Irish actor Niall Buggy is back at the Crucible for the first time since the Seventies when he appeared in the opening season of the theatre.
“It wasn’t even built when I came here in 1971,” he recalls. “I was only 21 and I was here for nine months I was part of the opening night variety show, Fanfare, and then we did Peer Gynt. I came back and did Waiting for Godot in ‘74 or ‘75 and that was it.”
But he feels at home. “It’s not that different, although the bar has moved but the carpet is the same, well the same stripes.”
Buggy is appearing in Translations, part of Sheffield Theatres’ season devoted to writer Brian Friel, whose work he knows well.
“I have done the play before on Broadway in the same role,” he says but adds that all productions are different. “Brian Friel says a play does not exist until it is performed,
“One of his talents is the use of theatre and finding ways of using it in different ways. In this play he has the extraordinary idea of having these people speak in Gaelic and yet they are speaking in English so we can understand what they are saying. When you are watching it you get into that idea very very quickly.
Buggy did another of his plays, Aristocrats in New York and in London, winning awards, and also appeared in his version of Uncle Vanya.
“I have known Brian Friel since I was about 17, although when I say I have known him...(he laughs) he’s a very private man. I have been to his house and his wife Ann is a beautiful pianist and there’s been a lot of singing and dancing. I was a member of the Field Day Theatre Company which was founded by Brian Friel and Stephen Rea and I did Three Sisters with them.”
Perhaps at the other end of the scale is Buggy’s appearance on Father Ted, playing the host of a TV talent show with a drink problem. “I was in the very first series, the third episode, and it hadn’t gone out for broadcast so when we recorded it in the studio the audience did not know what they were watching and sat in silence,” he chuckles.
“The director had to come down from the control room and tell them, ‘This is a comedy’. It just goes to show you never know. We were in the bar afterwards and I thought this is either going to be a big hit or a complete failure. I think it’s an even bigger hit now than it was then.”
He is an actor with a fund of stories. “I have worked with Fred Astaire, there’s not many people today that can say that. It was in a terrible film called The Purple Taxi but what a lovely man. and he actually spoke to me about Ginger Rogers. He said: ‘She keeps ringing me up to say we’ve got to do a show together and I say, ‘Ginger, I am 78 years of age I can hardly walk let alone dance’.” But one day I was walking past his dressing room at Ardmore Studios and the door was slightly ajar and he was dancing. I’ll never forget it, it was like having a dream. He was a real professional, you know, and to see that, it was my little gift.”