Monday, 9 August 2010


TP had been working consistently in England for four years when he was he approached by Stuart Burge, artistic director of the Nottingham Playhouse, to join his company for their 1967/68 season.

This regional theatre was one of a number that had been rejuvenated by fresh investment from the British Arts Council, and TP, tiring of a long string of television parts, felt a yearning to get back to his first home, the theatre.

Interviewed by Des Hickey for the Irish Press, he reflected, ‘I suddenly realised that I was going from television play to television play. Six in one year. I hadn’t been on stage for eighteen months.’

Aside from a return to live performance, it was particularly the choice of repertoire that was the clincher for TP, including as it did the rarely performed King John (Shakespeare), The School For Scandal (Sheridan) and The Seagull (Chekov).

“I had always wanted to do a season of classical plays. I never had the opportunity in Dublin. I realise now that until one has acted in the classics one is not complete as a performer.”

In three very contrasting parts he was cast as Philip the Bastard in King John (“a rip-roaring character … one of Shakespeare’s favourites”) and , with Jonathan Miller as director, Sir Joseph Surface in The School For Scandal and Trigorin in The Seagull.

His final role though was one he was reluctant to take on, the part of Macduff in Macbeth. By now he was tired and somewhat wearied by a long, cold winter in the provinces. Maybe also he would have preferred a stab at the title role instead, which was to be played by Barry Foster.

Whatever the reasons, Stuart Burge had a winning card up his sleeve. If TP would be Macduff, then Burge would let him have a stab at directing the Nottingham Playhouse’s next production – Synge’s The Playboy of the Western World.

Alhtough he'd never directed before, here was the chance to stage an Irish, rather than an 'Oirish', classic in an English playhouse. TP was powerless to resist.

So, with four choice roles and a directorial debut, TP’s time with the Nottingham Playhouse proved him to be a man for all seasons, and this was certainly a season to remember.

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