Sean Kearns: Northern Irelands best kept secret

A Streetcar Named Desire is now playing at the Lyric Theatre Belfast. Now is a good time for me to tell you about one of Northern Ireland’s best-kept acting secrets, Sean Kearns.

Sean Kearns

Let me tell you about him.

First of all, before you read any further, I have to tell you that I’m biased when it comes to my opinion.

While I don’t know Sean personally, but I am good friends with his daughter. It was her who made me aware of how many of his performances that I have enjoyed.

I’m ignorant like that.

Let me a list to you the three productions that Sean Kearns has been a part of that have left a lasting impression for me.

You may have seen him in Good Vibrations as John Peel. I didn’t see that show, if I had, I’m sure that it would have got a mention.

That role exemplifies the kind of actor that is Sean Kearns. He is dependeble, hard-working and gracious to help the work of those around him.

Someone prepared to sacrifice the glory to boost others is a rare quality in the average population. To have it in the acting world is something else entirely.

1: The Chairs

Owen McCafferty’s translation of the Eugene Ionesco play was an eyeopener for me. I saw it when I was still in school. In a rare occasion that our Drama teacher was not residing in Spout City she took the class on a trip to see the play.

Up until this point in my life I wasn’t engaged with plays and theatre. I liked acting, I liked attention and plays were the primary means of getting it.

My knowledge and experience were limited. Having seen a few panto’s and gone to see a relative perform as part of the local community theatre.

The Chairs is a part of the theatre of the absurd. An old couple set out some chairs in preparation for a speech that the old man has hired an actor to deliver.

The couple welcome guests into their house, here’s the thing, there are no guests. Right before the speech is made the old couple commit suicide.

The orator goes to make the fantastic speech, he’s a deaf-mute.

Womp womp.

When I saw this as a seventeen-year-old, it blew my mind.

It opened up a doorway to what theatre could be and how it had so much potential.

From there I had a bit of an obsession with absurdist works, particularly the works of Samuel Beckett.

My engagement with theatre began with The Chairs.

Who played the old man?

That’s right Sean Kearns.

Sean Kearns

2: The Importance of Being Earnest.

The most that I’ve ever laughed? Harry Hill in the Mandela Hall. It was proper hacking cough laughter by the time it was over.

The second most was at this all-male production of The Importance of Being Earnest.

It was played broad, it was a horizon of hijinks.

It put the b in subtle.

There was some family trip to Dublin that we were on and at a whim, we decided to go and see it, best last minute decision ever.

Oscar Wilde is a writer who you remember for his words. This production I remember for its movement. The flailing arm gestures, the entrances, exits and sudden turns.

My family were in hysterics. It was so funny. Tears of laughter.

There is a moment were two men, in drag, as females wrote about each other in their diaries from across the room. It was timed to perfection, and I can’t do it justice.

You’ll have to trust me.

3: Wicked

Admittedly this one wasn’t for me.

This was another last minute decision.

A bit of backstory is in order.

My mum is a massive Game of Thrones fan.

I liked the show too but she really really liked it. She bought the books and devoured them within a few months.

What I’m telling you is that she loved the show and everything associated with that.

Mum found out that Kit Harrington appeared in a production of Faust. She wanted to go to London to see it. I got invited because I like plays and knew who Kit Harrington was. Dad missed out this time.

More like dad dodged a bullet.

Faust was properly terrible.

Like really bad.

It had people running around a squalid flat set in dirty underwear. Imagine an episode of Bottom where no one gets hit in the face with a frying pan.

One thing that I will say about Kit Harrington’s acting is that he is in excellent shape.

I hated it.

My mum, bless her socks, attempted to be optimistic about the whole thing, but I knew she was gutted.

Thankfully Sean Kearns was able to step in and help us out. He was in the production of Wicked as Dr Dillamond.

Through his daughter, we were able to get our hands on some tickets at the last moment.

Wicked was a slick production.

The songs were good, the set was grandiose, and the story did the job.

Again, I am not the intended recipient of something like Wicked.

It doesn’t matter because mum loved it, and it saved the trip for her.

Thank you Sean.


Sean Kearns is a workhorse of London theatre, and it’s great that he is once again able to perform on his home turf.

With A Streetcar Named Desire appearing in the Lyric theatre you may not be aware of who Sean Kearns is.

The play is so good you should give it a chance and discover one of Northern Ireland’s secret acting treasures.

You can book tickets here.

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