50 RO’CK: The Middle-Aged Return of Ross O’Carroll Kelly

Rory Nolan as Ross O’Carroll Kelly

After twenty years of poking fun at south Dublin’s posh rugby culture, Rory Nolan reprises Foxrock’s main man at the Gaiety. This time he’s in his 50s.

Ross O’Carroll Kelly, Paul Howard’s satirical Irish Times mainstay, recently reached twenty years of printed tales. Howard’s rich, pretentious, egotistical and utterly hilarious rugby-loving character has had quite a ride. In the various tomes released over the years, he’s rescued friends from an African country he can’t pronounce, managed the Andorran rugby team, interfered in north-Dublin gang wars, and come up with more excuses for where he might have been last night than we could possibly recall.

The latest full-length offering, entitled ‘Operation Trumpsformation,’ was released last month In it the main man is knee deep in it again, while his dad is running a political campaign to build a wall around Cork, offending all comers, and wearing a suspiciously Trumpian hairpiece.

While the books are very much a present-day parallel universe, the theatre version of Ross runs to a different timescale: ‘Postcards From The Ledge’ leaves behind the present, and heads for the year 2029. The main man is running an estate agent, his daughter about to marry a man he loathes, and our hero still just a few good matches away from the Ireland squad, naturally. Rory Nolan plays Ross, as he has in the previous three different O’Carroll Kelly stage sagas, and this time he’ll be going it alone.

“I can’t wait for people to see it,” Nolan tells us. “‘Postcards From The Ledge’ has Ross on the cusp of fifty years old. He’s the managing director of Hook, Lyon and Sinker, and life has been good to him, Ireland is attuned in a way that it’s a good place to be if you’re Ross O’Carroll Kelly. We meet him on a day when he’s valuing a house in South Dublin, which turns out to be where he grew up, in Sallynoggin. Obviously, he’d rather it was in a different country. It’s conjuring up all kinds of memories for him.”

“At the same time, his daughter Honour is getting married to a guy he really doesn’t approve of. Maybe he’s everything that Ross isn’t. He’s on the road to total meltdown, and it just makes for great comedy. People love to see his up and downs, but I think they want him to get there in the end, too. I’m always surprised how audiences are always gunning for him. They really want  to see Ross win.”

Ross, of course, isn’t the brightest spark, and that’s part of the challenge for Nolan. “It is quite hard to act as stupid as Ross is,” he admits. “But Paul’s writing, I’ve really never come across anything quite like it. Playing Ross intertwines the comedy and the character. You have to follow the timing of what Ross is doing. It’s quite unaware. If you tried to acknowledge what was going on, it would fall flat on its face. There’s always something at stake for these characters, though, so it’s not just humor for the sake of humor.”