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Communication is key for Casey

Wednesday, 27th February, 2019 3:28pm

As we talk, actor Shane Casey often interrupts himself to apologise for his slightly pensive mood.

Such apologies are wholly unnecessary; as we chat over the phone, it is practically impossible to glean anything other than enthusiasm from the ‘Young Offenders’ star.

Casey is discussing his play ‘Wet Paint’, which is about to return for another run Leeside next month. Despite premiering way back in 2010 at Cork Arts Theatre, the play remains important to the Friars Walk native, exploring themes arguably more relevant than ever.

Telling a day in the life of three working painter-decorators in Cork city in 2005 and Casey’s personal artistic disappointment that came with Cork’s year as Europe’s Capital of Culture, the comedy is a light-hearted parable on the importance of men opening up and sharing their problems at work, in the quintessentially male way; obliquely, rather than directly.

The idea that men don’t share is something of a bugbear of Casey’s, a false assertion he calls “a load of bollocks”.

“Young men were being sold the idea that men don’t talk about their problems, and I think we do,” he says. “Some do and some don’t, but to generalise and say men don’t worry about their friends, or can’t talk to them about their problems, is wrong. It also makes it harder then, for people who are going through that.”

Opening up to work colleagues is something Casey speaks about from experience; he left school at 16 to undertake an apprenticeship, working as a painter-decorator himself for many years before venturing into acting.

“When you’re working with a guy for eight hours a day, pretty soon you open up about your problems,” he says matter-of-factly.

Casey says his inspiration for ‘Wet Paint’ also came from his own concerns about friends, and his interactions with them.

“Once I got to the heart of a conversation with somebody, a friend or whoever, I found that men do talk. We mightn’t do it face-to-face but we do it side-by-side. That might be at the bar, at a game of pool on a Friday night, or at work.

“And what I found at work was that men were opening up eventually, and I was annoyed that boys were being sold the idea what we don’t talk about our problems. That ‘stand up and don’t cry’ nonsense isn’t really there anymore. We’ve moved on from that.”

“We touch on the things that men talk to each other about on building sites, and the frustrations they have. Each character has their moment, to talk about their dreams, experiences and struggles.”

Seemingly conscious of coming across as too solemn, Casey stops to remind me that the play is in fact a “good f*cking laugh”, adding that it suitable for school children from aged 13 up.

“I want people to come out and say ‘Jesus there was a bit of a message there alright’ without being beaten over the head with it,” he says.

“There’s plenty of people attaching themselves to mental health at the moment, and a lot of that is great, but I’m not trying to do that. I just want to tell a story and get people to go in, stop worrying about their own lives for an hour, and have a bit of a laugh.”

After several years as a painter-decorator, Casey went to CSN College as a mature student, finally satisfying his creative urges that had been blossoming since his youth.

“I had some very good teachers in primary school,” he remembers. “Even as a kid, I remember getting a present of a tape radio and making up my own DJ sets, making up news, and sending tapes off to my aunt in America. So the creativity was always coming out of me.

“I went from building sites with one or two men to a big room with loads of women and men, learning from my peers, basically going through what I should have gone through in first year of college anywhere else. It was a great experience.”

Casey admits he is still “frustrated” with his own communication, and hopes to dive into more play-writing, film and TV to better express himself, in addition to giving school workshops with both Cork theatre company Graffiti and the Abbey in Dublin. Thankfully, his overnight success, prompted by his ‘Young Offenders’ character Billy Murphy’s memorable bus singing scene, has given him freedom to work like never before.

“Up until the morning of the bus episode last year, I was working on a building site to subsidise my acting,” he says. “'The Young Offenders’ has enabled me to do these workshops and more of my own work.

“The isolation of painting and being alone was great for creating stories, though. Being on the sites, I used to be running dialogue and talking to myself. Creating is a way for me to, like many people involved in creative work, get things out that I can’t quite get out in other ways.”

Whether he’s honing his craft on a building site or in the rehearsal room, Shane Casey’s stage seems to be well and truly set.

‘Wet Paint’ shows at Cork Opera House from 20-23 March. Tickets are available from corkoperahouse.ie or through the box office on 021-4270022.

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