Touring with Druid brings Clare home

Having cut her theatrical teeth with the Renmore Pantomime Clare Barrett trained as a nurse before pursuing her real passion. Based in Dublin, she has forged a successful acting career and has just finished a run at the Abbey Theatre. Clare was most recently seen in Galway last July in a sellout Arts Festival show. Now she’s back in Druid Theatre’s revival of The Shadow of a Gunman. She talks to JUDY MURPHY.

Galway actor Clare Barrett has been getting a crash course in early-20th century Irish history during the first couple of months of 2024.

Fresh from the stage of the Abbey Theatre, where she was performing in an all-female production of Brendan Behan’s The Quare Fellow, she’s gone on the road with Druid Theatre in its touring revival of Seán O’Casey’s The Shadow of a Gunman, which the company premiered at last year’s Arts Festival alongside The Plough and the Stars and Juno and the Paycock.

Those three Dublin-based plays deal with the troubled period between the 1916 Easter Rising and the Civil War, while Behan’s drama, which premiered in Dublin in 1954, is set in a prison at a time when capital punishment still existed in Ireland.

Before this national tour, Clare’s most recent appearance with Druid was when the company presented John B Keane’s Big Maggie in Dublin’s Gaiety in 2016, and she was also involved in DruidShakespeare in 2015.

From Renmore, where she cut her teeth in the Renmore Pantomime, she’s lived in Dublin since training in Speech and Drama at the DIT Conservatory of Music and Drama (now the TU Dublin Conservatoire). A mature student, she graduated from the three-year course in 2003, having decided to quit nursing for acting.

One of Ireland’s finest theatre actresses, whose comic timing is impeccable, she’s looking forward to being  back in Galway in mid-March when Shadow has a five-night run in the Town Hall Theatre.

It’s her second time working in her native city in less than a year – last summer she blew audiences away in Decadent Theatre’s one-woman show, Every Brilliant Thing, a moving, yet humorous play about mental health. In the intimate show, which involved audience participation, she plays a child, then a young woman who compiles a list of every wonderful thing in the world – initially in an attempt to persuade her mother that life is worth living.

“I had never worked with Decadent, although I knew Andrew socially because theatre is such a small world,” Clare says, referring to the company’s Artistic Director Andrew Flynn.

“It’s a beautiful piece and it was a pleasure to be working for a Galway company in Galway, being there for six or seven weeks.

“And because of the nature of the play, I got to see a lot of people I mightn’t have seen in years,” she says of the fact that the house lights were mostly on during her performance in Nuns’ Island Theatre.

“It was lovely to make those connections and make new friends because of the subject matter,” she adds.

Pictured: Clare Barrett went straight from The Quare Fellow in the Abbey to rehearsals and touring with Druid.

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