Blood­work

Cather­ine Walker over­came in­evitable trials to con­struct one of the most in­trigu­ing CVs in Ir­ish en­ter­tain­ment – and now she’s adding horror to the list. She talks jumping off with Don­ald Clarke

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - FILM -

A little less than 20 years ago, Cather­ine Walker did what so many of us then did and lunged for Lon­don. Raised in Coolock, she had knocked up a few promis­ing cred­its af­ter grad­u­at­ing from the Gai­ety School of Act­ing, but the move still felt like a sig­nif­i­cant risk. Then again, at that age, we feel we can ac­com­plish any­thing.

“I got a show in the Tri­cy­cle in Lon­don. So that was that,” she says. “I was ter­ri­fied. But I do that sort of thing when I am ter­ri­fied. I just jump off the moun­tain. But we were all be­ing packed away then. You know what I mean?”

Walker over­came in­evitable trials to con­struct one of the most in­trigu­ing CVs in con­tem­po­rary Ir­ish en­ter­tain­ment. Her face is not as fa­mil­iar as that of Saoirse Ro­nan or Colin Far­rell. But theatre watch­ers speak Walker’s name with awe. An early spell at the Royal Shake­speare Com­pany of­fered in­valu­able ground­ing. She has ap­peared in The Clinic and Holby City. But it was on stage that she made her mark. She has tri­umphed as Phae­dra, Miss Julie, Hedda Gabler and Cordelia. Two years ago she played Stella in A Street­car Named De­sire at the Gate. Phew.

“I suppose I do see my­self as a theatre ac­tor,” she says with a hint of un­easi­ness. “Film and TV came later. But I hate that sep­a­ra­tion. One is vi­tal for the other. One re­ally feeds the other. There is some­thing about go­ing on that theatre jour­ney that is very dif­fer­ent. You are on your own. With film or TV, when it’s on af­ter­wards, you’re not con­nected to it. You feel a bit of loss for the char­ac­ters.”

Avoice­forhor­ror

Walker has an ex­pres­sive, flex­i­ble face, but it is the voice that re­ally strikes you. There is a brit­tle­ness to it that re­sponds use­fully to the pressure of high emo­tion. She gets many op­por­tu­ni­ties to ex­ploit that with her role as a wid­owed mother in Liam Gavin’s fas­ci­nat­ing horror film A Dark Song. Steve Oram plays an oc­cultist who, while se­cluded in a re­mote man­sion, talks her char­ac­ter through a necro­mancy rit­ual.

“I wish I was one of those ac­tors who can just switch it on, but I’m not,” she says. “My way into the char­ac­ter was stay­ing with the grief. It’s grief that is so­lid­i­fied. She can’t let go of it. I car­ried that with me. And that was a weight. She won’t even let her­self cry.”

Walker is clearly some­body who in­vests a lot of emo­tion in ev­ery per­for­mance. It comes as no great sur­prise to learn that she has been com­mit­ted to the pro­fes­sion from an early age. She went to speech and drama classes. She en­joyed the theatre. The virus was un­shak­able.

“I didn’t do any child act­ing,” she says. “But it was a sort of given that I was go­ing to do that. My mother had a great love of theatre. I coasted my way through school know­ing that’s what I wanted to do and I re­gret that now. I do oc­ca­sion­ally think: I wish I had that de­gree.”

Did she be­come a dosser at school?

“Ah, I think I was. But I was just so fo­cused on drama.”

She ap­pears to have lived a fe­cund life dur­ing the English years. Walker laughs as she re- calls cry­ing when first ar­riv­ing at the Swan Theatre in Strat­ford-upon-Avon. Her time at the RSC seems to have been deli- ciously exciting.

“It was in­cred­i­ble, but there was a pe­riod of un­em­ploy­ment af­ter that,” she says. “I had about a year. In­ter­est­ingly, so did a lot of the ac­tors who were with me. Maybe that was the start of thea- tre ac­tors not be­ing quite trusted with film and TV. I didn’t know what I was go­ing to do.”

By then she was mar­ried. For a few years, around the turn of the cen­tury, Walker and her then hus­band lived an ap­par­ently cosy life in Brighton. That’s where all the ac­tors rest these days. If things had hap­pened dif­fer­ently, she may have been lost to the home­land.

“I met my hus­band at my sec­ond sea­son at Strat­ford,” she says. “And we got mar­ried in the hol­i­days from that. So it was a short courtship. When we got back from that, I felt that I had to get back to the sea. It was a sea thing. Some of my clos­est friends are still from that time.”

She sub­se­quently di­vorced and now lives in a fash­ion­able quar­ter of Dublin 8. Or does she? Such are the de­mands of the busi­ness that Walker finds her­self for­ever reach­ing for the suit­case and the travel adapter. She is about to head for Europe to shoot the third sea­son of the lav­ish cos­tume drama Ver­sailles.

“Dublin is very im­por­tant to me,” she says.

Yet she’ll be shoot­ing un­til Novem­ber

“Well, yes. But it is Paris,” she sparkles.

There are many, many worse things. A Dark Song is out now and is re­viewed on page 11

Cather­ine Walker in Liam Gavin’s fas­ci­nat­ing horror A Dark Song

Oc­cult of per­son­al­ity

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