Sitting at rehearsal for The Hurler at Garter Lane last weekend I was left fascinated with the physical demands in the staging of a one-man show and hugely impressed with Tony Kelly and his portrayal of the character ‘Gar Campion’.
The Hurler ‘Gar Campion’ is Kelly’s own creation but for this performance the actor takes us though the trials and tribulations of not just ‘Gar’ but a host of other characters.
Kelly explained the story behind the creation of ‘The Hurler”.
“The Hurler is Gar Campion who is Ireland’s greatest and most notorious hurler. Originally this was a web series that launched my career, as it has won a lot of awards all over the World. This is a whole new story for Gar so anyone who has been a fan of the web series will see the same character but will not see the same story in any shape or form.
Basically Gar becomes the first hurler to fail a drugs test for performance enhancing drugs and is ostracised from the game. Unfortunately he finds himself in debt to his sponsor as he can’t play hurling and this rich businessman has just started a new team in Brooklyn, New York and he wants Gar to be his coach. Gar then goes over to coach a team of misfits in Brooklyn and meets an old flame while there and we find out what happens then.”
Kelly stresses his character is not modelled on anyone in particular but is a combination of people he has come across in his life.
“It’s nothing to do with Waterford hurling. John Mullane made a cameo appearance in the first episode of the web series but I don’t do a Waterford accent or wear a Waterford jersey so it’s nothing to do with Waterford GAA in particular. As with any comedy character there’s bits of people I’ve met in my life and people I’ve seen on television, maybe other GAA figures I’ve seen over the years but there’s no Waterford influence in Gar Campion.”
Tony Kelly began his working life selling cars with his farther Tommy in Sheridans Garage but was bitten by the comedy and acting bug and decided to do something about it.
“I was saving up to go to film school while I was in Sheridans and I moved to New York when I was 23 and graduated from the Screenway Programme of the New York Film Academy. I broke into stand-up comedy the same year I was over there and had a couple of small roles in film and television while I was still in college. I knew there was something in this for me if I wanted it. Ever since then I’ve been working away at it. I did a movie in 2017 called Writing Home which I was the lead in. I’ve just done another movie called the Tale of Billy O’C which I play a bad guy in. I’ve just done an episode of the Alienist for Netflix which comes out some time later this year. My background though is stand-up comedy and I’ve been very lucky to tour all over the World. I had a stand-up album which I recorded in 2012 called ‘PS I Hate You’ which was recorded in the Forum.
In between all that I always fancied having a sit-com. I moved home from New York after four years with no job and no place to go. I had heard of the web series idea when I was in America but nobody was doing it here so a friend of mine had a camera, that’s all we had, we had no money and we made this little series called ‘The Hurler’ and that took off.”
Co-writer Pat Daly and Jim Nolan, directing, has turned this production of ‘The Hurler’ into and team effort and Kelly is delighted to have others on board.
“Beyond Jim’s, name which means a lot, he brings a huge wealth of experience to the production. I’d never worked with Jim before, we’ve had a couple of false starts but I’ve always wanted to work with Jim and now that I am working with him, it’s better than I ever thought possible. He sees things that I would not have seen. His name looks great above the door in Garter Lane but, for me, just having Jim in the room makes me feel more comfortable.
The Hurler is my baby and it has been since I came up with the idea and even bringing Pat Daly on board to write with me was a bit of a worry for me because I’ve never allowed anyone to write for Gar. But Pat took to it so well. He understood who Gar was and still does to this day. There was a certain anxiety involved handing it over to Jim and letting him have control but there was also a certain relief because now it is a team effort and not just me. If I had done this on my own it would not be a tenth of what it is with having the two lads on board.
We have grand plans for Gar and this is a testing ground to see how it works out. The series had a little run on television in America and I think if we can do a good run here and the audience re-act the way we hope they re-act, then I think there’s certainly room to take this to Dublin and further afield.”
The Hurler runs at Garter Lane from Thursday to Saturday, March 5th to 7th.