CORK comedian and sometime actor, Tadhg Hickey, best known for his politically-charged viral videos, will have the starring role in the Everyman’ s summer production opening on August 10.
Tadhg, aged 39, will play Mocky Fondoo in Letters Of A Country Postman. The play is an adaptation of John B Keane’s novella of the same name, first published by Mercier Press in 2000. Artistic director of the Everyman, Sophie Motley, adapted the book for the stage.
Tadhg’s character is the postman in the fictional village of Ballyfee on the Kerry/Cork border. He will be joined on stage by a magician and three actors who play a number of characters. These include Katie Cersey, the postmistress, Mocky’s immediate superior.
“She’s a brilliant character, an absolute pro at opening letters, reading the contents, and then resealing them,” says Tadhg.
The love interest in the play is a young woman in the locality whose husband is away. “Mocky’s wife is away. He is trying to help the young woman, fetching groceries for her and what not. There is a question mark over the full nature of the relationship - at least, what is going on in Mocky’s head. There’s the idea of longing when someone is absent and someone else filling that gap.”
Tadhg has been open about his recent breakdown, which he believes was sparked by overworking. Having performed his one man show, In One Eye, Out The Other, in which he laid bare his alcohol addiction and recovery, he seems to have no problem revealing his dark side. He says there are “pros and cons” to putting aspects of his life under the spotlight.
“I had become slightly well-known. I thought there was an opportunity to just express what had happened to me.
"Overworking (16-hour days) was a major precipitating factor. I thought I’d just throw it out there. Other people might identify with it. I don’t really regret doing that. If it helps someone else, it’s probably a good idea to have it out there.”
But there is no neat narrative to this story. As Tadhg says, it’s not a case of a breakdown happening and then “you’re grand again. You have to restructure the way you do things and get more balance into your life. It’s not just about doing a video on the internet and then you’re cured like it’s an up and down thing. A bit like dealing with alcoholism, you’re trying to put your best foot forward, do the right thing and take it from there.”
These days, Tadhg is all about keeping himself well.
“I do transcendental meditation in the morning for 20 minutes and early afternoon for another 20 minutes. It keeps me structured in the day. I find it very useful. I also bought a bike. I find cycling good for the old head. And I find going for a swim in the sea really good.
“It’s about not taking on too much and trying to be a hero. I get a good few messages on twitter, people asking me to do stuff. Sometimes, ‘people pleasing’ kicks in and I try to do loads of things. That’s a bit of a defect in me. I then get over-stretched and then I’m not able to help anyone.”
Being self-employed, Tadhg was a typical freelancer, afraid to turn down work.
“When I set up the videos, I had started home working. The amount of people that got onto me was just crazy. They totally identified with me. Some were in professions where they hadn’t had a break. They weren’t able to because they felt they had to keep going or otherwise, they’d lose their position. I thought the responses were very revealing. The volume of messages shows that you might think you’re alone if you’ve had a bit of a breakdown. But far from it. Nobody has the monopoly on emotional difficulty.”
Tadhg didn’t go to see a therapist or a psychiatrist.
“I focus on meditation. I’m having a good recovery. There’s more leaning on friends.
"I took a couple of weeks off work and restructured what I was doing - exercise and all that kind of stuff. You do whatever you need to do to get yourself well again.”
The main lesson Tadhg learned from his breakdown is that he can’t do life on his own, as he puts it.
“I had started becoming very insular and very obsessive. I think that drink was being replaced with work. I was blocking out other people, trying to do it all by myself. I learned that I need other people. I want to work with them and socialise with them. I’m no good on my own. I don’t think many of us are.”
Tadhg is in a relationship with Claire O’Connell who works with him. They live in Passage. Tadhg, who has a daughter from a previous relationship, says his partner “effectively manages me. She produced my solo tour. She did work for Cahoots (the comedy troupe of which Tadhg was a member).”
Working with his girlfriend has its challenges but it’s panning out well, says Tadhg.
“She’s extremely easy-going. I think it’s good in a relationship to have one person who is really solid when the other person is off the wall. Claire puts up with the fluctuations in my mood and behaviour. We work well together. People have said we have a good thing going together.”
Letters Of A Country Postman is at the Everyman from August 10-27.