Daragh delighted to take on role from ‘wish-list’

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Daragh O’Malley - Patrick Harper in the hit ITV series Sharpe - well remembers seeing the premiere of Brian Friel’s Dancing At Lughnasa back in 1990.

“Sometimes when you are seeing something, you spot roles that you would like to do,” says Daragh.

The role he spotted was Father Jack. More than 20 years later he’s finally got his chance, on a tour which comes to the Connaught Theatre Worthing (April 13-14, 7.30pm, tickets on 01903 206206).

It’s his first return to the theatre in a dozen years.

“I found the whole thing daunting, particularly as we are doing 20 venues criss-crossing the country for four and a half months. But the rewards are there. It’s wonderfully challenging to do something like this play.

“If you spend a long time on TV, like I have done, then you just do a scene once or twice or maybe three times, and then you tear up the page and it has gone forever. The bad actor will always get spotted on the stage, but on TV you can get away with murder.”

Which, for Daragh, was a pressing reason to get back to the stage: “You never appear more alive in your life than when you walk on stage in front of 600-700 people. I have every respect for the stage actor. I would not consider myself a stage actor, but I would like think that I am bringing something new to the character of Father Jack.”

Brian Friel’s play explores Irish identity under siege in a changing world.

In the summer of 1936, in a cottage in the remote Irish village of Ballybeg, the five Mundy sisters live a simple life in the shadow of the hills of Donegal with their recently-returned brother Jack, a missionary priest, seven-year-old Michael and a wireless set called Marconi.

Years later the grown-up Michael looks back at that fateful summer when the knockings of change finally caught up the Mundy family.

“Friel addresses so many things, like the poverty of these people - but not just economic poverty with these five sisters. It’s a poverty of love and affection. The whole dynamic of their life is controlled by the Catholic church.

“The two big events in their lives are the impact of the arrival of the radio and the arrival of their brother Father Jack from a leper colony.

“He is returning home under the premise that he has got malaria, but that’s not the big deal. He has been defrocked for losing his Christianity in Uganda…”