Belfast actor Vincent Higgins: If I'm learning lines, I head to the park and mutter away to myself like a madman...

Gail Bell asks experts and people in the public eye what keeps them going. This week: Belfast actor, Vincent Higgins

Gail Bell

Up and at it - what is your morning routine?

I'm definitely not an up-and-at-it person, so I avoid as much of the morning as I can. Coffee is my kickstart and now that I've finally managed to stop smoking, I vape my way to an acceptable level so I'm able to face the day. I used to be a real news junkie but now I listen to music and read for half an hour before I leave the house and it has done me the world of good. The news inevitably reaches me at some point.


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

I'm more of a brunch person. I'll have coffee with some form of bread - soda, wheaten, muffins or good old Nutty Krust.


Depends when I've had brunch.

Evening meal?

If I'm performing in the evening, I like to eat at around five o'clock. Pasta works for me, though when touring you don't always get a healthy choice. You need to fuel up for the performance, nevertheless.


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

I don't really understand nutrition all that much apart from the basics. Fortunately, I married a greengrocer's daughter, so our home always has loads of fruit and vegetables. Bananas are my pre-show and interval snack and I drink a lot of water every day. I don't take any health supplements.


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

I've never been on a diet and so far it's been going very well.


Weekend treat?

If I have a matinee on the Saturday, I like to reward myself with a small steak between shows. Sunday is my day off, so I love a roast chicken dinner with a nice bottle of Rioja, surrounded by people I love.


How do you keep physically and mentally fit?

At the Edinburgh Festival in 2019 I developed chronic arthritis in my hip which required a hip replacement. I went to Lithuania under an EU scheme that allows you to go to anywhere in the EU to have the operation if you are on a waiting list and they will refund the money (about £9,000). You do have to pay upfront, but the Credit Union will lend you the money under this scheme. I really hope it's still available. The reason I chose Lithuania was because they are world experts on hip and knee replacements and you are required to do rehabilitation there. I had five different treatments timetabled every day for two weeks at a spa resort in the middle of a forest. I really underestimated how important this was. All I was really concerned about was that the constant pain would end. I thought it would be like changing the wheels on a Formula One car and I'd be good to go. One of the treatments involved using stretch bands and I still use these at home. I try to get a walk every day and now keep track of my steps. Ormeau Park is my arena. For my mental health, I read an awful lot. Recently, I've cut down on screen time and that has made me happier.


Best tip for everyday fitness?

Walking works for me and drinking lots of water. If I'm learning lines, I head to the park and mutter away to myself like a madman.


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

I loved PE and sports at school. A memory I'd rather forget is losing a MacLarnon Cup final played at Casement Park. It still hurts.


Teetotal or tipple?

St Vincent is the patron saint of wine. I am well named.


Stairs or lift?

Before my hip replacement lifts were a godsend. I still love them.


What book are you currently reading?

How to Be a Revolutionary by South African writer, C.A. Davids. It goes from Harlem to Shanghai to Cape Town, travelling through the 20th century right up to the present day - a political thriller with an epic sweep. I have a 'books to read' pile and I get nervous when it starts to get low. Bookshops are holy places for me and in No Alibis I have my perfect church right here in Belfast.


Best Netflix?

I liked Ozark, Narcos, Peaky Blinders, The Queen's Gambit and Breaking Bad. I'm currently watching, This is Us.


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

That I became a Zoom quiz master every fortnight for actor friends.


Any new skills or hobbies?

No, I was already a master breadmaker, polyglot and a close, personal friend of Joe Wicks...


How do you relax?

Movie nights with my niece and nephew, watching sport and spending time with my wife.


What are your goals for 2022?

I hope to finally get to perform at the Prague Theatre Festival with Kabosh Theatre's play, Green and Blue. It's been cancelled three times due to 'you know what'.


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

I'm a night person, so I'm very suited to theatre work. I rarely get to bed before 1am and I never think I get enough sleep. Most performers get performance-related anxiety dreams which don't help, either.


Biggest gripe?

That anybody could vote for the Tories.


Have your priorities in life or perspectives changed?

Caring for older people you love definitely changes your priorities. I'm lucky that I've worked in theatre all my life, so my perspectives are constantly challenged and constantly evolving.


Has coronavirus changed your attitude towards your own mortality?

I think my hip replacement shocked me at how suddenly your life can change and how much you just take good health for granted. Coronavirus made me realise how much I missed the theatre, performing and live music. It felt like a vital part of my existence had been taken away.

Vincent Higgins is appearing alongside James Doran in Green and Blue at the Lyric Theatre until September 18. The play then moves to the Strule in Omagh (September 19), Ardhowen in Enniskillen (September 20), Market Place Theatre, Armagh (September 21) and the Old Church Centre, Cushendun (September 22).