The hairdresser with the heart of gold takes to Cork stage

Cork actor Fionula Linehan stars in The Hairdresser’s Calendar at Cork Arts Theatre this month. COLETTE SHERIDAN catches up with the Ballyphehane woman
The hairdresser with the heart of gold takes to Cork stage

Fionula Linehan stars in The Hairdresser's Calendar.

STALWART of Cork theatre, Fionula Linehan, reprises her role in the one-woman show, ‘The Hairdresser’s Calendar’ at the Cork Arts Theatre. This heart-warming comedy is back by popular demand following a sell-out run in 2019. It’s the creation of Ger FitzGibbon who wrote the play with Fionula in mind. But while the Frankfield-based actress, originally from Ballyphehane, loves playing the character, she hates going to the hairdresser in real life.

“Other people find it a lovely day out where you’re pampered. If I do go to the hairdresser, it’s a case of get me in and get me out. But I’m lucky that my friend (a hairdresser) comes to the house and cuts my hair. I have curly hair and I wear it natural all the time.”

‘The Hairdresser’s Calendar,’ directed by Jack Healy, is poignant in places as well as being very funny. As well as playing the hairdresser with a heart of gold, Fionula plays her assistant Kylie who creates chaos where ever she goes. She also plays Mrs Cadogan who has a thing for umbrellas and there’s a dapper old gent with a gamey eye.

Fionula from Ballyphehane took up acting later in life.
Fionula from Ballyphehane took up acting later in life.

The hairdresser’s year is measured out in the big occasions of other people’s lives such as Holy Communions, weddings and other social occasions. But there isn’t always room in the hairdresser’s calendar for the everyday domestic crises in her own life. There’s her husband who is unable to cope with a washing machine and rings his wife constantly and there’s her sister-in-law who lives in Malaga and comes home to Cork from time to time behaving like some royal visitor. Amidst all this, the hairdresser faces some big questions about herself. In other words, the familiar character is not just a confidante to her clients as is the clichéd depiction of a hairdresser.

“Behind every job title is a person with their own ups and downs. The hairdresser has disappointments and hopes. She is a very giving warm-hearted person. 

"A lot of her customers, who are of a certain vintage, have their tales of woe. She is always facilitating, always looking for the good in people and what’s right for them. She might slag off some customers but always in a lovable way. There’s nothing mean or vicious about her.”

Fionula got into acting in her early thirties. Her children, when they were very young, were attending Maria Assumpta Pre-School in Ballyphehane. The school was offering courses for adults in cookery, computers, gardening and drama.

“With the children at school, there was the opportunity to do one of the courses. I decided to do drama which was overseen by Catherine Mahon-Buckley (who runs CADA Performing Arts).

“I don’t know if Catherine saw something in me because she asked me at the time if I’d be interested in joining an adult class at CADA which I did. I also became a drama teacher through LAMDA (London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts). I teach drama at CADA.”

As well as acting, she also teaches.
As well as acting, she also teaches.

Fionula started “plying my wares, hoping to get little gigs along the road. When you’re an adult, it’s hard to become known (in the acting world) no matter what talent you have. People need to see you in action before they give you an opportunity to act. It took a little bit of time for me and it grew. I absolutely love it.”

Prior to getting involved in drama, Fionula had done martial arts for over twenty years. She has a number of black belts in karate.

“I thought that was my world. Then I got sick and I couldn’t continue to do it at the level I was at. So I was looking for something else to interest me. That’s why I did the drama course. I know it’s an old and true saying that when one door closes, another opens.”

Not only did drama give Fionula a fulfilling hobby but it also gave her a career.

“Any time I’m in a play and I need time off from teaching, Catherine facilitates me.”

Fionula’s first appearance on stage was in the school hall at Maria Assumpta school.

The Hairdresser's Calendar runs at the CAT Club from July 13 to 16.
The Hairdresser's Calendar runs at the CAT Club from July 13 to 16.

“It was some sort of evening entertainment. The group I was in did a choral piece, ‘The Naming of the Cats’ by TS Eliot. It’s not a play but a poem. It was huge for us at the time to step on stage as performers. My motto is to try something and who knows what will come from it?”

The highlight of Fionula’s career came about when she was in the cast of ‘The Factory Girls’ at the Everyman about five years ago. The writer of the play, Frank McGuinness, came to Cork to see it.

“It was so special. I couldn’t believe that the esteemed writer was in the audience.”

Did it make her nervous?

“I wouldn’t be a nervous actor. It’s like any job. You know what you have to do and you go out and do it. I’m happy with what I have to offer.”

Fionula also appeared in ‘The Young Offenders’, both in the film version and the TV series of Peter Foott’s comic creation, set in Cork.

“I wouldn’t have as much grá for film and TV acting as I have for the stage. Of course, all actors are delighted to get a gig but for me, there’s something special about being on stage. You’re live, you take the story from the start to the pinnacle and then the end. I love that journey.”

Recently returned from London where she saw a number of shows, Fionula is full of enthusiasm for acting and has no plans to retire.

“There’s plenty of life in this old dog!”

The Hairdresser’s Calendar is at the Cork Arts Theatre from July 13-16. 

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