Before theatres closed earlier this year due to the pandemic, Mary Doherty had been playing the role of Bonnie and others in Come From Away since the show opened in Dublin before transferring to the West End at Phoenix Theatre in 2019, with the musical having huge success at last year’s Olivier Awards. Throughout her stage career so far, Mary has had many roles which has included her working with Shakespeare’s Globe on a number of occasions, appear in Girl From the North Country at Noël Coward Theatre, and being in the casts of Les Misérables and Grease. Along with performing in theatre, Mary has screen experience with roles in Casualty and Eastenders, both airing last year, and she is also the Artistic Director of The Actors Class, which is coming up to its eighth anniversary. Recently speaking with us, Mary talks about playing Bonnie in Come From Away, performing at Storyhouse Theatre for The Crucible and A Little Night Music and being Artistic Director of The Actors Class.
You’ve been playing Bonnie and others in Come From Away since opening in Dublin and then transferring to the West End, what are you enjoying most about performing in the show?
To perform in Come From Away is an absolute joy. The true story that it’s based on is so inspiring, it really is an honour to share that story every night. I think my favourite thing about the show is that we’re a real ensemble. There are twelve of us on stage and each character has their moment, but you can’t tell this story without each other. We set each other’s chairs, we give each other costumes, you can’t miss a beat. These other actors are relying on you. There is such a sense of togetherness on stage, like they themselves felt in Gander, we’re a community, it’s an amazing feeling.
How much did you know about the character before booking the role?
I have to say nothing at all! I, like so many others, did not know of this true story before I auditioned. So, when I read the script, I was so thrilled that I was up for the role of Bonnie, as that’s whose story I most resonated with. I love animals, I always have, and Bonnie is a real life hero! She goes into those planes and rescues nineteen animals. Amazing. I’ve had the honour of meeting her a few times now and she’s so lovely.
What’s it like seeing the audience response to the show?
Well, there’s nothing like it. And it’s going to be hard to beat in any other job! I’ll never forget the first public performance we did, our first preview in Dublin, we had no idea how our show was going to be received. Obviously we were aware that it was a hit on Broadway, but, you never know how your telling of it will compare/work. There are very few moments in the show where it leaves the audience time to applaud, the show moves at the same relentless speed that those people in Gander had to work for, for five days. So, by the end of the show, the audience has been taken on a rollercoaster of emotions, brilliantly directed by Chris Ashley. That first night in Dublin, we finished the show and we were hit by a wall of sound, that’s the best way to explain it, it almost knocks you off your feet, they were all stood up before the lights came up for the curtain call! It was amazing and that feeling, that they have all been right with us, through the whole journey, is magic.
How different is being in a show like Come From Away to your previous productions?
It’s very different! The main difference is that you’re on stage for pretty much the full 100 minutes. I have to schedule in when I can grab water off stage! I think my longest break off stage, is two minutes thirty seconds. The concentration needed, for that amount of time, including all the chair choreography (if you’ve seen it, you’ll know!) is huge, but really rewarding. I love being in this show and I miss it.
Can you say about playing Elizabeth Proctor in The Crucible at Storyhouse Theatre?
This is a part I have always wanted to play and was one of the most challenging. The parts I usually get cast in are a little more front foot than Elizabeth. I had to work hard with the director to be physically and emotionally colder, more withdrawn than I am used to playing. I’d seen The Crucible in the theatre a number of times, so I think it takes a while as an actor to get other people’s performances out of your head and find your own. Once I was able to do that, it was very freeing. It was a fantastic production, an amazing cast.
You also performed at Storyhouse as Charlotte Malcolm in A Little Night Music, how was this?
This was a total joy from start to finish. Charlotte Malcolm is a gift of a role, hilarious, unhappy, drunk, I could go on! I worked with pretty much the same cast for this and The Crucible as we did both shows in Rep at Storyhouse. To go from one night, glammed up as Charlotte, to the next night, covered in tears, dirt and blood as Elizabeth was an amazing experience. I love this cast so much, we’ve stayed very close. It was a real journey, putting these two shows together!
What was it like being part of Girl From the North Country at the Noël Coward Theatre?
A real honour. What a show. Pure class. To watch actors work such as Shirley Henderson, Ciaran Hinds and to work with writer Conor McPherson was amazing. The piece was completely organic. It had already been at The Old Vic, I was in the second cast at the Noël Coward and felt very involved and welcomed.
Can you say how you found your time performing at the National Theatre in Twelfth Night?
I understudied three roles in Twelfth Night so, for me, that was my main focus on this job. Juggling the three roles in rehearsals, sometimes talking to myself if both (or all three) were in the same scenes together! We had a fantastic understudy run at The National, they do that really well, the casting director came and you can invite friends and family, so even though you might not get on (as it’s a shorter run) you still have a public show to keep those characters at show standard. Great to see Tamsin Greig and Doon Mackichan work together, brilliant and hilarious women.
You have performed a number of times with Shakespeare’s Globe, how is the experience performing in their productions?
It is my favourite theatre in the world. I absolutely love playing there. I played my favourite role of all time there – Queen Margaret in the Henry VI Trilogy. We toured and also played at the Globe. She was a torturous Queen, the biggest challenge. Loved every minute! Before that, I did many shows over around three years, with the same company. We’ve stayed great friends, it was an incredible time.
Can you tell us about some of your earlier shows that have included Avenue Q, Grease and Les Misérables?
I wanted to be in Les Mis as long as I can remember, so getting that show was a bit of a dream, I had the best year, again, with a wonderful company. Playing Rizzo in Grease was also a dream role of mine, I learnt a lot on this job, the stamina it takes to sing eight shows a week for one! Avenue Q – I laughed and laughed my way through this whole year. The material was brilliant, the people hilarious and I got together with my now husband Chris Thatcher on this job, so it is very close to my heart.
What was Viv Levin like to play in Casualty?
I was really nervous for this one! I hadn’t done much tele and so felt very out of my depth. Series regular Cathy Shipton (plays Duffy) I think picked up on my nerves and took me under her wing for the three days, she was wonderful and really helped me get my head around the lingo! I learnt a lot on this one.
How was it filming your episodes of Eastenders last year and can you say about your character Daisy?
I loved this one. I’m a huge Eastenders fan. And my scenes were with Danny Dyer and Kellie Bright (Mick and Linda) so once I’d got over being starstruck, I had a brilliant time. Same director as Casualty, so I felt a bit more relaxed and confident.
Where does your love of performing come from and had you always wanted a theatre career?
I have always wanted to be an actor, yes. I knew from a very young age. My mother has a huge love for theatre and took us all to the theatre when we were kids. My dad loves music and is always singing. So I was around it as a child. My sister works in the art world – so its a very creative family! My brother is also an actor – he is thirteen years older than me and I looked up to him hugely. Amazingly, before lockdown hit, he got a job also in Come From Away! We’d waited twenty years to work together and it finally happened! We hope to get back to work soon, to perform together again.
Do you have any favourite theatre shows to watch?
My favourite musicals I’ve seen are shows like West Side Story, Oliver!, Miss Saigon. Fave plays – The Crucible, Bull by Mike Bartlett, The Flick by Annie Baker.
You are the Artistic Director of The Actors Class, can you tell us about it?
I run 10 Week Courses for actors in London over the age of eighteen. Actors come to us with a wide range of experience, some starting out and trying to get into drama school, some have already trained, lots can’t afford drama school, so are looking for other ways to train. We run Foundation, Intermediate, Advanced Courses and then once you’ve completed Adv, you can audition for our Industry Course with West End Showcase. Also, once completing the Adv, you go into our Alumni and then we offer one-off workshops to keep our actors fit and focused. I’m coming to the eight year anniversary of The Actors Class. I remember the day I set it up. I remember my first class, with those first fourteen actors. I’m continually inspired by these young, incredible actors. Best thing I’ve done, setting this up. I love every minute I teach.
Follow Mary on: