Beer mon­sters: Ruth Bradley must drink to sur­vive in Grab­bers,

In the new Ir­ish film Grab­bers Ruth Bradley has to play drunk. Very, very drunk. Just as well she did some se­ri­ous re­search. “It took me two days to re­cover,” she tells Don­ald Clarke

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Front Page -

THERE ARE plenty of rea­sons to rec­om­mend Jon Wright’s new Ir­ish com­edy-hor­ror, Grab­bers. It fea­tures ex­cel­lent sea mon­sters. It in­cludes an ef­fec­tive op­po­site­sat­tract ro­mance. And it fore­grounds some of the most ex­tra­or­di­nary drunk act­ing you could ever wish to see. It’s not just the qual­ity of the boozed-up per­for­mances that at­tracts the at­ten­tion. Their sheer girth is re­mark­able. For the last third of the film, the res­i­dents of a small Ir­ish town – hav­ing re­alised that the ad­vanc­ing aquatic beasts are al­ler­gic to al­co­hol – fight their bat­tles in a state of se­ri­ous in­tox­i­ca­tion.

This of­fered Ruth Bradley a se­ri­ous chal­lenge. The Ir­ish ac­tor, now 25, has, of course, acted drunk be­fore. But a full 20-minute stretch of slur­ring and fall­ing over is not some­thing that you get in the av­er­age Noël Coward com­edy or Shake­speare his­tory play.

“It’s al­most half the film,” she con­firms. “That did of­fer a lot of chal­lenges. She spends a lot of the time drunk, but not much sit­ting in the cor­ner drool­ing. I had to make it funny and also re­al­is­tic.”

The di­rec­tor even­tu­ally sug­gested that some se­ri­ous re­search might be in or­der.

“No­body knows what they look like drunk,” Ruth says. “So Jon asked how I felt about hav­ing a few drinks and then film­ing it. We’d then have a kind of visual short-hand for what you would look like. We were go­ing for that first-time-drunk thing: very happy then very sad and noth­ing in be­tween.”

Did she suf­fer for her art? “It took me about two days to re­cover.”

No­body could fault Bradley’s com­mit­ment to her art. The daugh­ter of Char­lotte Bradley, a dis­tin­guished ac­tor, Ruth can’t re­mem­ber ever want­ing to do any­thing else with her life. As a young kid, she se­cured a role op­po­site mum in Pas­sion Ma­chine’s well-re­mem­bered pro­duc­tion of Bud­dleia.

That Paul Mercier play toured Poland and played at the Don­mar Ware­house in Lon­don.

“I was play­ing the child of a drug-ad­dicted cou­ple,” Bradley re­mem­bers. “It was an amaz­ing ex­pe­ri­ence. I got to talk to this huge cast and ask them all these ques­tions about the work. I think I was a very pre­cious kid. I think, when I was about 12 or 13, I started com­plain­ing: ‘I haven’t worked for ages.’ Aw­ful.”

It was al­ways her in­ten­tion to make for Lon­don when she left school, but, hav­ing achieved de­cent re­sults in her Leav­ing Cer­tifi­cate, she was per­suaded to study drama and lan­guages at Trin­ity Col­lege Dublin. Is it true she only lasted three weeks?

“That is true. I gave it a real go,” she laughs. “I had been tour­ing with Druid in John B Keane’s Sive be­fore that. For a brief mo­ment I thought: yes, I should have some­thing to fall back on. But I quickly re­alised my heart wasn’t there. I wanted to go to Lon­don and act. So I said: ‘Thanks very much, Trin­ity. You are bril­liant. But I have my plan.”

She re­ally is a gen­tly fright­en­ing piece of work. Softly spo­ken, in­clined to the odd throaty cackle, she sounds like the well­brought-up, mid­dle-class Dublin girl she is. But there is clearly a shard of steel in her soul. Just 18, she headed to Lon­don and com­mit­ted her­self to the pro­fes­sion. While her pals were mak­ing their first trips to the pub, she was work­ing in call cen­tres, liv­ing off rice and sleep­ing in a bed­sit.

“It has never been harder than when I first moved over,” she says. “I would oc­ca­sion­ally ask my­self what I was do­ing. I would meet older ac­tors in these tele­sales jobs and they’d be say­ing: ‘Oh, I hope my agent phones.’ All that was very de­press­ing. But I felt that if I could get through that first year then life would never be so hard again.”

So things proved. Ruth fairly rapidly scored sup­port­ing roles on TV. In 2006, she had a small part in the Amer­i­can war film Fly­boys. In the cur­rent decade, she has taken reg­u­lar roles in three se­ries: ITV’s sci­ence-fic­tion romp Primeval, the hit RTÉ thriller Love/Hate and the his­tor­i­cal drama Ti­tanic. She has re­cently re­turned from the United States where she signed a con­tract with ABC tele­vi­sion. Most ac­tors ad­mit to in­se­cu­rity about their pro­fes­sional po­si­tion, but Ruth does seem to have found her­self in a rea­son­ably se­cure po­si­tion.

“There are still chal­lenges,” she says. “I don’t want al­ways to play the Ir­ish char­ac­ter. Now, I want to do some­thing dif­fer­ent. I don’t think I have, in this busi­ness, ever sat back and thought: I am com­fort­able.”

Do peo­ple recog­nise her? Once you are on the telly peo­ple seem to think that you are their friend. Ruth isn’t ex­actly a star. But she has ap­peared in view­ers’ liv­ing rooms on a fairly reg­u­lar ba­sis.

“It is in­ter­est­ing,” she says. “Peo­ple do feel able to ap­proach peo­ple from the TV more eas­ily than film ac­tors. TV ac­tors are ac­tu­ally in their homes. You have to go out and pay to see a film ac­tor. Peo­ple some­times think they know me, but usu­ally they think it’s from see­ing me in the shop down the road.”

On pa­per, Grab­bers sounds like an un­likely project. Shot on a mod­est bud­get, the pic­ture casts Ruth as a Dublin-based Garda who, af­ter re­lo­cat­ing to the west of Ire­land, finds her­self gen­tly at odds with her new part­ner. Played dryly by Richard Coyle, he turns out to be a boozy (but de­cent) layabout with un­re­solved per­sonal is­sues. Ruth’s char­ac­ter is up­tight, fas­tid­i­ous and pol­ished. As she ar­rives, strange, vi­o­lent do­ings are afoot. Man-eat­ing sea crea­tures are soon ev­ery­where about.

“I got the script, read it and thought: this is a ro­man­tic com­edy,” she says. “I re­ally didn’t notice the crea­tures. It’s about two peo­ple. I thought it was very good, but I knew it could go ether way. I didn’t want it to be stage Ir­ish. But it turned out the di­rec­tor knew his stuff. He had his head screwed on.”

The pro­duc­ers have done a good job of rolling out the movie. It played at the Sun­dance Film Fes­ti­val, still the key spot for in­de­pen­dently minded cinema, be­fore mov­ing on to the Ed­in­burgh Film Fes­ti­val in June. The pic­ture picked up strong re­views at both events. Sun­dance must have been a par­tic­u­larly de­light­ful ex­pe­ri­ence. A great many celebri­ties touch down on that one, very small patch of Utah soil.

“It’s weird be­cause it’s so nor­mal,” Bradley says. “It’s all in one street. It’s like a coun­try town in the west of Ire­land. But John Hawkes and Paul Gia­matti are walk­ing down the street. Ev­ery­body is so nor­mal. There’s no fuss. And the qual­ity of films is al­ways re­ally good.”

And the Amer­i­cans got it? Much of the hu­mour is very Ir­ish. The ac­cents are very thick. “It’s funny, they loved it. But they laughed at com­pletely dif­fer­ent points,” she says. “They laughed at things we never thought were funny. So much of it is dry. But they got it.” It was worth the han­gover.

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