin accent throughout), BOFFIN who is the brains of this particular operation, TIM, FISHY, PETER, RILEY (Booo, the judas turncoat bastard, ya know there's something off about this lad straight off the proverbial bat), PAT, TICH, MAEVE, HELEN, FIONNUALA and last but not least MARIE.

MARIE opens and closes the film as it's narrator, looking back her childhood. She opens with this..

"In Ireland, I grew up in a tiny village by the sea. It was here that my best friend, a boy, was fighting with another boy, who lived in the next village. It sounds silly but they were always fighting. Typical a' boys (ooooh, cheeky)"

The pipes are playing under it and there's mountains and the little lake and Jasus doesn't it make ya proud to be Irish lads!

 Tear to the eye

Tear to the eye

 

The Carricks

The Carricks are the middle class boys. They were proper school uniforms d'ya see? Their leader is GERONIMO aka Jerome. There's a smack of South Dublin off his accent but again we'll live with that. What's great about this character is he isn't a cut 'n' dry villain. He has a bit of honour about him. This man knows the codes. There's a respect for his opposite number Fergus. I like that.

 Geronimo... A baddie with honour... and a penknife!

Geronimo... A baddie with honour... and a penknife!

Then there is GORILLA his beefy bully sidekick. Classic bad guy performance here. He's tough and rough against the small lads but he's windy when it's crunch time. There's MICKEY MOON, WILLIE, CHICK, BRENDAN and BERNARD. Although apart from Geronimo and Gorilla the Carrick boys are only bit part players in this.

 

Plot in a nutshell

The two gangs keep getting one over on each other. The groups clash in several battles, the last to conquer the Carricks' "castle". Reilly (Boooo the Judas bastard, 'wheres your 30 pieces of silver Riley?') stays out of the final battle because he doesn't want to get hurt. Geronimo with the help of Riley then drives a tractor into the Bally base or HQ as it were, an old barn, which they destroy completely. This puts a bitter end to the War of the Buttons.

THEN THE BROWN STUFF REALLY HITS THE WHIRLY THING... WHEN

Fergus is blamed for the destruction by the town people and its authorities, and is disowned by his family. He runs off to the mountains, where Geronimo follows him in an unspoken gesture of solidarity. After being captured, the two boys are put in the church orphanage, where they put aside their differences and become best friends. 

 'Fancy a pillow fight after dis?'

'Fancy a pillow fight after dis?'

The Adults

Lots of well known Irish Actors pop up in this in small roles. Theres Colm Meaney, Johnny Murphy, Liam Cunningham, Ger Ryan, Jim Bartley and I got a good chuckle when I saw Frank O'Sullivan and Eamon Hunt (both of whom I've worked with) playing Fisherman #1 and 2 respectively in a funny scene near the start of the movie.

 Liamo... as the Master.... 'Dya ever have dreams a muinteor? (name that film)

Liamo... as the Master.... 'Dya ever have dreams a muinteor? (name that film)

BITS 'N' BOBS

Skibbereen

One thing I noticed on rewatching the film was that the lads are all trying to sell raffle tickets for Skibbereen Hospital.

Guess who else are from Skibb!!

 

"What's a Tosspot?"

After Gorilla calls Little Con a 'tosspot' the Bally lads are trying to figure out what it means or more to the point how bad a slag it is. Fergus takes a lolly pop and gives it to little Gerald, a 4 year old kid and gets him to cycle over to the church and call the Priest a tosspot. The chase scene afterwards is gas.

 

Anyone not know what a tosspot is??

 You tosspot slag...!

You tosspot slag...!

"One for the Road"

When the Ballys go to Carrick in the middle of the night to vandalise the Church board Colm Meaney (Geronimo's Da) comes out of his house and nearly catches them. Fergus has no option but send Little Con out to face him. "You're only a little kid with eggs" and out he goes, taking one for the team. Will he be okay or will be be the sacrificial lamb?

Big Con says blankly "My Brother. They've got him. He's a prisoner of war."

Once inside Little Con sees Geronimo and Gorilla doing their homework at the table. Shocked to silence he gets a few glasses of whiskey from Colm Meaney (to buck him up, what? Nothing wrong with feeding hard booze to a child, it's Ireland in the 60's sure) and it's not long before he gets completely rat-arsed.

I laughed out loud when Geronimo and Gorilla are sent out to get Little Con more eggs and Gorilla says to Colm Meaney "But he's busy, he's doing his lessons Mister!" Little Con comes out of the house and heads up the road singing 'The Rocky Road to Dublin' (Sounds like me most weekends) and Big Con says laughing "Me brother! He's as drunk as a skunk."

The Ballys manage to paint ALL CARRICKS ARE ASSHOLES on the church board. It's a "mortal sin" but Fergus tells Boffin "This is war."

 hard to believe he's not Scholes... ALL CARRICKS ARE ASSHOLES

hard to believe he's not Scholes... ALL CARRICKS ARE ASSHOLES

Trapping Gorilla at Murphy's Dunes

"Who rattled your cage Gorilla?"

"What's up? Haven't ya had your bananas yet? Well chew on these and shut your face!"

Fucking priceless

"Cut off his willy!"

 

"I'm gonna have to pee sometime..."

When Tim is caught up a tree surrounded by the Carricks they tell him that he's gonna have to come down sometime and he responds with the classic "Gonna have to pee sometime and I know where I'll be aiming!" They all step back, well wouldn't you!?

 

Bravehearts

The Ballys decide to go commando (quite literally) and in another battle, they chase the Carricks away by running at them stark naked! They get to the lake where the girls are waiting to spring the trap on the bridge. The Ballys celebrate until they realise they are in the nip in front of the girls (one of whom puts on her glasses for a closer peak, the dirtbird!) The boys all run apart from Fergus who is obviously happy with what he's got!

 

The Fox

The chasing and the subsequent killing of a fox (to sell for money to buy buttons) is a lovely moment in the film. They think it's all fun and games until they see that it was a living thing. Marie sees them and tells them "You pigs! He was beautiful and you killed him for money!" A nice coming of age moment and later on when a small rabbit gets injured in the crossfire both gangs hold a truce to work together to fix it a splint.

 

The Great Battle of Kinsale

The Master explains about this battle in the classroom and the Ballys use this as inspiration for the final battle with the Carricks at their own 'Bunduff Castle." During the final battle Geronimo is impressed that Fergus comes on a horse. Boffin says to Fergus "For England and Saint George?" to which Fergus replies "Shut up will ya.... For Ballydowse and Ireland!..."

 

Geronimo's Buttons

Geronimo surrounded decides to cut his own tie and buttons. He is defeated but maintains his pride. His uniform is hung from a stick and Ballydowse are the victors but Geronimo plans his revenge by getting Riley (Judas!) to help him destroy the Ballys HQ with Riley's Dads new tractor.

 

Boffin's Toast

 

Riley's Da

After Riley gets caught helping to destroy the Ballys HQ he is stripped of his clothes and buttons. Watch Riley's mad aul' lad lose his shit and threaten the Ballys parents with the solicitor! Riley's poor aul' Ma can't get the jacket on him for love nor money!

 

Fergus and Geronimo

I always remember the lads looking out for each other on the mountain and the Master standing up to Fergus' Step Dad. As long as the lads had each other in the Boys home they would be ok. 

Marie closes the film with the narration 

"And so ended the war of the buttons. And what of these brave boys? Well, one became my husband and the others our oldest friend... but I'm not going to tell you which is which!"

Ah come on Marie! She had to marry Fergus right!!? 

 

A special mention has to go to the fact that the weapon of choice in the war was an old school Gat aka a Slingshot which they all were lethal at using! Savage!

 

The film brought back so many great memories and it really is full of heart, charm and brilliant performances, from the kids especially. It belongs there with Stand by me, The Goonies, Lord of the Flies or any of the great stories about growing up and being (for the most part) in a non-adult world.

I have such fond memories of growing up having 'gangs' and being involved in 'wars' against rival estates, spending summer mornings building bases etc.

A real trip down memory lane and a healthy smack of nostalgia watching this film again. Loved it as a kid. Love it now! Definitely an Irish Movie you must see!

Stephen

 

 

 

Watching Battle Rap as a Writer

Watching Battle Rap as a Writer

BATTLE RAP

As a writer I think it’s important to be interested in all different forms of writing. An obvious enough thought but let's just start with that. For example, I don’t write songs but if I hear a song I like, I will read and examine the lyrics. I don’t write poems but I’m a fan of poetry etc etc after this artcicle I don't expect us all to start challenging people to a battle rap but I'm convinced there's a lot to be gained by watching it from both a writing and performance perspective.

A few years ago I started to become la fan of Battle Rap. I was told about an Irish battle rap scene and began watching some of the videos. To be honest it was more about the comic value than the skill of the writing and most of it was very basic stuff (mostly lads slagging each other off in very childish and ridiculous ways) but the more I watched, the more battle rap leagues I became aware of and suddenly I got to know the individual battlers, the story of the leagues, the rivalries and the history behind certain feuds in battle rap.

The higher up in skill levels I started watching made me realise just how good the writing was. Some of it was out of this world good. Very intricate, very funny, very harsh at times when personal attacks were being made but always really well structured.

Most of you will remember the battle rap scenes from the film 8 Mile starring Eminem. The battles depicted in the film were to a beat and lasted one round each of about 45 seconds. Today's battle rap is very different but we'll get to that.

 

As a side note, I, like most people was a massive Eminem fan as a teenager. One thing I always remembered about Eminem was that Irish Poet Seamus Heaney really liked him.

"There is this guy Eminem. He has created a sense of what is possible. He has sent a voltage around his generation... He has done this not just through his subversive attitude but also his verbal energy."

 

Battle Rap Leagues

*Hopefully Battle Rap fans will read this too but remember I'm sort of aiming it towards readers who have never seen a battle*

The modern rap battle is generally believed to have originated in the East Coast hip hop scene in the late 1980s. From the late 1990s to end of the 2000s, freestyle rapping became very popular, with many artists getting attention for new styles, charisma, and witty punchlines in battles such as 'Scribble Jam' and 'Rocksteady'.  Televised battle and the aforementioned 8 Mile boosted the mainstream appeal of Rap Battles. Jump Off TV's 'World Rap Championships' (WRC's) premiered in London 2006, featuring American and British rappers.

in 2008, King of the Dot (Canada), Ultimate Rap League - URL (USA) and Don't Flop (UK) furthered the popularity of Battle Rap by posting battles on Youtube. There are numerous battle leagues but as this blog is about writing I'll keep it very basic and not get into the history too much!

How a Battle Works

Most battles are 3 rounds in which battlers take alternating goes. The rounds are usually timed. Before I started watching the American and Canadian battle leagues I mostly watched DONT FLOP (UK) where battles used to be 1 minute or 90 second rounds. This has now evolved and most rounds last from about 3 - 5 minutes. The battles used to be judged frequently but this has now stopped and the onus is really on the viewer at home to decide for themselves who won or lost unless the League is having a 'title' match in which case the battle will be judged.

The Battle is usually judged on a round by round basis like a boxing match with battlers judged on their content, punchlines, personal attacks, rebuttals to the opponents insults and overall delivery. The worst thing a battler can do is choke (forget their lines)

The best writers in battle rap have whats known as a great 'Pen game'. Battle Rapper Chilla Jones has said "To be a great writer... you must be able to do it all... Punchlines, Angles (what direction you're verbal assault/ breaking down of opponent's character goes in), Schemes (eg a Sports Scheme where all the lines in a verse have a connection between sports in some way), Multi's (Multi-Syllables), Entendres etc..."

Personal Favourites

While I have a huge amount of favourite battlers and there are so many great rappers/rounds to choose from the 3 I have selected to give you newbies a sample are the ones I first watched and then immediately rewatched paying particular attention to the writing. The wordplay and detail is crazy!

Daylyt v Chilla Jones

Two of my favourites writers in Battle Rap are Daylyt and Chilla Jones (Whom I quoted a second ago). Daylyt is a rapper from Watts California and is known for his great writing and his controversial antics in several battles. In this battle however he plays it straight apart from putting on his trademark ski mask or as we'd call it in Ireland his Bally (Balaclava). Chilla is a rapper from Boston, Massachusettes who also is known for his pen game and intricate schemes. The two collided here in one of my favourite battles of all time.

I suggest you watch the battle first and then rewatch it pausing it and using the link below to help you understand each reference and double meaning that you might not catch the first time. It was seeing the words on paper and analysing them that gave me such respect for the writing on display here.

https://genius.com/King-of-the-dot-daylyt-vs-chilla-jones-lyrics

 

Loaded Lux v Calicoe (Lux's 3rd Round)

Loaded Lux is a rapper from Harlem, New York and is considered by many to be one of the greatest battle rappers of all time. His 3rd Round vs Calicoe has gone down in battle rap history. Here is a video of his 3 rounds in that particular battle with subtitles but pay particular attention to the 3rd which also reads excellently.

Again I add the lyrics page which can explain the references you may not understand straight away.

https://genius.com/Urltv-loaded-lux-vs-calicoe-lyrics

 

Soul v Cee Major

One of my favourite writers in Battle Rap is Soul who is from Fife, Scotland. He was a long time champion of DONT FLOP battle league and is widely regarded as one of the greatest ever UK battlers. This battle for the vacant title was against London rapper Cee Major. A very close battle to call. Check out the superb writing from both in this one.

https://genius.com/Dont-flop-soul-vs-cee-major-lyrics

 

So those 3 examples should be accessible enough using the annotations provided. Like anything it takes time to adjust your ear to pick up on how good it actually is. We don't always understand Shakespeare or The Wire on first listen do we? So it's the same thing.

Rap isn't for everybody and battle rap can turn many people away as the insults do fly. However, I would like to think that much like in Eminem's work it is being used in a subversive way to say something about the culture and that the smart writers can use our differences to show that there's actually no difference between us all in the end. Too simplistic? Maybe.

 

Honourable Mentions

If you enjoy these clips then go to youtube to check out battlers Pat Stay, Charlie Clips, Hollow the Don, Arsonal, Lunar C, Shotty Horroh and from there you will quickly find everyone else you need to know.

No need for annotations on this battle between Shox the Rebel and Tony D

 

We mentioned the word 'schemes' earlier. Anyone remember Street Fighter? Course ya do! Who do you think did this Street Fighter Scheme better? Mike P or Daylyt?

Aye Verb's unbelievable 3rd round against Hitman Holla. Forever to be known as the 'Big Gerald' Round. Well worth a watch.

 

To sum up I don't believe that I will be writing in this style any time soon but certainly it makes me look at writing in a different way and at the power of wordplay. It must also be said that when you read the verses on the page and then watch them back, the timing, delivery and performance which has obviously been rehearsed to a tee is incredible and worth the viewing alone. 

Would love to know what you make of it. 

Stephen

My Favourite Sports Players

My Favourite Sports Players

I saw this pop up on a friends Facebook page yesterday and I filled out the list. I thought I would get away from the world of acting today and give you a quick insight to my list of favourite sports people.

Favourite sports player in each sport of all time...

 

Golf - Ian Woosnam

Golf isn't my favourite sport to play or to watch to be honest. The last day of a Major when two or more players are neck and neck is the only time I can really get behind it. So why Ian Woosnam of all players? Well for no other reason than one day while playing Pitch and Putt in Boharnabreena with my Dad and Brother (both of whom are significantly better at it than me) on hole 12 for no reason other than I'm a bit of an odd ball I decided to say "Watch this lads, the Woosnam effect" before I tee'd off. Why did I say it? Why Woosie, the Woose, King Woosnam himself? Not a fucking clue but I sliced across the ball and as soon as I hit it I knew (I didn't know) it was headed for a hole in one! My first and only ever one.

*I have said "the Woosnam effect" on every shot I've ever taken since and it appears the effect has worn off and gone in the direction of SHANKhill.

 "Set of Golf Balls and 20 Benson + Hedges please Doris"

"Set of Golf Balls and 20 Benson + Hedges please Doris"

Tennis - Yevgeny Kafelnikov

This one is plain and simple. I thought I looked a bit like him when I was a kid. In our estate, like most estates across the country once Wimbledon was on we were straight out for a game of Tennis. We had perfect 'Tennis Courts' too as the tar lines on our roads formed perfect rectangle boxes split down the middle. We would steal two traffic cones and some orange roadwork mesh to use as our net and our own championships would begin. One of my mates was always Pete Sampras, the other Tim Henman (loved the Brits for some reason) and me with my Milky Bar kid hair and paintjob flat fringe would be Yevgeny Kafelnikov.  The lad could play and was a former World number one. Another reason I felt an affinity for the lad was because when I was very young and ventured out to ask the local kids could I play with them for the first time I decided to tell them I was Russian. I must have thought that would make me 'Exotic' or something. Imaginative for a 5 year old to be fair.

 Jonesy getting a chocolate medal from AJ's Foodstore. Glenview Park, Tallaght circa 1996

Jonesy getting a chocolate medal from AJ's Foodstore. Glenview Park, Tallaght circa 1996

 

Basketball -  Larry Bird

Again, don't know loads about Basketball and I've gone for Larry Bird because I watched a documentary about him not too long ago and he seemed like one hell of a player. Also he played for the Boston Celtics and we like them.

Below is a Documentary (not the one I watched, a different one) about Bird's rivalry with Magic Johnson.

Snooker - Stephen Hendry

This was a tough one. I should really go with Ronnie because he's without doubt the best player to watch. The reason I've gone for Hendo is because it sticks with a pattern I've had all my life, which is wanting to be different to my family and friends when it comes to who I support in sport. For instance all my family support Manchester United. I follow QPR. I remember watching the 1994 Snooker World Championship Final in my Grandad's house and my Dad and Uncles all were cheering for Jimmy White. So, I remember wanting Hendry to win. Great player and a ruthless winner!

Below is the final frame of that final. it was 17-17 and White had the trophy in one hand...

F1 - Michael Schumacher

No real interest in Formula 1 to be honest. Schumacher was class and hopefully he is doing a little bit better these days after his horrific accident.

Anyone been down SuperKarts lately?


Rugby - Seamus Dennison 

1978. Thomond Park, Limerick. Munster 12 - All Blacks 0

As some of you may know I toured extensively with John Breen's play 'Alone it Stands', a hilarious story of this famous match and the lives of many characters directly and indirectly involved with the game.

One of the many characters I played in the production was Seamus Dennison. A man who almost didn't get named in the starting 15. He was small in stature but big in heart and persuaded manager Tom Kiernan that he could put any man down, even one of the mighty All Blacks! Dennison set the tone on the day with this monster tackle.

 Me and Seamus Dennison after a production of ALONE IT STANDS in Roscommon 2013

Me and Seamus Dennison after a production of ALONE IT STANDS in Roscommon 2013

Football - David Mooney

Me friend since I was a little kid. One season we played up front together for our first club Tymon Bawn. He got 56 goals and I got 4. The following season I became a Centre Half. His clubs have included Shamrock Rovers, Longford Town, Cork City, Reading, Norwich, Charlton, Colchester, Leyton Orient and he currently plays with Southend United.

A former FAI Player of the Year award winner, he has played at Wembley in a League 1 Playoff final.

 I set up most of those 56 goals by the way

I set up most of those 56 goals by the way

NFL - Aaron Rodgers

I've gotten into NFL in the last few years and although I find it hard to have big loyalty to any specific team I do like Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers. What a QB this lad is!

Cycling - Barry McCarthy

The creator of this website, my mate Barry. Loves a cycle and loves talking about Lance Armstrong and all those boys. Won a competition last year where he got to be in a teams car during the Giro D'Italia. Barry recommends reading the book Domestique by Charly Wegelius for an insight into the real grinders of pro cycling.

 'French for Domestic is it?'

'French for Domestic is it?'

MMA - Conor McGregor

I could probably give it the large one about Chuck Liddell or Randy Couture but I won't. I'm a McGregor fan. Great fighter and great entertainment value. Slick entrance tune too.

Can he beat Floyd Mayweather? Hasn't a hope but good luck to em.


Boxing - Prince Naseem Hamed + Tyson Fury

I initally went with Floyd here because he is the GOAT boxing wise. There's obvo Tyson, Ali, Sugar Ray but I went for the two boys for pure enterainment value. How ridiculous were/are the antics of these two BUT they were World Champions and could scrap, no question.

Prince v Kevin Kelly is not only worth a watch 'cos it's a great fight but Naz is making his US Debut and his entrance lasts about 22 minutes!!! The boys at HBO are baffled and amused in equal measure.

Tyson Fury talking shit about Price/Bellew and about Philadelphia to Steve Cunningham is gold!


Wrestling - Bret Hart

The best there is, the best there was and there ever will be. Over the years it's fair to say that Bret became a bit of a whinger but growing up the 'excellence of execution' was my favourite. I'd love to think that the infamous 'Montreal Screwjob' was all a set up between Bret and Vince McMahon.  If so it's the greatest wrestling storyline of all time. I enjoyed his book and the documentary 'Wrestling with Shadows' is well worth a look whether you're knowledgeable about the sport/sports entertainment or not.


Darts - Anyone but Taylor

Big fan of MVG and Peter 'Snake-bite' Wright but my god do I despise Phil Taylor. I don't mind sportspeople being cocky and arrogant if that's part of their marketing/self-promotion but Taylor strikes me as a nasty fella who pretends to be humble but can't even make it through a simple interview without the mask dropping. Unbelievable career and achievements but I've never been a fan.

Cricket - Ian 'Beefy' Botham

Memories of watching 'A Question of Sport' with my family as a kid. I always cheered for Ian's team and my Dad always cheered for Bill's. See? Told ya!!

And of course this...


Olympian - Andrew Cousins

My mate growing up who has a youth Olympic medal for football with Ireland. A former professional footballer with Leeds Andy still works in the game as a scout and works with Manchester City and the Northern Ireland national team.

Shame he never made it on to a Weeties box though

It must be pointed out that all my selections are indeed men but that is mainly because they were my favourites as kids and boys usually go for boys as their favourites at a young age. Honorary mentions must go to Steffi Graf, Chyna, Sonia O'Sullivan, Katie Taylor, Emma Byrne and Ronda Rousey. 

Who are your favs and why??

Stephen

Playwriting - True West & A Certain Romance

Playwriting - True West & A Certain Romance

2006

I was in UCD and was heavily involved in Dramsoc. Towards the end of 2006 I really wanted to write my first full length play. I had a story in my mind about two brothers who were very different but come to realise that due to their upbringing and environment they had much more in common than they thought. It was sort of an 'odd-couple' style comedy crossed with an edgy crime element influenced by Mark O'Rowe's play 'Howie the Rookie'. 

It's amazing how much O'Rowe influenced my writing (and still does). Being from Tallaght too, reading his plays really helped me gain the confidence to write characters who spoke in my accent!

In fact, I always imagined the brothers in my play being a bit like Colin Farrell and Cillian Murphy's characters in Mark's film Intermission (my fav Irish Movie by the way) but if they were brothers.

 'Story Fareller... Wana be in me play?'

'Story Fareller... Wana be in me play?'

 

What I knew

I knew the characters were called SKIN and FROG based on nicknames of two of my Uncles. I knew the whole play would take place in their flat. A run down beat up flat. I knew SKIN had been away for 5 years and nobody knew where. I knew that FROG had just split up from his long term girlfriend and had dropped out of college but because he was the first in the family to ever go he still had notions about himself even though he was stuck working in the local 'Superthingy'. I knew there was money involved and that they somehow had to switch positions.

And I also knew the title of the play. At the time The Arctic Monkeys first album Whatever People Say I am, that's what I"m not was massive and the song 'A Certain Romance' really hit with me.

At the time I was really interested in the fact that it had taken me 18 years to realise I had an 'accent'. It was only when I went to UCD that this became apparent to me. People weren't necessarily negative towards me but certainly a few people made comments about the area I was from.

I obviously took exception as I grew up in a wonderful and safe place. It certainly wasn't the Tallaght that some people imagined. But still, the attitudes of and about these so called 'working class' or 'disadvantaged areas' from both the inside and out became something I thought about a good deal. I wanted to explore it.

The 'Certain Romance' attached to this fascinated me in my early twenties and so basically long story short I nicked the title 'cos I liked the song and it fit with what I thought I wanted to say! Alrigh'?

 

But where to start? And what the hell made a play?

I could always write dialogue and I had several of SKIN and FROG's interactions written but I didn't know where to begin or what would make it theatrical. Exposition too is that horrible hurdle playwrights starting out need to learn to jump!

Then I discovered TRUE WEST by Sam Shepard.

I was reading play after play as I had become obsessed with acting through Dramsoc and I hit upon this play in the library one day. It's funny to think back to your first discovery of these great playwrights. You somehow think you are the only person to know about Pinter and Beckett and Murphy.

Anyway. Here was this play... about two brothers (AUSTIN and LEE)... set in their Mother's house and they are total opposites but they have a kind of role reversal in the play and it turns out they ain't so different in their natures after all and all these other themes that I was really into.... AUSTIN and LEE like SKIN and FROG were two sides of the one coin and looking back maybe that's what I was really writing about. Me. And the idea that I was living in two very different worlds between home and my college life. 21 year olds eh?

Anyway, TRUE WEST...  I just loved it!

So then I did something as an experiment. I won't say it will work for everybody who is trying to write a play for the first time and not everyone will be so lucky as I was in finding a play that has such a similar set up as the one you're trying to write but this is definitely a useful exercise and if you're a first time Playwright then a two hander in one setting is always a great place to start. In fact, they are my favourite type of plays anyway even to this day, hence FROM EDEN.

OK so...

I took a good long look at the first scene of TRUE WEST... Even the first page or so... Here it is. Have a quick read and I'll meet you on the other side.

 

Act 1, Scene I

LEE: So, Mom took off for Alaska, huh?

AUSTIN: Yeah.

LEE: Sorta' left you in charge.

AUSTIN: Well, she knew I was coming down here so she offered me the place.

LEE: You keepin' the plants watered?

AUSTIN: Yeah.

LEE: Keepin' the sink clean? She don't like even a single tea leaf in the sink ya' know.

AUSTIN: (trying to concentrate on writing) Yeah, I know.

(pause)

LEE: She gonna' be up there a long time?

AUSTIN: I don't know.

LEE: Kinda' nice for you, huh? Whole place to yourself.

AUSTIN: Yeah, it's great.

LEE: Ya' got crickets anyway. Tons a' crickets out there. (looks around kitchen) Ya' got groceries? Coffee?

AUSTIN: (looking up from writing) What?

LEE: You got coffee?

AUSTIN: Yeah.

LEE: At's good. (short pause) Real coffee? From the bean?

AUSTIN: Yeah. You want some?

LEE: Naw. I brought some uh--(motions to beer)

AUSTIN: Help yourself to whatever's--(motions to refrigerator)

LEE: I will. Don't worry about me. I'm not the one to worry about.

 

There ya go. Nothing too mad or explainy. What I did was, I wrote out the first scene of the play word for word EXCEPT I made the characters from Dublin. So all of a sudden...

LEE: So Mom took off for Alaska, huh?

BECAME

SKIN: So the aul' one headed off for the country, wha'?

 

And so on and so forth. No before you have me up for plagiarism remember this was just an experiment. What it gave me though was a huge appreciation for AND a lot more understanding of what is not said!

It was what was happening in-between those lines and in those pauses and silences and looks etc that the relationship was working and the drama was really happening. 

I learned a lot about how to plant seeds without being Dr. Exposition and to be honest after a few lines the characters just took off on their own journey anyway.

I would say give it a go. Find a play you like. Preferably one set in a different country to your own and copy while applying the voices to your accent/dialect. It doesn't need to be AND probably shouldn't be a play you are going to write but try it just as an exercise. Call your characters A and B and pay close attention to the mechanics of it. How the playwright uses dialogue to set up later events, explain things you need to know in subtle ways, how dialogue is used as a weapon, when it's the truth and when it's lies.

I found it very helpful and I'll be honest I kept the first line which was a straight rip off... or as I call it an 'Erinization' and I'm sure it being my first play that there's influences in there I totally couldn't see and probably still don't looking back on it. So thank you Mr. Shepard and Mr. O'Rowe anyway as I'm very much aware of youzzizer influence.

 Philip Seymour Hoffman and John C. Reilly in True West. In this production they swapped parts every 4 or 5 nights.

Philip Seymour Hoffman and John C. Reilly in True West. In this production they swapped parts every 4 or 5 nights.

 

A CERTAIN ROMANCE went on to represent UCD Dramsoc at the Irish Student Drama Awards in Belfast in 2007. It received loads of nominations in all sorts of categories but took home the ISDA Award for 'Best Original Script'. SKIN was played by Nick Hynes and FROG was played by Finbarr Doyle. 

It then went on to be a 'Druid Debut' with Druid Theatre Company at the Galway Arts Festival in 2008. The rehearsed reading was directed by Mikel Murfi. SKIN was played by Ronan Leahy and FROG was played by Brian Gleeson.

 Finbarr Doyle as FROG and me as SKIN (I took over from Nick) in A CERTAIN ROMANCE for the UCD Dramsoc 'Flagship' show in 2008   Notice how i even tried to recreate the two great actors poster!!!

Finbarr Doyle as FROG and me as SKIN (I took over from Nick) in A CERTAIN ROMANCE for the UCD Dramsoc 'Flagship' show in 2008 

Notice how i even tried to recreate the two great actors poster!!!

 

TRUE WEST remains one of my favourite plays and I would love to be in a production of it in the near future... if any producers happen to read this!

Happy writing

Stephen

Scratch - A Short Film

Scratch - A Short Film

This short film was my first time working with Warrior Films. I'm happy to say that these guys remain friends of mine to this day. We shot it back in 2013.

I got the call from my agent to say I had an audition and that she would send on the script. I read it and thought it was a bit whacky and full of good fun.

 The Cast and Crew of SCRATCH

The Cast and Crew of SCRATCH

I liked the idea of this Maths teacher being addicted to doing scratchcards. Having worked in the gambling industry part time for 5 years I could well believe it. Also, one little detail that I noticed was how he acted like a poker player as he would try to 'read' the scratchcards serial numbers and he would play with his €1 coins like a poker player would with his chips. Having played in hundreds of poker tournaments over the years I made sure to bring in a stack of €1 coins to the audition and brought my full array of coin/chip tricks. (I think this may have got me the part more than my reading but anyway...)

The short was shot over 2 or 3 nights in a working Petrol Garage on the outskirts of Dublin. It was directed by Philip Kelly. He co-wrote the script with Liam Ryan.

They assembled a great crew led by D.O.P JJ Rolfe.

They had a great cast with Conor Drum, who is on the comedy circuit in London, Ian Lloyd Anderson who is a well established theatre and TV actor currently working on the play 'Common' in the National Theatre in London and Sam Keeley who has appeared in big movies such as Ron Howard's 'In the Heart of the Sea' and recently in 'Anthropoid' alongside Cillian Murphy and Jamie Dornan.

 Conor Drum, Stephen Jones, Ian Lloyd Anderson and Sam Keeley

Conor Drum, Stephen Jones, Ian Lloyd Anderson and Sam Keeley

All I remember doing is laughing my head off in between takes with these guys. A great bunch.

I remember insisting on wearing nerdy Y-Fronts inspired by Walter White from 'Breaking Bad'... (you'll see them, don't worry)

The film went on to several film festivals including TRIBECA. For one reason or another I never was free to get to see it in front of an audience, which was a pity but there ya go!

Enjoy the short film.

Hope you watched until the very end!

 "Are ya gonna answer it?"

"Are ya gonna answer it?"

Pre Show Nerves

Pre Show Nerves

Ah Jasus me bleedin' nerves

Actors waiting at the side of the stage just as they have been given their 'beginners call' can be quite a sight to behold. A secret camera on a cast of 8 lets say could provide some very interesting information on the nature of performing/nerves.

Some Actors are on the verge of freaking out, others are pacing and are full of nervous energy, others stay focused and still as if trying to contain it all (as not to waste it), some are talking to themselves quietly, others chatting about everyday things (relaxed? Covering the nerves?), I've even seen many say a quick prayer.

 

I always think it's a good sign when I'm very nervous right before I go on as I can use all of that energy once I go on stage. It must be said too that once I do go on all the nerves fade away. It's kind of a surreal experience. Hard to describe.

The best analogy for myself that I can make is... imagine that you are the type of person that gets nervous about flying (like me). You're anxious enough the day before and in the airport you feel sick... then... once the plane takes off you're absolutely fine and you actually quite like it (again, me). Once on stage and the lights are up it's the safest, most relaxing and enjoyable thing I can imagine doing. I always find the two extremes fascinating.

There's a different level of nerves for each production and even each individual performance. It depends on what point in the run it is, who's in the audience, the size of the crowd etc etc

Looking back on my theatre career so far I'm amazed at how many plays I've been in the opening scene of. Very few times have I had to wait long before coming on. I'm always less nervous if the play has started already and I have to arrive in.

 A handsome man enters

A handsome man enters

 

Also, I get less nervous if I'm pre-set on the stage. In a recent production I did (and am doing again very soon!) of 'This Lime Tree Bower' by Conor McPherson myself and actor Peter Daly start onstage chatting casually as the audience comes in and gets settled. Because of this I never get nervous for that show and so have to find alternative ways to get my energy up and be 'on it'.

Maybe it's a need to get a sense of the crowd and the vibe of the room that causes the nerves. The unknown factor in the play (where everything else has been rehearsed to a tee). Maybe it's just that old 'crossing the white line' cliché. Or better yet 'once the whistle blows' whether you're on or off stage you are in 'game mode'.

 Peter Daly, Dave Fennelly and Me in 'This Lime Tree Bower' by Conor McPherson  Photo: Ste Murray

Peter Daly, Dave Fennelly and Me in 'This Lime Tree Bower' by Conor McPherson

Photo: Ste Murray

 

I said recently in an interview on TV3's 'Six O'Clock Show' that I had heard somewhere 'the same amount of adrenaline runs through an actor's body right before they go on as would if you were in a fairly speedy car crash'. I'd well believe it having experienced it night after night for years.

The most common phrase I have heard/used is 'Why do I do this to myself?' 

There are probably thousands of books on the subject that I must look up because it has always intrigued me. But then again, maybe it's better not to know the exact psychology behind it all all. Who knows?

 Why do I do it?... I rather go home and have a nice Chianti.....

Why do I do it?... I rather go home and have a nice Chianti.....

My Own Pre Show

I'm an Atheist and yet I always ask my Grandad to protect me once I go on stage. 'Protect' may seem like a strange choice of word but that's what I say. It's not that I believe he can literally hear me but there'a a part of him in me and that part can make things go smoothly. Right? RIGHT????

I am not superstitious in life normally but I do like to stick to the same routine. Any placebo that will make me feel 0.01 % more comfortable I want it! And yes! if you say 'Macbeth' in the Theatre I will make you leave, spin around 3 times, knock on the door and ask for permission to be allowed back in! Just ask award winning lighting designer Sinead McKenna who made the mistake recently in a Tech for 'Maz And Bricks'.

Often I will listen to music or in the last year or so I have listened to some motivational tapes. It's not so much that I need to be given a boost but they remind me that I am doing what many people out there are afraid to do... and that's do what they love! And that being an actor is such a privilege.

Have a listen to one I use.

To the actors out there... Have Courage, Be Fearless!

To our audiences, we thank you... ps keep clapping nice and loud yeah?

Stephen

Motorcycle Emptiness - A Short Story

Motorcycle Emptiness - A Short Story

*This Story was published in 'Anthology Baby!' a collection of work from the M.A. Creative Writing UCD Class of 2009

 

Motorcycle Emptiness

 

I was sixteen when I met Mick properly for the first time. He’d been in my year at school all the way up but when you get to transition year the classes change based on your choice of subject and level. All of his mates had dropped out after the Junior but he hadn’t. It was the end of the first week of the new school year and he was now in some of my classes. I knew loads about him already though. He was a real lad ya know? I’d heard that he always got into the Playhouse no questions asked. He was the fella who sorted the boys out with hash or whatever else and he had become infamous in our school for riding this girl Carol Black with a Snickers wrapper on his cock when they were like fourteen. She always denied it, Mick on the other hand never said anything about it when asked. Just smiled. He was cool as fuck I thought.

 

Rumours had been going around our area that his Ma had been having an affair and had just left his Da to go and live with the geezer she’d been seeing. I hadn’t heard about it until the Friday morning of our first week back. Since nothing ever happened around really, it was interesting to listen to I suppose. I picked up the odd whispered word in the corridors. Ya see, I was in a similar boat. My Da had had an affair with a woman he was doing a Psychology course with. It was a few years before. All I remembered were phone calls to the house at like four in the morning and him saying “Look, stop ringing me house!”. He had a bit of a thing with the woman but had finished it. Afterwards your one went a bit schizo and kept ringing and turning up at the doorstep in bits crying. My Da said she was just confused. Eventually my Ma got the truth from him and so he left one night. At least now I had something in common with Mick.

 

English was the last class of the day. We were doing poetry. A poem by Gerard Manley Hopkins called ‘The Windhover’. About perfection. I liked it. Most people in the class seemed to be asleep though. When the bell went people shuffled out of the class. I stopped scribbling the name Katie on my copy. I reckoned I was in love with her. She had an older boyfriend called Barry. She was blonde and wore loads of make-up, maybe more than she should have but that didn’t matter to me. I watched her as she walked passed my desk and left the room. I looked across the room and saw that the only other person left was Mick. I packed my books into my bag. As he passed I stood up and he looked at me.

 

“Alright”, he said.

“Yeah”, I said.

“ Love a bit of gossip this lot what?”

“Now you said it… you alright man?” I said but I could never really pull off the man part.

“Ah yeah, just feel bad for me little sister ya know?”

“How old is she?”

“Ten ya know? I mean I couldn’t give a bollocks to be honest. The aul’ one can do what she likes ya know?”

 

I walked with him to the lockers and he threw his bag inside. I was going to ask him did he not need it for the weekend but realised that that would sound stupid.

 

“Sure me Da’s done it before like” he said.

“Really?”

“Yeah some girl that was working for him… she was tremendous to be fair… had to be only about twenty two or sumtin”

“And didn’t your Ma find out?” I asked and tried to be cool.

“No, gas part is he doesn’t even know I know man. It was just before he gave up the drink last year so I just said fuck it and said nuthin about it.”

 

We got out to the front of the school. 

 

“These things happen I suppose” I said and spat. Mick turned to me.

“Wanna know how I know?” he said. I just nodded and spat again.

“Well, I was the on the hop from here one day last year cos me and the boys had a robbed motorbike stashed in the thirty acres and I wanted a shot of it all to meself ya know?” I listened an bit my nails. “So I just took off on it around the faco’s, down the old dump, the waste ground there and I see a silver Nissan Primera parked there right? Then out of nowhere a red Seat comes around and pulls up beside it.”

“No way.” I said, to show how interested I was.

“Yeah, so I thought it could be some drug deal or sumtin, bit of a gangland body disposal or sumtin good like that ya know?”

“Defo” I said.

“But anyway this young blonde bird gets out and looks around. Im up on the hill so she doesn’t spot me ya know? So I stash the bike as she gets into the Nissan. I could just about make out that the person she’s getting in beside is a bloke right? And im going to meself, what’s going on here like ya know? And I cop it. These two must be doing the aul’ lodgey bodgey like.” We both laughed.

“Go on” I said.

“Right, I mean why else are they out here, middle of nowhere, one o’clock in the day?… so, I wait a few minutes and then slowly walk down towards the cars. Can’t help meself like, have to see incase there’s a bit of filth. But as I get closer, hunched down low and all, creepin’, I notice the Reg on the car. Get a bit closer and run the numbers over in me head. fuck me I says, it’s me fuckin Da’s car. Like obviously I knew what kinda car he had but why would I… ya know? Anyway, make a long story short, I get right up to the car , peep me head up to the window and there he is, me Da, lashing a young blonde dolly out of it in the backseat… from behind.”

“Jesus” I said slowly. He delivered the from behind bit like he was proud of it or something.

“Believe it?” he said “So I watched for a bit ya know? Few minutes. I didn’t even feel anythin really. Like not strange or anythin. The only thing I regretted was not seeing her face.”

“That’s mad” I said.

“Isn’t it?”

We walked for a few minutes and I didn’t want there to be an awkward silence so I don’t know why but I just ended up coming out with “And like did ya get a horn watchin it?”

Mick laughed so hard that he started coughing.

“No… no, but I did have a wank about your one when I got home”

“Really?”

“Course not ya sick cunt” he laughed again. “Know what man?” he said.

“What?”

“I think you’re mad as a brush.” I didn’t know if that was a good thing or a bad thing until he said “Like me… tremendous” and he punched my arm.

“Thanks”.

 

A few months later I was in Mick’s house waiting for him to finish getting ready. We were going to the Playhouse. Drinks were only three euro on a Friday nights. We’d been going there every Friday for months. Mick knew one of the bouncers and so I got in with him no problem. We had both gotten part time jobs in the local shopping centre. Mick worked in a burger place and I worked on a cereal aisle in the supermarket. The money was so we could go on the Friday nights out. I was in Mick’s kitchen with his Da. He had started drinking again after Mick’s Ma left. He poured himself a whiskey. I noticed the Ace card tattoo he had on his arm. He had tattoo’s on both of his arms. He smiled at me. I didn’t know how to react so I just nodded at him. Mick was still upstairs making himself look good. His Da poured another drink. I noticed his hand was shaking slightly and was stained yellow from smoking, that was one thing I remembered about my Da. Mick was probably spiking his hair the way he had started to the last while. It took forever though.

 

“So, yis are off to this Playhouse place tonight is it?” Mick’s Da asked.

“Yeah” I said.

“What’s it like? Plenty of girls and all that?”

“Yeah, I suppose.”

 

There was a bit of a silence and then all of a sudden he started crying. Completely balling. I couldn’t believe it. It was like one of those car crash situations people talk about. Where you have to look. I was fixed on his red eyes and his trembling hands. His wedding ring tapped against his glass as he apologised and tried to compose himself.

 

“I eh…” he started but then Mick came down the stairs and the smell of his aftershave filled the room. His Da sniffed hard and wiped his face. He tried to just laugh it off but he couldn’t. The man just couldn’t stop crying.

“Howaya son.”

“Fuckin hell Da… Jesus man… are you havin a laugh? Fuck’s sake!” Mick shook his head at him. “Come on you, ya right?” He said to me and he stormed off. 

“Sorry bout that fella mate, he gets a bit flowery now and again.” Mick said outside.

“No man, it was eh… it was sort of, I dunno… mad.”

 

A few hours later we were standing in the queue for the Playhouse. We had had a few cans down by the Dodder earlier in the night and we were both already a bit pissed. I had never drank before I started hanging around with Mick but now I loved it. The Queue was fairly long. Lads with jeans and shirts and bright t-shirts, yellow and pink, even the hardest of them seemed to be wearing nowadays. Girls in really short skirts smelling like they’d showered in their perfumes. People smoking, chatting loudly, laughing. Others being refused entry, telling the bouncers to fuck off and warning them that they were dead. Last year a bouncer was shot at here but that was only a once off.

 

The queue kept on moving and up at the top of it the three bouncers refused this bloke. He had a huge scar down the side of his face and looked like a real scummer. He tried to barge his way through them but he just bounced right off their huge frames. He was really skinny and looked like a weasel or something like that. The bouncers told him to step aside. He backed off a little bit as the bouncers let a group of girls inside past him.

 

“Yeah ya see!” the fella roared, “If I had a fuckin gee I’d get in!”

“I’ll buy ya one for Christmas.” a voice from the back of the queue shouted up. 

 

Most people in the queue started laughing and turned to see who had said it. The bloke just laughed but his girlfriend just tutted at him all embarrassed she was being stared at too. He was a big bloke with black spikey hair, wearing a top to small for him. The little weasel scumbag didn’t find the joke funny at all. He made his way back down through the queue towards the big bloke.

 

“Yeah, funny man” he said “we’ll see how funny it is won’t we?” and he headed off. The big bloke just laughed him off. 

 

A few minutes later and we got to the top of the queue. The bouncers nodded at us.

“Go ahead there lads” and as we were heading inside there was a massive scream from behind us. The bouncers brushed by us and there was a bit of a scuffle. I couldn’t really see what was happening though. Then the big bloke who had made the joke stepped out of the queue, and I could see his hand was covered in blood. He kept touching the back of his leg and more blood appeared.

“Ah for fuck’s sake” he said “blood all over the cunting shop. The little bastard.”

He had just been Stanley Knifed in the arse cheek. It was kind of a thing. It happened quite a bit. 

“I fuckin told ya to keep your mouth shut Sas… fuck‘s sake” his girlfriend was far from impressed. She started walking off.

“Ah Donna, wait a sec will ya?” On hand on his arse.

“We’ll get ya an ambulance” one of the bouncers said. The little weasel lad had gotten away sharpish. 

 

“Come on you” Mick said and took me by the arm. He paid for both of us and we put our jackets in the cloakroom. The place was packed and it took loads of effort just to get served. People just shoved you out of the way, no problem. We had a few drinks and Mick gave me this shot. I didn’t know what it was called but it was pure fire. Mick said he was going for a dance. I said I’d follow him in a bit.

“Suit yourself… ya faggit” he said and laughed. I watched him dancing. He didn’t care at all. He went up to girls and even if they’d turn away it wouldn’t bother him, he’d just move on to the next one. After a few minutes he started kissing this girl. I couldn’t see what she looked like but I did see Mick’s hand go up her skirt. It was like they were trying to eat each other. I decide I would do a ‘lap of honour’.

 

I floated around the club and looked at what people were doing. Caught bits and pieces of drunken conversations. I started sweating. My clothes were sticking to me and the music seemed to just keep getting louder. The flashing lights. The colour blue was… Then over at the bar I saw Katie. I couldn’t believe it. In the months I had been going there I hadn’t seen her once. She was drinking and was on her own. I started walking towards her but I got knocked over by some big dozy looking fella.

“Jaysus… sorry young’fella” he said. I turned to look for Katie but she was walking up the stairs with her boyfriend Barry.

 

An hour later and I was on the dance floor, dancing by myself. Mick was now kissing a different girl on the far side of the floor. She had her hands down his jeans. Some girl came over to me and started dancing all over me. She wasn’t very attractive but I put my hands around her all the same. She started to kiss me really hard. Her tongue was wet and slippery. I pulled away from here and told her I had to go to the jacks. I got into the Mens toilets and there wasn’t many in there. The night was nearly over so everyone was on the dance floor. I was headed for a cubicle when suddenly a girl burst out of the one next to it. She had her hand up to her mouth as if she was about to be sick. It looked like she should be going in, not out. I half slurred “You alri-” when from the same cubicle as the girl Mick appeared doing up his belt.

 

“Ah.. Alright man” he said

“Mick… What’s going on?” I pointed back meaning the girl.

“Guess what the sick bitch is doin?”

“What?”

“Ever hear of snow-ballin?”

“No”

“Fuckin disgustin man and they’re all at it. She just gave me a blowjob right? But instead of swallowin me muck she’s keeping it in her mouth right, leggin it out to the floor to put it down the throat of the first poor fucker she can find to score her.”

“Fuck off.”

“Disgustin innit?” He said “ Right man, go for your piss and we’ll head off before the slow dance rubbish comes on. Nights not over yet man.”

“What? We goin chipper?” I asked.

“Nah, even better, meet ya outside.”

 

Outside, Mick bummed two smokes from a girl and gave me one. I didn’t even smoke.

 

“I got me hands on sumtin, you‘ll love it” Mick said and began walking ahead of me fast. It began to drizzle. After a few minutes I started asking Mick where we were going.

“You’ll see man” He kept saying and he went back to texting someone on his phone. We got down past our school, around the back of it towards the factories. Then Mick headed for the thirty acres. It started to piss rain heavily. I was felling very woozy. We traipsed across the fields, me following Mick. He was like a man on a mission. I didn’t put my hood up because I thought having the rain bounce off my head might sober me up. We got up on the thirty acres hill and from there I could see down on our whole area, all the estates. With all the orange streetlights I thought it looked like the whole place was on fire. Maybe I just imagined a smell of smoke in the air.

 

“Come on man will ya?” Mick called. I ran towards him, hands in my jacket pockets.

“Well?” I said when I got to him.

“Got this the other day for a tenner off the knackers” and he wheeled out this wrecked looking motorbike. He was smiling, chuffed to the bollocks. It took him a minute or two but he was able to start it. He hopped on.

 

“Ya right?” He said.

“What?” I said laughing.

“Come on, jump on man.”

“Ya can’t man” I said “ You’re locked.”

“Right, all the best man, talk to ya later” and with that he started off.

“Mick, wait!” I shouted and he stopped. “Fuck it” I ran over, pulled my head up and hopped on behind him. 

“Good man yourself” he said and we both laughed. “We’re off!” Mick cackled and spun away. I put my arms on his side sand gripped on tight. 

“Where we gonna go man?” I asked Mick turned to me and put on his best traveller accent.

“Well Ossie, we’ll go into the West.” He revved the bike and we were off over the fields and down by the factories until we were back on the main roads. We passed by the Playhouse and there was still loads of people stumbling out and milling around the car park. People kissing, fighting, shouting, singing. Mick drove down Tallaght village swaying back and forth across the white line but not caring. I closed my eyes and forgot. Outside the chipper there was a large crowd of people from the club. As we passed Mick beeped the horn but it barely worked. Both of us laughed. Some lads threw chips at us, gave us the finger and the ‘wanker’ sign as we past. In the distance we could hear the sirens of a Garda car.

“They’re on to us Ossie” Mick said.   

  “Tito” I said and I pointed over his shoulder “to the West.” Mick tried his best to make the bike go faster as we pretended the Gards were after us. We flew down through the lower part of the village. I gripped Mick’s jacket harder. It was more fun to close my eyes, so I did.

 

And when I opened them again I was laughing, staring up at the sky.

“Bollocks” I could hear Mick saying. I got to my feet and saw Mick lying on his back on the road moving his hands and feet like you would if you were making a snow angel. He was laughing as well. The bike was a few feet away from him and was now on the path. We had gone over a speed ramp, the bike had conked out and Mick just lost control of it.

 

“It just skidded, died it did, the bastard. Wasn’t like I crashed it or anything.”

“Ya alright man.” I asked him and helped him up.

“Never drink and drive” he said taking the piss. “Dangerous.”

We could hear the sirens again so for the craic we started to run even though I could feel where my leg would be bruised in the morning. We just left the bike were it was.

 

We kept laughing and running until we got to Mick’s house. Before we both fell in the door I got sick into his wheelie bin. We went into Mick’s downstairs bedroom. His chill out room as he called it. He had bunk beds in it and a couch and even a fridge. Mick went into the kitchen and I could hear him puke in the sink. I got down to my boxers and jumped under the covers still laughing my head spinning. Mick came back in and got undressed, banging off his shelves as he did so. Down to his boxers he got into the bottom bunk beside me. I didn’t think anything of it.

“Night man” I said.

“Love ya buddy.” He said and looked at me. Then from the pocket ofhis jeans his phone vibrated and he jumped from the bed, he dug it out and read the message.

“Yes!” he said “right man, here’s the story, some dolly is on the way over in a taxi. Need ya to hit the top bunk and pretend your not there right?”

“Alright man but… I’ll just go asleep before she gets here.”

“Nice one man, I’ll owe ya one.”

I went up to the top bunk and closed my eyes. I was dozing off but vaguely heard when the girl came in. It was hard to get asleep properly once the bed beneath me started shaking and squeaking. Despite Mick’s heavy breathing and the girl’s heavy moans I was able to think about the night we just had and Katie and how great she was. Mick’s Dad too. Mad.

The girl started moaning louder and said “ah Mick, Mick, perfection, that’s fuckin perfection.” and I wanted to laugh. I didn’t really feel anything though, I mean, I didn’t feel weird or anything. And as I drifted off to sleep, with my mate shagging a girl beneath me I remembered the day I met him properly. After that English class and that poem. Things were okay. I was doing my mate a favour, like he’d do for me. That night I dreamt about being at a carnival as a kid. My hand in a huge yellow stained one. I stared at all the rides, spinning around, going up and down and I ate candy floss under all the flashing lights.

The End

RIP Laser Byrne

Dead Rock: Saying Goodbye to the Bad Guy!!

Monday May 15th 9pm TV3. Laser Byrne's family gathers in his local pub to give him a quiet send off. Won't be so quiet for Keith Kiely however!!

ps a bit of trivia here. Laser's wake was filmed in the same pub as John-Boy's was in Love/Hate Season 2. An episode I was in for all you die-hard gangster fans! 

So poor aul Laser is brown bread. It was a great ride while it lasted though!! I initially went in to play the part of Laser as a 3 day guest role. I was absolutely over the moon to be asked back again last year and when I read what the writers had in store for me I was beyond chuffed.

The psychopath character combined with the fact that Red Rock was pushing more into drama with a later time slot was the perfect combination.

I got to work with some incredible actors and some really talented directors. It would be wrong to start naming individuals as I enjoyed my time working with all cast and crew.

I will say that myself, actor Cathy Belton (Patricia Hennessy) and director Diarmuid Goggins had a great discussion about fear and how it's perceived and I really thought the choices we all made in the episode where Laser breaks into Patricia's home and then threatens to kill her family really highlight the difference between soap and drama.

I learned a lot about playing a bad guy during those scenes.

To all the Red Rock fans who have contacted me, thank you so much. What a pleasure it has been to interact with you all and I hope you will continue to follow my career.

 

 bye Razor... I mean Lazor!

bye Razor... I mean Lazor!

 

Say goodbye to the bad guy!