Louth actress Aoibhéann McCann is on a role, no pun intended. The actress, who is currently starring in the Gate Theatre’s latest production of Stephen Sondheim’s Assassins, is booked up with acting projects until March 2019.
It’s an enviable position for an actor to be in, given the notoriously perilous nature of the industry and one that Aoibhéann is all too thankful for.
“I'm very lucky. I will be starting a few new projects over the course of the year and they will keep me busy until March 2019,” she says.
This isn’t the first major role the former St Vincent’s pupil has landed. Last year she had a part in the Gate’s production of The Great Gatsby, which ran from July to September 2017. And after that finished up, she worked on the TV series Vikings playing the role of Skadi.
The Louth lady also recently popped up on our screens as pharmacist Geraldine in the latest series of RTE comedy Can’t Cope Won’t Cope.
In between all of this, Aoibhéann, who trained at The Oxford School of Drama, is also an in-demand voiceover artist. You might recognise Aoibhéann’s voice from the Woodie’s DIY, National Lotto, and AA Insurance ads.
The thespian has also been creating work for herself - she runs the theatrical production company Red Bear Productions, along with writer and director Tracy Martin. Their 2015 play Harder. Better. Faster. More. won numerous awards and has also been made into a radio play. The pair are currently working on a short film, which will be out in July.
But back to her most recent project for now. Aoibhéann is currently starring as an unlikely would-be assassin housewife Sara Jane Moore – a woman who tried to assassinate President Gerald Ford in the 1970’s.
The production is an ambitious one, given Sondheim won a Tony Award for the Assassins production back in 1994. The composer has also won an Academy Award and eight Tony Awards for his other works which include Sweeney Todd and West Side Story.
However, the Irish production seems to be living up to reviews since it opened on April 18th. “The reviews have been great, which is such a relief,” says Aoibhéann,
“I’ve never done a musical before and this is one of the most brilliant Sondheim pieces. In fact, he said it was one of his proudest creations. It was a huge Tony Award-winning hit.”
The Louth actress goes on to describe the premise of the play saying: “Assassins takes a look at people who tried to assassinate American Presidents. Some were successful, and some like my character failed.
“In the story, we follow these assassins throughout different eras. It's not chronological, but we use our storytelling skills to transport the audiences into different periods in history.”
And despite the dark nature of the musical, Aoibhéann says that the show is “ so much fun”.
“It’s really funny. My character and Kate Gilmore’s, who plays Lynette ‘Squeaky’ Fromme, team up quite a lot and come in for a bit of comic relief.”
Aoibhéann and Kate are the only two female assassins in the morbid tale. Their stories are intertwined in that they both tried to kill President Gerald Ford in the 1970’s.
And it’s clear that Aoibhéann enjoys playing a character as complex as Sara Jane Moore. McCann tells us enthusiastically:
“She’s a fascinating character. She was born in West Virginia and was married five times. Throughout her life, she tried her hand at a few different careers that didn't really take off.
“I think she was someone who was very intelligent, but clearly frustrated.”
During those turbulent times in 1970's America, the housewife became politicized and became “very supportive of the left” as Aoibhéann puts it.
Things took a strange twist when the FBI contacted Sara Jane to become an informant.
Aoibhéann explains: “She regretted working with the FBI and wanted to prove to her friends in the left that she still genuinely supported their ideas - so she bought a gun.
“She contacted police and said ‘I have a gun, and I’m going to kill someone’, so she wanted to get caught.”
Moore attempted to assassinate President Gerald Ford in 1975.
“The thinking is she missed because she had a new gun that she wasn't familiar with,” explains Aoibhéann.
Bizarrely Moore’s attempt to kill President Ford took place just 17 days after Lynette ‘Squeaky’ Fromme’s attempt to assassinate him.
They are the only two women in history to have attempted to assassinate an American president.
“It’s an incredible story,” says McCann, “She (Moore) looks like such a ‘normal’ person. I think she was someone who was very intelligent, but who was very frustrated.”
Aoibhéann thinks that the creators of the Gate production did a fantastic job of “finding the humanity in the story.
“There are some lovely moments of bonding between the two women (Sara Jane Moore and Lynette Fromme). There’s a lot of humanity in the story,” she says.
And as for the humour, it’s strictly dark. “I mean I sing a song in it called ‘The Gun Song’,” Aoibhéann laughs.