Patrick O’Sullivan is originally from Tramore and has resided in the UK for the past 22 years where he has worked in the professional theatre industry. He was associate director of Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch for nearly 10 years, worked in London’s West End for five years, and is now on the executive team of the third largest regional theatre in the UK at Mayflower Theatre in Southampton.
Life in a day
The great thing about my job is that no two days are the same. I lead a department of 12 staff across two venues, so I am always kept busy. I usually start work at 8:30am and my office is based at the 2200 seater Mayflower Theatre. That venue hosts number-one tours and usually houses big musicals touring from the West End. A typical day may involve attending creative planning meetings where we discuss forthcoming touring shows. I am currently writing a new creative learning strategy, which plans to engage 20,000 people a year with our work through a range of creative projects and activities. Communication is a massive part of my role, so my days are filled with internal meetings where my team are reporting back on project delivery, or external meetings engaging community leaders with our work. My role can also be creative. I am currently developing a new theatre for children, a production about immigration and I’m also at the early stages of developing a site-specific theatre production that will take place at a zoo! My day usually ends at 6pm, unless I am attending a production that evening to host a post-show Q&A with the cast!
Part drama workshop, part stand up comedy gig with the genius that is @Kramps @Team_Splendid This is SO MUCH 🤩!! @MASTStudios @open_drama_uk #ILLUMINATE pic.twitter.com/mveA18Csn3
— Patrick O’Sullivan (@patric_sullivan) January 13, 2023
What school did you go to?
I went to both CBS primary and secondary boys’ school in Tramore. I would say I was quiet in primary school but I did volunteer to play Mary in our all-boys nativity play, aged eight. I rebelled slightly at secondary school, probably frustrated by the lack of any creative outlet in the curriculum. Not getting into the school musical at 14 was a blow but I have spent the last 27 years trying to prove them wrong!
What teacher do you remember most vividly?
Pierce Walsh was our careers guidance teacher. He was a lovely kind man. I remember him stood on a chair in his office singing ‘Empty Chairs and Empty Tables’ from Les Mis, as he volunteered to look at the audition pieces for college and he was full of praise. Also, Vicki Graham, who set up a drama group in the back of her dad’s pub in Tramore at the time, and was the first to offer me a role in a theatre production and so set the seed.
What advice would you give your 15-year-old self?
Invest in a thing called Facebook. I’d probably say ‘try not to run before you can walk. Take your time. Read more. Try and get to know Jim Nolan better.’ I’d probably advise my younger self to spend some more quality time with his mam. She passed away when I was 27. You never know what lies ahead but enjoy those personal relationships and the simple things in life, as you certainly miss them when they are gone.
How do you relax?
I love to walk with my partner Cathey and my two dogs, Banjo and Sonny (pictured left). I never really was a dog person growing up, but now couldn’t live without them. I broke my back in 2015 and Banjo spent his puppy days snuggling up with me as I was laid up for a few months. He was a blessing.
What is your favourite film and piece of music?
I have always loved true stories. My favourite film is ‘In the Name of the Father’. I met Gareth Peirce a few years ago in London and I really admire her lifetime of work in social justice. Lately I’ve been listening to Damien Dempsey quite a lot. ‘Sing All Your Cares Away’ is a working-class anthem that I can’t get enough of!
When was the last time you cried?
At the funeral of an old friend in London just over a week ago. He was 76 and from County Clare. The Irish diaspora are very important to me in the UK. I also would advise everyone to have friends older than your years. They are a great leveller and give you a lot of perspective on your own life.
What has been your happiest moment of recent times?
I went back home to Tramore last November for my cousin Meg’s 21st birthday. She was only a little baby when I left all those years ago. It was lovely to see her grow up, alongside her brother Ross and they are both beginning their own journey in life. Covid prevented many of us who have moved away from going home and it was the longest I had ever been away. So going home for occasions now and spending time with my Dad are all the more important.
Do you pray?
No, I don’t really pray any more. I would say that I am a lapsed Catholic and I personally have some issues with the Catholic Church as an institution. I am spiritual though and often silently ask those who are no longer here to look after me when things may be tough.
What is your biggest fear?
I fear that society may become more and more intolerant and therefore people become inherently more selfish. We now live in the vacuous world of the ‘selfie’. I’d hope that we look out for each other a bit more, especially those we don’t know very well. Loneliness is a big factor in society. The Irish have always been social creatures and I’d hope we’d foster more opportunities for communities to come together and celebrate life.
What is your most treasured possession?
I have a wooden box of special things under my bed. It includes things like my mother’s glasses, programmes of shows I’ve made, little mementos of places I’ve been or things that I’ve done. It’s full of random things. There are some photographs, a pair of rosary beads that a nun gave me in 1999, some letters, a Waterford All-Ireland Hurling Final ticket from 2017… I’ll keep adding to it.
What is your favourite thing about Waterford?
The people are great. One thing I learned is never to come back with any airs or graces, the people will quickly bring you down to earth (in a good way!) The arts scene is tremendous. I’ve been lucky to performance direct a few Spraoi parades in the past and that festival is phenomenal. There is a thriving theatre scene, and it is kept alive with passionate people making exciting productions with very little funding at times. I really admire those people who keep it all going for their love of the art form and the community that it serves.
If you could change one thing about Waterford, what would it be?
A theatre for Tramore! The town needs a venue. A theatre can be a place for entertainment, for debate, for education, for creative expression, for communal experiences, for collective action, for live investigation, for experiential learning, for pleasure, for growth, for human interaction and many more. The people of Tramore should have their own building, the communities building, where they feel proud of who they are and where they are from – a people’s theatre, which represents the entire community of Tramore for now and into the future. I look forward to taking a production to it one day in the future.
In conversation with Mary Cate Smith