20 Questions: Carson and the Lady director Colm G Doran on never getting enough sleep and why life is too short for diets...

Gail Bell asks experts and people in the public eye what keeps them going. This week: theatre director, Colm G Doran

Carson and the Lady director Colm G Doran
Carson and the Lady director Colm G Doran Carson and the Lady director Colm G Doran

Up and at it - what is your morning routine?

A routine is pretty much non-existent. My brain is usually in 'full swing' into the wee small hours, as that's when I have ideas for new writing or how to solve problems within the projects I'm working on, so I sleep late into the morning whenever I can.


What might you eat in a typical working day for...Breakfast?

Breakfast is normally sacrificed for an extra half-hour in bed. If I do eat at this time, it will be cereal and fruit with natural yoghurt.


Leftovers from last night's dinner often passes as lunch, or else a sandwich. At the moment, the cast of Carson and the Lady are obsessed with a lovely Thai place right next to our rehearsal space – Banh Boy – so we often order something delicious from there. A boring sandwich just can't compete.

Evening meal?

Carb-heavy, comfort food, most likely – something like a curry or pasta dish goes down well, although a roast could also feature. At the moment, though, fresh salads have become a staple in the summer heat.


Is nutrition important to you – do you take health supplements?

Yes, my health is important to me and that goes beyond nutrition. Food-wise, I do try to get plenty of fruit and veg in my diet, but my sweet tooth is ever-present.


Ever been on a diet – if so, how did it go?

I have been on a diet many, many, many times. I've had great successes, but, over time, I usually return to my standard weight and shape. I'm minded to let my body do its own thing for now – life is too short.


Weekend treat?

A few gins and a Chinese takeaway.


How do you keep physically and mentally fit?

I walk as much as I can, usually on the beach near my home in Kilkeel. My dad is mad for frisbee and boules if the weather is good, so he's usually challenging me to a game of something outdoors. Mental fitness for me is about finding time in the day to just 'zone out'. If I'm at home, I'll chill on the sofa, but on a drive it's normally a podcast or an audiobook. I think it's really important to switch off.


Best tip for everyday fitness?

Drink more water.


Were you a fan of schools sports/PE or do you have a memory from those days that you would rather forget?

I think I must've set the world record for forgetting my PE kit. I was a danger to any sporting activity. I eventually convinced the school to let me spend PE in the art room or the library – a safer move for all concerned.


Teetotal or tipple?

I don't drink during the week but I will have a few glasses of wine or gin (depending on what I'm eating) with friends, most weekends.


Stairs or lift?

Stairs when it's five flights or less, otherwise the lift all the way, please. Who has the time?


What book are you currently reading?

By day, I'm listening to Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert on my drives to our rehearsals in Antrim and by night I'm reading Miriam Margolyes' autobiography This Much is True.


Best Netflix?

Russian Doll – incredible show. It is a really interesting concept and Natasha Lyonne is incredible.


Most surprising thing you've learned about yourself over the pandemic?

How much I overworked before the pandemic, saying 'yes' to every project and never worrying about how I would actually be able to fit everything in. Now, I'm more careful with what I commit to and I'm much more precious with my time and conscious of a good work/life balance.


Any new skills or hobbies?

I completed a Couch to 5K event, but when the world started opening up again, I promptly fell out of the habit.


How do you relax?

Something 'binge-able' on TV or a night spent with good friends.


What are your goals for 2022?

To keep moving forward – but at my own pace.


What time do you get to bed and do you think you get enough sleep?

I'm rarely asleep before midnight and I could never get enough sleep.


Biggest gripe?

The chronic underfunding/undervaluing of artists and the impact that art makes here.


Have your priorities in life or perspectives changed?

I'm more appreciative of time spent with loved ones now that we can be together again. I also think I've learned to try and enjoy what's happening here and now, rather than always looking for the next good thing.


Has coronavirus changed your attitude towards your own mortality?

I lost two close family members during the pandemic – not due to Covid – but those kinds of deep losses force you to consider your own mortality and take nothing for granted. It sounds clichéd to say it, but life as you know it really can change in a second – so if it's going good right now, you better enjoy it.

Colm G Doran is director of Carson and the Lady, currently running at the Theatre at the Mill, Newtownabbey, until Sunday August 7. Based on real-life events between 1914-1921, the production centres on trailblazing Irish society woman, Lady Jean Massereene