Sligo actor in ‘Once’ play


There is always pressure with performing on stage.

When you are performing something which has won Oscars along with a whole catalogue of other awards, no doubt that pressure is doubled.

ROCKING OUT: Pictured (centre, holding guitar) is Sligo actor Bob Kelly who stars in the stage production of 'Once'. Picture by Patrick Redmond.
ROCKING OUT: Pictured (centre, holding guitar) is Sligo actor Bob Kelly who stars in the stage production of ‘Once’. Picture by Patrick Redmond.

For Sligo’s very own Bob Kelly, the role of Eamon in the stage production of ‘Once’, made famous by the 2007 Oscar winning film starring Glen Hansard, he takes it in his stride.

Speaking to the Sligo Weekender this week, the Knocknashee native, spoke of how he cut his teeth in the acting world.

“It was my involvement in Sligo Youth Theatre in 1998/1999 that made me want to become an actor. The Arts Office, together with Blue Raincoat were getting kids in to teach them the acting basics and how to do shows and that is how I got involved. I caught the bug from there with people like Nial Henry and Bernie Meehan who were very supportive and thought that this was the life for me.”

For the role in Once, Bob explains how he got the part.
“The role of Eamon is not a very complex role. The story of Once is essentially about a boy and a girl and everyone else is in the background. With this piece, even though Eamon comes towards the end, you are on stage performing music all the time. The difficulty for me is not in the acting part of the show but in the music and getting that technically right and getting the musicianship up to scratch,” Bob commented.

Although the switch between disciplines of music and then acting could be difficult for some, the blend and story telling of the music in “Once” is something which Eamon feels is not difficult.

“I think it [the music] would be difficult in another show. In this show, like in the film, it makes perfect sense. The music is very integrated into the story and they don’t just break into song for no reason. The music comes out of the story. The characters play and music is very much a part of the story.”

The play has done the rounds in London, Broadway, Korea and other parts of the globe. Bob was due to take up the role in the West End, however, other commitments meant he could not take the part until it came to Dublin’s Olympia this month.

“This is my first involvement. I auditioned for it back in the West End and was offered the role, but unfortunately things took a turn and I was not able to take the role. It was a Godsent when it was coming to Dublin and for me to have another shot at it.”

It will be busy in the months ahead for Bob. Following the last performance of “Once” in late August, his sights will turn to a short film which will appear on RTÉ.
“As an actor you take what comes along so I am always on the go with different things. I have been branching out a little bit more into writing and I have made a short film for RTÉ which will hopefully make it onto screens in October or November. We have just wrapped on that in the last month.

“I also do a lot of work with Blue Raincoat in Sligo as well. Following ‘Once’, I have a residency in the Hawk’s Well this year and we will be using that to get more projects that are connected to Sligo with Sligo history involved in a big way. There is a lot of writing coming up on my part,” Bob said.

For the opening night of Once, although the film and other stage productions of the play have made it famous worldwide, Bob is not nervous about what lies ahead when it takes to the stage.

“There are a number of elements working against it [the nerves]. When you have capable lead actors, the storytelling is in good hands and the musicianship is brilliant. Also we have had a number of previews so by the time we open we have had a few of those under our belt. So a lot of nervousness is gone out of it. Also the fact that there is music involved possibly makes you a little bit nervous of that, more so than the acting.”

For those who go along to the show early, as part of the set design there is a working bar which will also help to take some of the edge.

“Once” opened on Tuesday, July 14 and will run until August 22. For details on booking and tickets see or, or call the Olympia Theatre in Dublin on 01-6793323.

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