An interview with David Ganly and Niall Buggy before the preview of ON BLUEBERRY HILL by Sebastian Barry

As Fishamble wraps up rehearsals for On Blueberry Hill by Sebastian Barry, we ask actors David Ganly and Niall Buggy to talk about their characters, Sebastian Barry’s writing, and how they feel before the first preview.
Interview by Chandrika Narayanan-Mohan

 

Niall Buggy and David Ganly in Fishamble’s ON BLUEBERRY HILL by Sebastian Barry. Photo by Mattieu Chardon, Publicis Dublin

Tell us a bit about the characters you play in On Blueberry Hill.

David Ganly
I play a character called PJ who we discover in a cell in Mountjoy, and who basically is here to tell you the reason why he’s here. He’s got an unlikely cellmate. The play is about what happens to the two of them.

Niall Buggy
And I play Christy, who shares this cell. They tell their stories about why they’re there, and you get to know quite a lot about their backgrounds.  I think the fact that the play is set in a prison cell is brilliant… these two people seem to inspire each other’s imaginations, they live a life that is filled with love, actually.

What attracted you to the roles?

NB
For me it was the fact that Sebastian Barry wrote it. I’m very attracted to Sebastian’s writing, and as a play it is really quite challenging.

DG
For me it was Sebastian Barry, and it was a chance to go back to Dublin, be part of Dublin Theatre Festival, to act in a world premiere of a sort of old fashioned play where we’re doing what we do best, which is to tell a story. So it’s really all about the words, and to know that it’s not just going to be a concept, or a design-led piece. It’s about the words, and the story, and the people that give back to you, and it’s brimming with all of that.

 

 

What life experience or parts of your career did you bring to your characters?

DG
I’ve lived in London for the past twenty years. PJ is in his own mind an outsider, and so my experience in London, although it is wonderful, and it is home – it was a journey to not feel like an outsider, to feel comfortable, to feel part of something. So I kind of draw on a lot of that, from the feelings I’ve had, not just where I’ve lived but just as a man, those moments when you don’t feel settled, or you don’t feel totally comfortable.  Prison is an extraordinary experience, one that I haven’t had (not yet!), but that feeling in this of being on your own, being alone, I try to take moments from life where I really felt that, and to bring it to Sebastian’s play where’s he’s given us the blueprint.

NB
What it is about theatre, about an actor’s life, is the hope and the believing. That’s the basics of real theatre, really, to do that I think. It’s about sharing…sharing loneliness.

If you were in prison for 20 years, what would you have with you?

DG
I think I would have to have something to make music with, maybe a harmonica, or a whistle. In this play you have words, and they’re kind of our music. But I think I’d have to smuggle in a tin whistle.

David Ganly and Niall Buggy in Fishamble’s ON BLUEBERRY HILL by Sebastian Barry. Photo by Mattieu Chardon, Publicis Dublin

NB
I wouldn’t know how to play.

DG
You’d have twenty years to learn though!

NB
You could teach me while you’re there, since we’re sharing a prison cell.
For me, I have no clue what I’d bring in really…nothing I think.

DG
Not even your One Direction poster?

NB
Ah that’s right, maybe that.

With the first preview happening on Wednesday 27th, how are you feeling about it?

DG
We had a run through Saturday…and it was the first time we really let the words land on people, and it was an amazing feeling. As actors, this, for both of us I think, is the biggest learn we’ve ever had. It’s a huge beast of a play, and all you want to do is do justice to the years it took Sebastian to write it. It’s really exciting…a world premiere!

NB
Terrified! That’s the only word I can say. Of course, the responsibility is enormous. So…I’ll just do my best and hopefully…well of course we never get acting right, ever. That’s why we do it. Once it’s finished, we’ll see, what a joy to see what it does to us.

DG
Yes. The journey begins.

How do you think the audience will feel?

DG
I think they will hate us. I really do, I think they will absolutely hate us as characters. And by the end we will have explained things in a way so that they then question that initial instinct – that initial response. Because I think what Sebastian has done brilliantly is created a story where you question your own parts of your life, and your beliefs.

NB
Absolutely, I can’t agree with you more. I think it’s the element of – not accepting or controlling aspects or people’s lives but understanding them. I think that this play does that. It gives people that opportunity.

 

ON BLUEBERRY HILL runs from 27th September to 8th October at Pavilion Theatre as part of Dublin Theatre Festival.
Tickets available: http://www.paviliontheatre.ie/events/view/on-blueberry-hill

 

 

Contact Information

Fishamble: The New Play Company
3 Great Denmark Street
Dublin 1
Phone: +353 (0)1 670 4018
info@fishamble.com

Supported By

Fishamble: The New Play Company is supported by The Arts Council, Dublin City Council and Fundraising Fellowship Dublin . Its international touring is supported by Culture Ireland.