Joe McGann can’t wait to return to Ireland and, as the lead role in the touring production of Fiddler on the Roof, he will have his chance when a seven performance run of the show starts in the brand-new Royal Castlebar Theatre and Event Centre on September 30. “I was supposed to be with the company when we brought Fiddler on the Roof to Killarney in August,” explains Joe, “but I broke my elbow and unfortunately could not make it. We have had a great time touring with the show. We have been in 30 different venues; from my home city of Liverpool to Sunderland, Edinburgh and Manchester. Our tour finishes at the Royal Theatre Castlebar, which I am reliably informed is a wonderful new venue. As a man with a proud Irish heritage, I am delighted to be able to come over to Ireland. My elbow has just now recovered enough to allow me to return to work and it is a great thrill to be able to get back on stage.”
Joe came to the attention of many Irish viewers when, along with his three brothers Paul, Mark and Stephen, he starred in the BBC mini-series drama The Hanging Gale about the Great Irish Famine as seen through the eyes of four brothers. The series was filmed in Donegal and won the 1996 Gold FIPA Award for Best Series, as well as being nominated for four BAFTAs including Best Serial. Irish composer Shaun Davey won an Ivor Novello Award for his haunting score. However, Joe will probably always be best remembered for playing Charlie Burrows, a retired footballer with a young daughter who becomes a handyman for a rich businesswoman in ITV’s The Upper Hand. The show started in 1990, ran for six years over 96 episodes and gathered a huge following. However, despite the success of the show, it is the theatre where the actor feels most at home. "I don't miss being a regular on TV one bit. In fact, I gave my TV away last year because the majority of what’s on is utter rubbish anyway. Of course, if a part came in that I was interested in I'd take a look at it but I don't actively seek TV roles because the phone rings anyway.”
So what about his role in the classic piece of musical theatre that is Fiddler on the Roof, one of the longest running shows ever to have played on Broadway, and winner of nine Tony awards? "When I spoke to the director about possibly moving it away from the film version a little bit, he said he wanted to do that anyway so the show’s been redesigned, has different choreography and is also much funnier than people realise. It has such a serious backdrop to the story, the humour of it gets a little lost in the movie which is what people go from. It's also something I can relate more to now than when I was younger, because I realise that laughing in the face of adversity is what Scousers like myself have always done, just like Tevye does in this.”
Perhaps the best example of this in recent times is how Joe has managed to laugh through the pain of his broken elbow? Tickets for Fiddler on the Roof, which runs at The Royal Castlebar from September 30 to October 4, can be booked through www.royal.ie, www.ticketmaster.ie, any ticketmaster outlet nationwide or, for the price of a local call, the box office of the Royal Castlebar at 0818 300 000; this number is operational 24/7.