Curtain down as Mary McEvoy calls time on her stage career
Mary McEvoy has called time on her stage career at a performance of John B Keane’s The Matchmaker in Mullingar Arts Centre last week.
Mary, who has been touring with the production alongside Jon Kenny since 2015, says she wishes to focus her energies elsewhere.
“It’s just not the life for me anymore. You’re running round, your life is not your own and I just want a bit more ownership of my time,” the Delvin native and star of Glenroe told the Westmeath Examiner.
“I’m not one of those people who has to act at all costs, I’ve too many other interests in life to worry about that. I mean I’ll do bits and pieces but I want to enjoy my career, not be tired and not giving attention where attention is due.”
Mary began her stage career 50 years ago when she first trod the boards in Delvin Hall, before moving on to the then County Hall in Mullingar.
“That was my first foray into it, and then a few shows with Mullingar Drama Group, oh God that’s so long ago – it must be 50 years ago – in the Arts Centre which was the County Hall at that time.”
Mary moved to Dublin shortly after and “drifted around different theatres” before coming back to the farm outside Delvin for a time.
When that “didn’t suit”, she went back to Dublin and got a job at the Dublin Theatre Festival as a runner, where she began hearing about auditions.
“And from that quite quickly I got Glenroe and that was it really. That sealed my fate. And that was good because Glenroe was so pleasant to do that it was easy to stay for a long time. It was tiring too but you went home to your own bed every night.”
Asked if she will miss the thrill of a live audience, Mary speaks candidly by saying: “I was never that kind of actor.
“I liked the audience and seeing them enjoy what I did or my colleagues did, but I was never that kind of actor.
“I just got on with it, did it and went home and went back to my life. I was like that always.
“Maybe in the early days I was more of a theatre animal when it was all new, but I’m not any more, and I think it’s time to leave space for someone who really does want to do the work.
“I mean when I got up on stage I always gave one hundred percent, and maybe that’s one of the reasons why I decided not to tour because it requires too much energy and too much effort to give that hundred percent all the time.
“I’d prefer to keep my energy for other things. It doesn’t mean I won’t be doing it again, I mean I’m doing it in Belfast at the end of September; that’s been arranged for a long time.
“Also, if Norma (Sheehan, who is taking over from Mary in The Matchmaker) can’t fulfil a date I’ll step in. I don’t ever like to say this is the end because life has a funny way of working out, so I never say this is the last performance. It is for now, and it’s maybe the last performance.”
At a presentation following her last performance, Sean Lynch, director of the Arts Centre, said it was privilege to work with Mary for so many years.
“We’re very proud of the fact that she started her career here in what was the County Hall and went on to become national icon as Biddy in Glenroe, and indeed, in multiple roles she played throughout her phenomenal career,” he said.
Speaking about the presentation from her peers, Mary says it “blew her mind” to receive such a touching farewell.
“I was just completely overwhelmed by it. To get a presentation from your own crowd, to get it in Mullingar, I was just so grateful,” she says.
Mary says that while she will continue with her TV and film career, she is now focusing on new interests, which include physical health. She has retrained as a Pilates teacher.
“I qualified as Pilates teacher last year. I just want to do one more course that will give me a more rounded knowledge of physical injuries and then I’ll start to teach. I’ll hopefully sign up to do a yoga teacher training course next year. That’s what interests me and to be honest, it always has.
“I’ll still do my few bits on the Today Show if they want me, and with Oliver Callan if he wants me, you know – whatever comes up on television or film. That’s a medium I like better than stage.”
She is also busy on her farm outside Delvin.
“Mostly now my farm is an animal sanctuary. I kept my flock of sheep because I just adore my sheep, I just mind them, they’re my little friends. I have a few rescue horses and donkeys, hens and cats. It wouldn’t keep you busy for eight hours a day but it keeps you busy enough.”
Mary, who was on stage with The Matchmaker during the Fleadh, is a self-confessed “fleadh Grinch”, but said she thought the 10-day festival dedicated to traditional music, song and dance was “extremely well organised” and “a major success”.
“I was a bit of a fleadh Grinch just before it because I don’t like crowds, so that was my fear coming up to it, but it was such a lovely atmosphere around town.
“I didn’t get to many gigs because I just like to go home after being on stage. For me, if I’m doing a play, the whole day is about having your energy in the right place at the right time and when I finish I just want to go home and debrief and de-stress. But I saw a great band called Mega Trad and they were playing outside the Arts Centre and if that was all I got I was happy.
“It certainly showed Mullingar to be the great town that it is. I mean I love Mullingar, I think it’s a fantastic town. It’s my favourite town in Ireland.
“I really think that it showed Mullingar in a great light, and the happy-go-lucky, fun side of the people – it showed the country that.
“It has a very particular kind of humour, and there’s a very particular laid-back jocularity in Mullingar that I love, and it’s just nice that people got to see that.”