The musical Once is returning to Dublin for the third time this summer. Not only is it a coming home for the sensational stage show, this production is particularly special, as it is the first ever all Irish cast in the history of the show worldwide. Brian Gilligan, who may be familiar to audiences after his impressive performance as Deco in The Commitments, is taking on the role of Guy, a heartbroken musician who is tempted to say goodbye to his career dreams and fix vacuum cleaners instead. Niamh Perry is playing Girl, the Czech character who pushes Guy to pursue his career and opens door for him, all while the pair dance around their feelings for each other. Niamh’s musical theatre career has been on a stellar run since her appearance on the BBC talent search I’d Do Anything, having starred in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Love Never Dies and The Beautiful Game.
The pair took time out from rehearsals to discuss what it feels like to take on such a phenomenally successful show, and the challenge of holding back the tears during Falling Slowly. Plus, enter your details below to be in with a chance to win tickets to the show! We have two pairs of tickets to give away for the show on Tuesday, 4 July.
How does it feel to be starring in Once at The Olympia this summer?
Niamh: To be able to do this love song to Dublin, in the heart of Dublin, is pretty special. It’s the first time in the history of the show worldwide that it’s an all-Irish cast.
The thing that excites me about the show is that everything that you hear on stage is happening live, because the cast are the band. To be involved in that kind of immersive musical heaven every week for the summer is filling me with so much excitement right now.
Brian: It’s cool as well with the cast we have, some of them have done Once before, and some of them are new and fresh to it like myself. But it’s nice to have that blend because even though there is a familiarity with it it is exciting to see what the new people can bring to it. The world is there for you to walk into, and you will always find something new and interesting.
When did you fall in love with the Once phenomenon?
Niamh: My aunt Miriam who lives in Dublin sent me the DVD back in 2007 when it came out, knowing I’d love it. I’m a huge fan of the music, Glen Hansard, the whole Once package. But I try not to look too much at what other people have done so that I can put my own unique stamp on it. I can’t wait to do it ourselves.
Brian: I was the same. I took a bit of time to discover it. Even though it came out in 2007 it was a couple of years down the line that I watched it. Cheesy and all as it sounds I was very moved by it because it has so many things going on in it. There’s so much you can take away from the whole story. I think as well being a Dubliner, living through the 2008 economic recession and the highs and lows that the city has been through, and how so many people have left and so many have stayed, and all the different cultures that have come over to the city, it just brings about an amazing love story but also a tremendous sense of identity. Movies like that enhance our identity for who we are as Dubliners.
Brian, you were Deco in The Commitments, now you’re playing another strong Dublin character. What’s that like for you?
Brian: Oh there’s been lots of accent work involved! I’m joking of course, but it’s funny how they are two separate worlds in themselves, even though Roddy Doyle and Enda Walsh actually have a lot in common, with their Dublinisms and their colloquial styles and how they actually go about putting scripts and stories together. It’s funny as well, as I only found out a couple of months ago that Enda Walsh was one of Roddy Doyle’s students in school. I’m just mind blown by the whole thing. But it’s amazing to be wrapped up in this Dublin bubble again.
Niamh, how is your Czech accent coming along?
Niamh: It’s not the easiest accent in the world to learn but I love a challenge and I have a wonderful dialect coach, Andrea, who has been putting me through my paces on Skype over the past few weeks. It’s like music, you get it into your body and it stays with you. Having a Northern Irish accent in London, every job you do you have to put an accent on anyways. I’ve done one job in my own accent, that was for A Beautiful Game a few years ago. A few years ago I didn’t have a very good Dublin accent but I had to do it for a job or two, so now it isn’t too bad but I think after working with this cast I’ll really be able to sound like a Dubliner.
Niamh, before this run of Once, you’ve been working with Andrew Lloyd Weber frequently. What has that been like?
Niamh: Musical theatre has really been my bread and butter over the past few years. I’ve been very fortunate to have Andrew as someone who has helped me along the way and mentored me through the past nine years of work. I just finished a job in his theatre in London and even though it wasn’t his show it was really nice to see him again. I’m very fortunate. There really is no better feeling than going out on stage every night. I’m very lucky to get to call it my job.
Brian, this is an especially busy summer for you, as you’re getting married in the middle of rehearsals! How are you juggling the two?
Brian: My other half is amazing. When you’re an actor you can never predict when you’re going to get work so you can not plan or guarantee anything. But this is two years in the planning and myself and my other half were adamant that nothing was going to get in the way of us setting the date. But when Once came around, I talked to her and she was amazingly supportive. She just said I couldn’t turn down this opportunity, it’s a role I genuinely want to play and it’s in Dublin, so I have to go and do it.
And finally, is there a moment you’re both looking forward to playing out on stage?
Brian: As well as playing the music, because the story is centred around Guy and Girl, the other people that come into the fold play a lot of the interlude music that joins all the dots and it is just like one massive trad session on the stage. So I can’t wait to sit back and watch everything else that’s going on on the stage.
Niamh: I’m wondering if I will be able to get through Falling Slowly the first time without crying! It’s such an incredible song. When I hear it I well up. That song is one of my favourites of all time, and to get to play that more than once throughout the show every week is a dream come true.
Once runs at the Olympia from Saturday, 1 July to Saturday, 26 August. Buy tickets here.
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