Q&A with Frank McCusker – Tartuffe – Abbey Theatre
TARTUFFE by Molière – in a new version by Frank McGuinness
Abbey Theatre, Abbey stage: March 3 – April 8, 2022
TOURS: 12 April until 13 May – Limerick / Galway / Belfast / Donegal / Cork
FURTHER INFO at: https://www.abbeytheatre.ie/whats-on/tartuffe/
Were you familiar with this play before you got your part in it? What are your thoughts on the original play and Frank McGuinness’ adaptation?
Obviously, I knew of the play before being asked to appear in it. But I’d not read it or seen a production of it. Having looked at some productions online it’s clear, as is the case in any classic, that the play can withstand many interpretations or approaches. What strikes and appeals to me in Frank McGuinness’ version is how it takes me, as an actor from the North, to somewhere that I am familiar with.
Orgon’s family and their position in society are clearly ‘grand’, yet Frank’s text, by retaining this quality, also dares to root them in a more down-to-earth place. The language is peppered with the kind of caustic wit and pithiness heard in many parts of Ireland. But none more so than in Donegal.
You play Orgon in this production. Can you tell us a little about this character?
Orgon’s wealth and position in society is well secured. All his material needs are in place. But I feel, for him, something is missing. Partly it’s the usual catastrophe of middle (or late middle) age but I also feel there was always a restlessness in him and that consequently, he is quixotic, impulsive and highly strung.
The arrival of Tartuff in his life is an enormous boost. He is re-energised not just by Tartuffe’s ‘philosophy’ (which is, as everyone except Orgon knows, charlatan rubbish) but also by the figure of the man himself. The religious fervour Orgon embraces with such zeal, is matched, I feel, that with ‘The word made flesh’ in the person of Tartuffe. Tartuffe has turned Orgon’s head and Orgon is possibly in love for the first time in his life. And that’s a dangerous place for this man to be, for everyone.
You may be known to many for your appearances in films such as Hunger, Inside I’m dancing. Do you have any preference between the two art forms of theatre and film? Is there a feeling of excitement and unpredictability to a live performance on stage?
Although I have appeared in many TV and fllm productions, I am ostensibly a stage actor. Albeit I am riddled with nerves and self doubt when approaching a new role, the stage is where I feel most at home.
This production tours Ireland with performances in Limerick, Galway, Belfast, Donegal and Cork. Is there any part of the country you’re particularly looking forward to spending time in? Do you get much free time while on tour?
I am really looking forward to playing Donegal. I have a house in Donegal, in Glencolmcille and that is where I spend much of my time when I’m not working. The landscape is extraordinary and I love the people.
How far ahead do you plan in terms of your work on stage and screen?
I try to do plenty of work on the text prior to rehearsal. It begins and ends with the text. I don’t do background research, historical stuff or anything of that kind; I just read and reread the play.
I don’t learn lines in advance of the rehearsal either. That can be dangerous in that you get stuck in a particular rhythm and that can very hard to break.
Is there anything on the horizon that you can tell us about?
I’ve been working on a couple of festival pieces for the past few years The Waste Land (T. S. Elliot) and Words and Music (Beckett) – both directed by Adrian Dunbar and we’ve taken them to London, Liverpool, Hay-On-Wye and most recently to the Library in Alexandria, Egypt. The Waste Land will travel to Paris later this Summer.
The Abbey Theatre’s production of Molière’s TARTUFFE, in a new adaptation by Frank McGuinness, runs on the Abbey stage from March 3 – April 8, before making a 5-stop national tour from April 12 – May 13 – https://www.abbeytheatre.ie/whats-on/tartuffe/
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