My Left Nut: 'It's cathartic to tell my story' says Belfast actor

Comedy drama My Left Nut received rave reviews at the Dublin Fringe. Ahead of its sell-out appearance at The MAC, actor and co-author Michael Patrick tells Joanne Sweeney why having an enlarged testicle is no laughing matter

Michael Patrick in his sell-out show My Left Nut. Picture: Cait Fahey
Joanne Sweeney

A COMEDY which tells the true story of a young Belfast man coming to terms with the death of his father while coping with a hugely swollen testicle has become a surprise stage hit.

Co-written by Michael Patrick from Finaghy (who also stars) and Warrenpoint man Oisin Kearney, My Left Nut – a play on the title of Christy Brown's famous autobiography My Left Foot – has already sold out four shows at the MAC in Belfast next month, after receiving rave reviews for its premiere at the Dublin Fringe Festival in September.

It tells 'the true story of a teenage boy growing up with no father to guide him and a giant ball to weigh him down' in a play which is both achingly funny and sad at the same time.

Michael (27), whose non-acting name is Michael Campbell, explains that the show takes place in post-ceasefire Belfast while he was fatherless and his left testicle was swelling up to the size of Coke can.

"My dad died in the same year as the Good Friday Agreement so the play is also about me growing up in Belfast during the peace process.

"All these things are happening in Belfast, but that's not what I'm concentrating on as a teenager. I'm thinking about my giant ball and the fact that my da's dead."

"It's been very cathartic, almost like therapy," Michael adds about writing My Left Nut.

"My father Michael passed away from Motor Neurone Disease when I was very young. I then developed a large swelling on my left testicle but I don't want to tell anyone about it as he's (my father) not there, and I'm not telling my mum about it, so I do what loads of men do and that's ignore it."

Michael's swelling grew over the course of three years from when he was 14 until he could no longer ignore it.

"It was just something that I didn't want to talk about, even to friends who noticed the swelling through my trousers," he admits.

"They thought I was rather well-endowed. This rumour went around the school and you don't want to stop that rumour as I was kind of proud of that as a 15 or 16-year-old.

"Eventually it just got too big and uncomfortable and I couldn't really run properly. It actually popped out of my shorts one time when I was doing PE, which was horribly embarrassing and eventually I realised that I had to go to the doctor."

The doctor found that Michael was suffering from a very common ailment called hydrocele testis and drained 400ml from his testicle.

"It's really a swelling of fluid but most people don't let it get that big and normally would go to see the doctor when they felt a small bump, which is what you should do," he advises.

The one-man play is as much a tribute to his mother, Pauline, as it is about him tackling a difficult period in his life through theatre.

"I'm very proud to share my story as a lot of it is about how my mother coped with the loss of her husband and how she brought up four children on her own," says Michael.

"She's just incredible. I play her role, and that of my brother and two sisters, and other parts such as my school friends and doctor. This is my chance to tell everybody how incredible she is."

Michael and Oisin Kearney (27) met through the Cambridge Footlights drama club when they were both students at the University of Cambridge; Michael studied Physics and Oisin studied Politics.

While Oisin has directed Michael before in other plays, such as their Belfast Culture night piece How These Men Talk, My Left Nut is the pair's first attempt at writing.

The co-founders of Pan Narrans Theatre Company are planning to tour Ireland with the play next year, including a run at the Edinburgh Fringe.

"It was developed in August as part of Show in a Bag, an artist development initiative of Tiger Dublin Fringe, Fishamble: The New Play Company and Irish Theatre Institute to resource theatre makers and actors," explains Michael.

"We sold out our run at Bewley's Cafe Theatre in Dublin and were nominated for the best play under an hour."

:: My Left Nut will be playing at The MAC, Belfast from December 7 to 9.

Enjoy reading the Irish News?

Subscribe now to get full access