By Conor O’Neill
Profile image courtesy of Jake Stewart
Banbridge born actor Conor Quinn is set to make his Northern Irish debut as Northern Ireland Opera presents Stephen Sondheim’s classic Into The Woods at Belfast’s lyric theatre. Quinn took a few minutes out of rehearsals to discuss the musical, his early steps into the world of theatre, and the learning curve of his first major professional production.
How did you get into the world of the theatre and acting, do you come from an arts based family?
“Yes, some of my mum’s side are musicians. I started of Irish dancing as a child and then my parents kind of pushed me into musical theatre classes at the Little Stars Stage School in Banbridge, and I did singing lessons all through school. When it came to applying to universities I decided to give it a go and looked at drama schools and luckily I got into one [The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland]. I moved to Glasgow and studied musical theatre there for three years and graduated in 2020. Then lockdown happened and I moved home and this is my first job since graduating, it’s lovely that it’s in Northern Ireland”
What does it mean to your as an Northern Irish actor/musician to be working with the Northern Ireland Opera and to be playing the Lyric theatre?
“Getting the call was great because number one, it was work and then hearing it was going to be in Belfast was just amazing. I’ve been coming to the Lyric since I was a child, both with school and with friends seeing shows, there’s just so much history to the place. Walking into the theatre and standing on the stage when we’re rehearsing, I just can’t believe it.”
Can you tell me a bit more about your role and the plotline?
“It’s a fairy-tale within a fairy-tale and some of the Brothers Grimm characters and stories are intertwined and interlinked. I’m playing Jack from Jack and the Beanstalk and it’s great fun. Wendy Ferguson is playing Jack’s mother which has been great as she’s been guiding me through and has been a great support. Wendy has been very successful in her life and has taken me under her wing which been so lovely. We’re doing it in our Northern Irish accents which has been a lot of fun. Jack sells his cow for some magic beans and then the beanstalk leads to a lot chaos with the giants coming down into the world with all the other characters and it all goes downhill from there.”
You’re part of an 18 strong cast and you’re working with the best both front and back of house, what’s that been like?
“I’m honestly just trying to learn from everybody. Everyone has been really supportive and making sure I’m okay and letting me ask questions about everything, it’s just been lovely. It’s one of those things where you’ve studied and you think you’re prepared until you’re out there doing it. Even having to sing from early morning, especially after lockdown and doing very little it is hard trying to get your body back into shape physically.”
Between February the 3rd to the 27th you’re doing eight shows per week, you must be very physically fit?
“It can be very draining and everyone has their own methods of getting through it, I don’t know what my methods will be quite yet. I’ve been getting tips from everyone. Even now in tech rehearsals we’re doing quite long days but I think I’m getting through on excitement and I think it will stay that way to be honest.”
Into The Woods has won six Olivier and 10 Tony Awards, does that put extra pressure on you or do you relax knowing you’re working with such great material?
“It’s a mixture of both. Obviously the work is amazing so we all know we can’t go too far wrong, but also there is the pressure of not wanting to ruin it. Stephen Sondheim was an iconic genius so I think there’s pressure in that. The songs are so hard, the lyrics are so hard, and everyone just wants to get it right and that drives you and is an extra challenge. It’s exciting, people know the songs and there is such a joy in getting to do this. It’s one of my favourite shows and Jack is my dream role and I just feel so lucky that I’m going to perform it.”
What has acclaimed director Cameron Menzies been like to work for?
“He’s been brilliant. When he’s directing us he’s always offering opportunities for us to ask questions about the characters or ask questions on what we would want to do. It’s been very collaborative; it’s the same with Jen [Jennifer Rooney – movement director] we’re able to ask her questions about things. We’ve been on the same page about everything and it has been a very supportive room where we feel comfortable about asking questions or getting things wrong.”
I’m maybe jumping the gun a bit here, but once the run is over what’s next for you as an actor?
“At the minute I’m just trying to enjoy this. I’ve nothing lined up for after this, I’m just enjoying this while it’s here. I’ve made some amazing friends from doing this and I’m excited to keep in touch with them after this and see what they’re doing.
“I’m really excited that it’s in Belfast and my family will get to see me in my first professional show. That makes it even more special.”
Into The Woods runs at Belfast’s Lyric Theatre from February 3 – 27, 2022.
For booking details visit http://www.lyrictheatre.co.uk or phone the box office on 02890 381081
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