To the Moone and back – Clare returns to Roscommon

Clare Monnelly is certainly no stranger to Roscommon, having played the part of Fidelma in Moone Boy. Clare is back in town this weekend when Nomad Theatre Network and director Padraic MacIntyre reunite to bring Tom Murphy’s ‘Bailegangaire’ to Roscommon Arts Centre this Friday (16th) and Saturday (17th). The play centres around Mommo, the tyrannical grandmother and her two long-suffering granddaughters who reside in the town of Bailegangaire.  Dubliner Clare recently spoke with Dan Dooner about starting out, big breaks…and working with Chris O’Dowd.

Where did it all begin for Clare Monnelly?

Well I started doing drama classes after school in Ballinteer when I was seven or eight, anything to keep me off the streets I suppose! Drama was just another one of those things that my mam decided to shove me into from an early age but I’d say she swiftly regretted it because it just took over everything after that.

  After a few years, everything else had fallen by the wayside and acting was the only one I kept up so I went to a drama school in Churchtown in South Dublin and we had classes twice a week and then we’d tour at weekends. It’s all I ever really wanted to do before I knew the practicalities of actually trying to do it I suppose! (Laughs).

When did you land your first paying acting job?

I graduated from drama school and then my first job was actually with Padraic MacIntyre, who is directing Bailegangaire this weekend. He actually gave me my first ever job as a professional actor with his theatre company ‘Livin Dred’.

  When that finished up I realised I was very poor and that I needed a job! I’ve done waitressing all my life so I went for a job in ‘Wagamama’ restaurant in Dundrum.

That’s when it all kicked off for you!

Yeah, I was there about three weeks and I got the call about Moone Boy. So I gave my two weeks’ notice and finished up.

How did that feel?

It’s a moment you never forget, I wasn’t fully aware of how lucky I was to be landing that job. Obviously it was a dream come true and I got to be surrounded by absolute pros, which was a dream.

And of course to work with Chris O’Dowd, who was awarded the freedom of Roscommon and can graze his sheep in the town square, what was that like?

(Laughs) Oh yeah! Which I’m sure he’ll take them up on, because he can! Yeah it was incredible, the whole experience was amazing. It’s rare that you read a script and you’re laughing out loud! Chris is a brilliant person to work with. It was great to be on set with him, he’s great craic!

You’re no stranger to Roscommon then, what can the audience expect this weekend?

Well Tom Murphy is one of the most successful writers to come out of this country. There are moments that are incredibly funny, but it’s also quite dark and sad. He just writes people really well. It’s been a joy to work on and hopefully it will be a joy to watch too!