Theatre: Debut

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The actor: Brendan Coyle

The year: 1981

The part: a washing machine

The place: The Focus, Dublin

WHEN I started off, I went to Dublin, to the Focus actors' studio, which is an intensely Stanislavski kind of place, where they place a real emphasis on method acting. We had to observe students for a whole two months before we were even allowed to participate.

I was completely intimidated - people were acting colours and strange noises, all these exercises to free the imagination. Two months in, I was invited up on stage and asked to be an inanimate object. I was so green - about 18 - I didn't even know what that was. I was told to be a washing machine. So I was. And a very good one, too.

It was a modern one, a slimline Zanussi front-loader-type thing, as opposed to the twin-tub variety. It was quite quick, because I didn't have any powder, so I just did a few spins. I made a lot of noise, squatted down, and kept my eyes fixed firmly on the floor.

Being funny didn't enter into it: the idea was to be deadly serious as the studio was full of very earnest people. I don't think I've ever been so humiliated, or felt so stupid, in all my life.

It was a good place, though, and a lot of the stuff I did there has stayed with me ever since. If you can convince yourself you are a washing machine, you can convince yourself you're anything. I never did anything as extreme as that again - although I did do a good rusty tap. I love movement-based work, but I haven't gone down that road - all the plays I've done in London have been naturalistic. It still informs my work, though: the theory that it's very important to have a sense of place and become the thing itself.

With The Weir, I went to work in a bar in Leitrim, where the play is set. To this day, though, I've never been able to go near a launderette.

Brendan Coyle stars in `The Weir' at the Royal Court Theatre Downstairs, WC2 (0171-565 5000)

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