Emily Houri­can

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - Living - - REVIEW -

As well as The Ap­proach, Cathy has spent three years now as steely ma­tri­arch Pa­tri­cia Hen­nessy in TV3’S Red Rock. She played an­other steely, rather mon­strous woman — Sis­ter Claire in the film Philom­ena, with Judi Dench and Steve Coogan — and will shortly ap­pear on the BBC in The Woman In White, adapted from the Wilkie Collins novel. Any­one who watched Ali­son Spit­tle’s very charm­ing and funny se­ries Nowhere Fast on RTE2 re­cently will recog­nise Cathy as Ali­son’s glam­orous, tact­less but ul­ti­mately de­voted mother, Caro­line.

On stage, she has ap­peared in a re­mark­able gamut of work, from the classics of O’casey, Singe and Shake­speare, through to con­tem­po­rary, in a ca­reer that has spanned decades. And yet “ev­ery time I do it, I get more scared”, she says, “even though I’ve been do­ing it for so many years. I started re­hearsals for this one go­ing ‘oh God, what if I f *ck it up…?’”

There may be more-than-usual jus­ti­fi­ca­tion for that ap­pre­hen­sion, given that Mark O’rowe es­sen­tially wrote The Ap­proach for her and costars Ais­ling O’sul­li­van and Derbhle Crotty.

“We’ve been wait­ing to do this for a good while. Mark O’rowe wrote it for the three of us, and the writ­ing is beau­ti­ful: Three women, three jour­neys, three con­ver­sa­tions. It’s about how peo­ple com­mu­ni­cate — and how they sur­vive or fail if they don’t com­mu­ni­cate enough. We work­shopped it two years ago and did a read-through with Mark, then he went away and did an­other draft. It took time to get us all to­gether, so it was very ex­cit­ing go­ing in.”

Ex­cit­ing, and slightly terrifying. “Mark is a ge­nius, and the loveli­est man in the busi­ness. And the two girls, Derbhle and Ais­ling, are leg­ends, and friends. There’s a won­der­ful chem­istry. He wrote it for us — the great­est gift you can give. So you don’t want to f *ck it up. You don’t want to f *ck it up for Mark, or for Ais­ling or Derbhle.”

Add in the fact that this is a Land­mark pro­duc­tion, and 14 years ago Cathy played Kyra in David Hare’s Sky­light, Land­mark’s first ever pro­duc­tion. “On the first day of re­hearsal I had this wave of emo­tion — where have those years gone?” she says.

So clearly the stakes are high. Is it a kind of per­for­mance anx­i­ety that grips her?

“I wouldn’t call it per­for­mance anx­i­ety for me,” she says, “be­cause I couldn’t do any­thing else — I tried and couldn’t stay away. It’s the adrenalin. Know­ing ‘this is re­ally good, now make it the best it can be…’”

The ‘try­ing to stay away’ hap­pened early in Cathy’s ca­reer, when she de­cided to be­come a na­tional school teacher in­stead of act­ing, daunted by the in­se­cu­rity of the pro­fes­sion.

“I was very young. I did drama and English in Trin­ity, and I re­mem­ber the day af­ter I grad­u­ated, mum and dad drove me down to Lim­er­ick, to the Is­land The­atre Com­pany, in the Belltable, and that was my first part, a play by Wal­ter Macken called Home is the Hero. I had a great sum­mer, I did The Tem­pest, Ham­let, and then it started to stop, and I thought ‘I don’t know if I’m cut out for this in­se­cu­rity, for the strength you need to bang doors down…’” And so she turned to Plan B. “I al­ways wanted to be a na­tional school teacher. I think that’s a per­for­mance in it­self! My first teacher was Maire Geoghe­gan-quinn” (as a child, Cathy was also di­rected in Goldilocks and the Three Bears by Pres­i­den­tial First Lady Sabina Hig­gins). “She was amaz­ing. I still have this mem­ory of her stand­ing at the top of the class, say­ing ‘ I am some­body who can’t walk, how do you com­mu­ni­cate with me how to walk?” I was five.”

Cathy got a job in the CAO of­fice for a few months, prior to teach­ing, and ig­nored all her agent’s ef­forts to coax her back with talk of an au­di­tion for this or that part, un­til even­tu­ally, one day “Mike Diskin, who ran the Town Hall The­atre in Gal­way, he was do­ing a pro­duc­tion of Eclipse, and he came down to the CAO of­fice, to my desk and said ‘what are you do­ing?’ I was go­ing ‘oh God, oh God…’ but I did it. And when we were on tour I did an au­di­tion for Glen­roe, and I got the part, I was Lucy Reilly, the vet, and that was for two years; it’s al­most like I was

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