Interview with Mark McAuley – A Fear And Loathing Actor In Dublin
We had the chance to put some questions to Mark McAuley ahead of the opening of ‘A Fear And Loathing Actor In Dublin’ in the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. You can see the results below…
Venue: C cubed, venue 50, Edinburgh Festival Fringe – Dates: 14-26 August
I remember hearing a statistic that 90% of theatre graduates will have left the industry within five years of graduating. What do you think is the reason it still proves so popular?
That sounds about right. There was also a review of pay and conditions last year by Theatre Forum stating that a 1/3 of actors earn less than the minimum wage. I’d say that number is actually higher. You know it’s such a hard industry to survive in, especially Theatre. Not to do well in, but just to survive. Pay in Fringe theatre is at the lower end of the scale. Many of these productions are self-financed or crowdfunded and receive little or no support from funding bodies. They are also often profit share. And with the costs of putting on a show, the profit isn’t huge, and definitely not a sustainable wage to be living on. If you’re working at the upper end of the scale for say the Abbey and regularly, maybe you’re making a liveable wage. But you’d need to be working from production to production on an almost monthly basis in theatre, in which opportunities are few and far between. Gone are the days of rep theatre where maybe there was regular employment. Now some theatre companies use the same group of actors on a consistent basis and this helps those actors, but even still. This might be fine in your early 20’s, but not so much in your 30’s when you have a mortgage, kids and financial responsibilities. I’m not sure how prepared some young actors are coming into this industry either. Success does not come easy or overnight. Of course, success is relative to the individual. But even still it’s going to take time to establish yourself and get working, and maybe some people don’t have the patience for this, especially when they see their friends and peers making good money, going on holidays and having a lot more financial freedom. If you manage to pick up some work on TV, films or commercials this will make life that bit easier, but it’s still going to be tough. In saying that though it’s so worth it. When you love doing what you do, it makes it that bit more palatable. But getting to do it can be the issue. However, if you really want to make it work you’ll find a way. What did the great acting teacher Stella Adler used to tell her new students “If you can do anything else besides acting, do”. Or words to that effect.
Do most people in the theatre make a living in other walks of life to supplement their income in theatre?
You need to be supplementing somehow with a side hustle. No doubt about it, It’s just the reality of the situation. Especially if you’re only doing theatre. Even actors working regularly have something else on the side. Whether it’s teaching acting, yoga, temping or something else. I’ve got a small film production company that makes corporate/ brand films, I run acting workshops. I’ve also worked as a strength and conditioning coach and at one stage worked as a TEFL teacher. Again if you’re doing TV / Film work on top of the theatre work you might be making an income, but unless you are a series regular it’s not going to be a big salary, or even consistent. That’s not going to cover a mortgage and raise a family though. Or it might for a few months and then there might be a break in work. How do you pay your bills then? Some excellent budgeting skills are required. But having a side hustle will help with those leaner times. It also keeps you engaged with society as well. Waiting at home ‘for the phone to ring’ isn’t healthy.
Tell me about this play? What is the inspiration for it?
I wanted to explore the role of the artist in society and the importance that art plays. Without it there would be no Spotify, paintings in galleries, books to read or box sets to watch. I also wanted to examine how artists survive without support from state funding. Many artists have to leave Ireland because of the cost of living, and lack of work. Many are emigrating to London. The other three actors in my play will all be based in London come October this year. Even the amazing singer Rosin Murphy was only recently talking about how difficult she was finding it working as an Independent artist. And I remember reading about how Today FM presenter Kelly-Anne Byrne commutes from Glasgow to Dublin every week for work. She said that financially it makes more sense than living and renting in Dublin The play is inspired by my own experiences of living a life as an artist but also trying to live a normal life. And what’s the impact on those you love in pursuing this artistic endeavour. How does it affect your relationships? Sometimes you’re working, sometimes you’re not. Being rejected constantly in the pursuit of roles. How can an artist make art if they’re constantly working in another job? How do they hone their craft and improve if they can’t spend time making the art? The play is a reflection of modern Ireland and a snapshot into the difficulties actors face in pursuing their dreams, both artistic dreams and life dreams. The world needs artists and their creativity.
The title is similar to the Hunter S Thompson work. Is this an inspiration or starting point, or did you just like the name?
Yes, the play’s title is a riff on Hunter S Thompson’s ‘Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas’. It’s a brilliant book, not so much the film. I thought the title quite applicable, as actors and humans we spend a lot of time living in fear and loathing ourselves and the decisions we make. The lead character (VINNY) in the play suffers from both of these insecurities in large dollops. I was also inspired by the style of writing in Hunter S. Thompson’s book. Beat generation writing. A stream of consciousness style writing. It’s an amazing group of writers including my favorite, Jack Kerouac. It’s also not too dissimilar to how my mind works. So I wrote the play in that manner. It gives a real kinetic energy to the play both verbally and physically, and I really like that. Especially a play that’s 65 minutes in length.There’s no room for fat. It needs that pace and energy and ‘A Fear And Loathing Actor In Dublin’ has that in spades. It’s a rollercoaster of an experience.
You are taking this play to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Has this always been a dream of yours?
Not at all. I wanted to get the play up on its feet in Dublin for a run initially and then look at potentially touring around Ireland. But an audience member at the first run had been to Edinburgh festival for 10 years and is a real theatre aficionado. He thought Edinburgh Fringe would be the perfect platform for the play. So I went about exploring the potential of this and the benefits that come with it. And once I grab an idea like this I’m all in. I had no funding and no idea how I was going to do it, but just felt it had to be done and was going to happen. I’m a big believer in the Universe and its energy and in the idea that the energy you put out there comes back to you. And if the Universe suggests Edinburgh Fringe who am I to argue. It’s such an amazing platform. An international stage to showcase the play, writing, director and actors.
Are you working on anything else? Any plans you’d like to tell us about?
I’m exploring the possibility of the play securing a run in London after the Fringe this year or next. And then bringing it back to Dublin. All the actors will be based in London from October on. So that really helps with a London run.
I’ve got a feature film written that’s loosely based on the same concept as the play, except much more filmic. I’ve been working with a script mentor who’s worked in Hollywood on lots of scripts and we’re nearly into a final draft. It’s got a similar energy to the play and I’m hoping the play will help shine a light on the feature film. If the play does well in Edinburgh that will be a great start. I’m hoping to shoot it next year. How? I don’t know yet. But we’ll get there, somehow.
We’re also just finishing post production on a short film I wrote titled ‘Breaking Up’. The director is the amazingly talented award winning Terry McMahon (Patrick’s Day and Charlie Casanova) and it stars Lisa Tyrrell and myself in the lead roles. We really believe it’s a powerful piece of filmmaking and has something important to say about Ireland today. We’re about to start submitting it to film festivals.