Ten hours on stage - then off for a pint

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The Independent Online
Imagine it's 1pm and you are about to spend much of the next 10 hours on a West End stage, playing three very Irish, very bearded and very different characters in three plays by one of the Nineties' most acclaimed writers. Welcome to a Saturday in the life of Brian F O'Byrne.

At about 10.30 last night, O'Byrne should have returned to his Royal Court Theatre dressing room at the end of The Leenane Trilogy by Martin McDonagh, the 26-year-old hailed by some critics as the finest Irish playwright to emerge for decades.

Written over the past two years, McDonagh's three blackly comic plays are all set in the same mountainous corner of Connemara, Co Galway. Each features four characters, and one member of each quartet is brought to life by Mr O'Byrne, aged 30, a Trinity College, Dublin, drama graduate who spent the first seven years of his acting career in New York.

From Monday to Friday, the trilogy is in repertory and he has to tackle only one role a night. But every Saturday, from yesterday until the middle of September, his routine runs as follows:

First up is McDonagh's debut, The Beauty Queen of Leenane, in which O'Byrne plays Pato Dooley. There is less than an hour between the 3.20pm curtain call and his entrance in A Skull In Connemara as self-important Garda constable, Tom Hanlon. At 6pm he has a well-earned two-hour break before he is back on stage as Valene Connor in The Lonesome West.

"Valene is the largest and most physically demanding part," he says. "When it's all over, I'm drenched in sweat. I have a shower. Then it's time for a pint."

O'Byrne is not the first actor to pull off this kind of theatrical hat- trick. In 1993, the National Theatre staged similar Saturday marathons offering David Hare's state of the nation trilogy: Racing Demon, Murmuring Judges and The Absence of War.

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