The Odd Marty Maguire

In the middle of the Crescent Arts Centre Marty Maguire leans over his coffee and cackles, ‘Guns don’t kill people. I DO’.

He is in character, of course, as the somewhat homicidal Bronzebeard from the World of Warcraft game. ‘I really should add that to my resume,’ he remarks, sitting back.

‘Versatile’ is one of those catch-all phrases that actors use to describe themselves. Maguire really is. In the course of his career he has played the aforementioned gnome, a prejudiced but conflicted dole clerk in Marie Jones’ A Night in November (during its successful US run), a prisoner/undertaker in The Chronicles of Long Kesh (where he met his wife, actress Jo Donnelly who will be appearing in the upcoming Lyric Theatre production The Long Road), and God in Opera NI’s outdoor adaptation of Noye’s Fludde.

Or rather the ‘the Voice of’. ‘

At the end, when we all went out on stage no-one knew who I was,’ Maguire remembers with a chuckle. ‘I got one of the other actors to hold up a bit of paper with ‘God’ written on it and an arrow pointing at me.’

It is Maguire’s upcoming role, however, that he worries he might have been born to play, the neurotically fastidious Felix in The Odd Couple at Theatre at the Mill.

‘I look at some of the things that Felix does in the play,’ he admits, ‘and think “that sounds like me!”‘.

Yet Maguire was originally invited to audition for the part of one of the poker buddies. He never got the chance. Director Guy Masterton, who also plays the other half of the ‘odd couple’ Oscar, took one look and asked him to read for Oscar instead.

‘Three hours later,’ Maguire says, ‘I was having press shots taken.’

Maguire, who was a big fan of the original film, has always wanted the chance to play the high-strung Felix, even though Oscar gets more stage-time. Yet, he admits, he was a bit worried about the contemporary relevance of The Odd Couple. It was written in 1964 after all, would it still be able to make a modern audience care?

It didn’t worry him for long. ‘It is so well-constructed to is as fresh as if it was written last week,’ he says. Some of the references might not be bang up to date but, ‘divorce is still divorce’ and ‘people are still people’.

‘Felix comes into Oscar’s life like a whirlwind,’ Maguire says. ‘It is incredibly funny, but it is poignant too. There are some very touching moments between the two men.’

There is talk of going on a ‘one week here, one week there’ tour in the UK next year. It all depends, of course, on how the play goes at the Theatre at the Mill. Meanwhile, Maguire might be making a brief visit back to LA (where he lived for a few years) to work on a couple of possible plays.

It will be a change from last year, when he was playing Widow Twanky in Aladdin (under the direction of the dowager dame Dan Gordon).

‘That is hard work,’ he says. ‘Getting down there into your wig and make-up and fake you-know-whats for two shows a day, twelve shows a week? It tests you as an actor.’

What made it worth Maguire’s while was watching the ‘wee faces’ in the audience light up when they saw him (her) on stage. For the duration of the panto the children – some of whom might ‘come from homes that aren’t the best’ – are transported to a world where magic and genies are real and Maguire really lives in a laundry house.

The audience of The Odd Couple might be a different demographic, but as Maguire says – that is the life of an actor. You are Widow Twanky one day, and a divorced clean freak the next.

The Odd Couple is at the Theatre at the Mill from October 17-27.