Interview Danny and the Deep Blue Sea, Gareth O’Connor: “People either laugh from start to finish or they are very quiet.”

John Patrick Shanley’s explosive play Danny and the Deep Blue Sea is currently enjoying a decent run at the Old Red Lion Theatre. I had a chat on the telephone with Gareth O’Connor, who is playing the title role alongside Megan Lloyd-Jones.

Here’s how the chat went.

The story follows two castaways, Danny and Roberta, as they fight their way to each other in a sea of hardship and cling violently for a chance at the happiness afforded to most but denied to them. Against the backdrop of a rundown bar in the Bronx, Patrick Shanley’s play is a deeply affecting study of alienation and the redemptive power of love. At the heart of the play is epiphany: an instant when one of them grasps how making a decision to get out of a situation is easy.

O’Connor was certainly put through his paces by director, Courtney Larkin. “I guess it feels like a workout; our director Courtney is like a personal trainer,” he says. “She never let us move on to the next thing until we’d made conscious decisions with every movement and emotion.” Has he been pleased with the response? “It’s wonderful. I feel lucky and fortunate. I mean, it’s all encompassing. We’re very exposed as we are on stage for 80 minutes straight through, there is no hiding.”

O’Connor, previously in Once (Phoenix Theatre) has produced this show with his co-star following a successful run at Theatre N16 last year. How different is the experience for him as a performer this time around? “It’s different. The main difference is that we’ve had more time to spend on higher production values and the finer details,” he says. “It’s really interesting with the subject matter of the play; people either laugh from start to finish or they are very quiet. It’s an intense piece. I think it’s also an important piece of theatre. That’s why we decided to do it again – we love it and we want people to see it.”

Has the fringe become a stomping ground for actors and directors trying to reach the mainstream? If so, where will we discover the new voices and future risk takers? With rising costs and the cultural shift in fringe theatre– pub theatre’s like the Gate, the Finbourgh and the Old Red Lion are pulling in audiences with their feisty productions. It’s worth mentioning that the theatre has also announced a show for this year’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Good Girl, a coming of age drama written and performed by Naomi Sheldon. It will preview at the Old Red Lion in July before a month-long run at the festival. O’Connor is right at home at the Islington venue. “The Old Red Lion is incredible, they have welcomed us with open arms,” he says. “The Artistic Director, Clive Judd has been wonderful, a very supportive man. The venue has been perfect for us and our show. We are really fond of this show and we want as many people as possible to see it.”