"Whose idea was it," Ray D'Arcy wondered, "to make a play about you?" The you in question is actor Mark Smith and his collaborator Aisling Byrne answered Ray’s question with another question, "Who do you think?!" Mark and Aisling were in studio on Monday to celebrate World Down Syndrome Day and talk about their award-winning show, Making a Mark (all about Mark), which goes on a nationwide tour in March and April. Mark and Aisling told Ray how they first met:
"I met Aisling when I was 28 and I was in St Raphael’s School and I was in a place called the Horticultural Wing, with all the plants and stuff like that. I know her mam quite well 'cause she was the nurse in St Raphael’s."
"I was actually on a college placement, I was studying Drama and I came out to facilitate some drama in John of God’s, where Mark was potting plants, as he rightly puts it and, yeah, that was a glorious moment, Mark, wasn’t it?"
It was, Mark says, their Lady Gaga-Bradley Cooper moment. With Mark the Lady Gaga figure, Aisling is quick to clarify. Making a Mark, the show they put together with writer and director Shaun Dunne was first performed as part of the Dublin Fringe Festival in 2019, where it was nominated for Best Production, Best Performer (
Lady Gaga Mark) and won a Judges’ Choice Award. It’s what Aisling describes as documentary theatre:
"Working with people’s lived experiences, or shows about real life."
The show is an interview-style piece, with Aisling asking Mark questions about his life:
"It’s a format Mark’s very comfortable with and it also supports him on stage to remember his lines. So, it’s the form of an interview, but at time then the plat starts to bleed into re-enactments of moments in Mark’s life and the interview structure starts to break down."
Mark – who has previously played the title role in King Lear, so he's obviously no slouch when it comes to performaning – has always wanted to be an actor and the success of Making a Mark has meant that he’s become a bit of a celebrity, with the likes of Justin Bieber almost kind of stalking him:
"That was fun, by the way, because myself and Bieber had a – I had a Diet Coke, he had a Coke. So, yeah it was good."
The must-listen moment of the chat with Aisling and Mark came when Ray asked if Mark was a fan of Nathan Carter. Yes, was the answer. A big fan. You suspect Ray somehow knew this in advance, though, because he played Mark a message from Nathan Carter, inviting him and his family to one of Carter’s upcoming shows in Vicar Street. Mark was delighted:
"Oh my god, that is – oh my god that is my lifeline, by the way. That’s mad. Because I’ve actually been to every single show of Nathan’s, by the way."
Mark’s happy, Aisling’s happy, Ray’s happy. Job done. You can hear Ray’s full chat with mark and Aisling by going here.
Making a Mark begins a nationwide tour in Draíocht, Blanchardstown on Friday 25 March. All the details of the tour are here.