Arts Q&A: Actor Frankie McCafferty on Barde, Lincoln in the Bardo and Beckett

Jenny Lee puts performers and artists on the spot about what really matters to them. This week, actor Frankie McCafferty

Donegal actor Frankie McCafferty stars in Under The Hawthorn Tree at the MAC from this weekend

When did you think about a career in theatre and what were your first steps into it?

When I saw a company called Team Theatrical – who are still working – and they came to my school in Donegal. It was a play called Palak and it was a very modern piece and it struck me as being really professional. I started acting in a couple of plays in school but it was really when I joined the drama club the University in UCG, in Galway, and started working as an assistant stage manager at Druid Theatre Company, that I began to seriously think about it as a career option.

Best gigs you’ve been to?

David Byrne at the Galway Arts Festival with his orchestra and rhythm band. Some of the best theatre I've seen was Robert LePage performing the one-man play Needles and Opium in Toronto. I went to drama school in Paris and when I was there I saw a play called The Antiphon by Djuna Barnes, who was an American ex-pat. It's one of the most amazing things I've ever seen in the theatre.

Fantasy wedding/birthday party band?

Maybe Talking Heads but there are an awful lot of very good Irish bands.

The record you’d take to a desert island?

There's a really good album by a French Canadian band called Barde. It's an exceptional album of traditional Irish music and French Canadian music.

And the book?

Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders. It's an extraordinary meditation on mortality and grief and all those things. And it sort of creates a ghost world, so it's really funny, it's very wacky, and it's really moving. I think I could read that quite a few times.

Top three films?

Definitely the French film Manon des Sources. The photography is stunning and it reminded me of a lot of Irish stories I know about inheritance and thwarted desire.

Wim Wenders's film Paris, Texas, a moving film about loss and love and stuff. And to pick a comedy, I'd goes for the Coen Brothers' Raising Arizona. I watched that again recently; it's a really funny film.

Worst film you’ve seen?

The Hurt Locker. I don’t like that propaganda nonsense.

Favourite authors?

Mark Twain, JD Salinger, George Saunders, Joyce and Beckett, because of God of War and Endgame.

Sports you most enjoy and top teams?

I kind of follow Arsenal, for my sins, in the Premier League which is never dull, because they're their performances are all over the place. And Barcelona on the continent. I kick a football around occasionally but not formally. I've got more wit than to go and play five-a-side at my age.

Ideal holiday destination?

I got a degree in French at UCG. I don't get to use my French enough so somewhere nice and hot and French-speaking.

Pet hate?

Fascism. I don't like the way politics has gone recently and the divisiveness that's crept in all over the world.

What’s your favourite:

Dinner? Spaghetti Bolognese.

Dessert? Crème brulee.

Drink? Rose wine.

Who is your best friend and how do you know each other?

I’d have to say my wife.

Is there a God?

One of the things that Robert Lepage talked about in that play Needles and Opium is that God is us. I think there's a lot of truth in that, especially with all this climate crisis that's going on. That's completely of our making and it's in our hands to sort it out.

Frankie McCafferty stars in Cahoots NI and the MAC's adaptation of Under the Hawthorn Tree at the MAC from January 30 to February 9, before touring Ireland. Based on the book by award-winning author Marita Conlon-McKenna, the play follows the journey of three brave siblings as they fight for survival during the Great Famine in Ireland in 1845. For dates and venues visit

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