WE ARE only a couple of weeks into January but it is already looking like a happy new year for actor Diarmuid de Faoite. He has just been nominated for a Best Actor IFTA for his role in TG4’s Corp + Anam and he is about to take one of the leads in the Town Hall’s forthcoming production of John Patrick Shanley’s hit play Doubt - a Parable.
De Faoite’s IFTA nomination is one of five that Corp + Anam received, a remarkable achievement for the production which was made by Furbo-based company Magamedia and shot in Galway last year.
“It’s a great honour for us to have received five IFTAs,” de Faoite declares when we meet up for a coffee and a chat. “The IFTAs have a relatively new section specifically for Irish language works and one of our nominations was in that.
“I was a bit worried initially that we might end up just being bracketed in that category because that happens so much with Irish language programmes - and not just with the programmes; as an actor also if you do something in Irish people just don’t seem to attach the same weight to it as they do to something in English.
“Hopefully this recognition of Corp + Anam marks a major change for the better in that it sees an entirely Irish language programme up there punching its weight with all the others. I do believe TG4 has given the other Irish TV stations a real run for their money with the quality of the work, and they have raised the standard of TV drama here in Ireland.”
Did the cast and crew of the series have any inkling while working on it that it could turn out to be such a hit?
“I remember we were shooting the final scene of the first episode,” de Faoite recalls “and Cathal [the crime reporter character de Faoite plays in the programme] is eating a Chinese takeaway while listening to comments on the radio about the report he did. ‘Cut’ was called and the cameraman suddenly stuck his head in the window and said ‘Diarmuid! I’ll see you at the awards ceremony!’ And I answered ‘No, I’ll see you at the awards.’ It was just a bit of banter at the time but here we are!”
The series has already won two Oireachtas Media Awards for Best TV Series and Best Actor (for de Faoite ) and the actor is hopeful these and the IFTA nominations will help Magamedia access the requisite funding to make a second series.
Away from the screen, de Faoite has also been busy with work for the stage, having recently completed a 10-week run at London’s Old Vic theatre in The Playboy of the Western World.
“That was a great experience,” he enthuses. “I played Jimmy Farrell, so I was following in the footsteps of Mairtin Jamesie no less who played the role with Druid years ago. The play was directed by John Crowley and 14 of the 15 cast members were Irish.
“I also got the opportunity to be in a band! Philip Chevron did the music and at the start of each scene there was a song and a piece of music delivered by this troupe of roving minstrels and I played one of those which was brilliant because I’ve always been mad into music and singing and I’ve always wanted to be part of a band so to be singing my head off on the stage of the Old Vic was a great thrill.”
Next up for de Faoite is another meaty role, that of the priest Father Flynn in Doubt which hits the Town Hall stage next month.
Doubt is a spellbinding play set in a Bronx Catholic school in 1964. An imperious older nun suspects a popular priest of inappropriate behaviour with a student. Armed with nothing more than a resolute belief in her suspicion and a few circumstantial details, she instigates a relentless campaign to remove the priest, enlisting the help of a subordinate nun and the child's tormented mother. The simple, yet ever-shifting plot, leaves all four characters and the audience wondering whether they were justified in their thoughts, motives, and actions.
“The play is pretty much summed up in its title,” de Faoite notes. “It turns on that whole question of doubt, it asks who do you believe, who’s telling the truth, is it right to be as suspicious as some of the characters are, is it right to be as defensive as others, has this priest being accused in the wrong?
“It’s very very topical. We’ve seen so many cases in the news concerning the clergy, especially in the areas of sex abuse and paedophilia, some of it justifiable and other cases where the priest has been proved innocent.
“It raises the possibility that a person might make an accusation just as a way of getting at someone. And with a priest an accusation would be taken very seriously and automatically they would probably be removed from their duties so someone could be innocent yet still suffer quite considerably just from the fallout of being accused.”
First staged in 2004, Doubt went on to run for some 500 performances on Broadway, winning both a Pulitzer Prize for Drama and Tony Award for Best Play. It was subsequently made into a film which starred Meryl Streep and Philip Seymour Hoffman.
The play was staged by the Abbey six years ago but this is its first production in the west of Ireland and it is, without doubt, pardon the pun, a highlight of the Town Hall’s current season. As well as de Faoite, the cast features Brid Ní Neachtain, Seona Tully, and Jacqueline Boatswain. The play is directed by Andrew Flynn.
Doubt runs at the Town Hall from Tuesday February 21 to Saturday 25. Tickets are available from the Town Hall on 091 - 569777 and www.tht.ie