A Little Closer

Ivan Little finally gives up the day job - but will it be an easy ride as a full time actor? Click Play Audio for a podcast interview

It’s all Fridays and Mondays with actor and journalist Ivan Little. For a man who claims never to have spent a single day out of wilful employment for forty years, it’s been a remarkably smooth ride – leap frogging from one job in the Belfast Telegraph to another in Downtown Radio and on to UTV, always finishing on a Friday to begin again three days later.

And the pattern is set to continue – even as he steps down from his position as senior reporter with UTV at the end of February. 

Dealer's Choice‘It’s serendipity,’ Little remarks. ‘My last day at UTV will be at the end of February on a Friday, and I start rehearsals for The History of the Troubles [Accordin' To My Da] on a Monday. Up until now I've had the best of both worlds, but I've always had that little voice in the back of my head saying, 'you really would prefer to be an actor'.'   

With Martin Lynch's The History of the Troubles - back at the Grand Opera House in Belfast for another, updated run - finishing at the end of March, Little is understandably nervous about what the future holds for him as a theatre actor. As every Northern Irish actor knows, roles are scarce.

For the time being, however, Little finds himself doing what he's always done - juggling the day job with the night job, and rehearsing for his next role in Patrick Marber's Dealer's Choice, a Rawlife Theatre Company production at the Baby Grand.

Winner of both the Evening Standard Award for best comedy and the Writers' Guild award for best West End play, Dealer's Choice combines the thrill of the poker game with the quickfire banter of Reservoir Dogs.

It's a normal Sunday night in Stephen’s London restaurant. Chef Sweeny and waiter Frankie amuse themselves by indulging fellow waiter Mugsy in his ‘ambitious’ scheme to open a new restaurant in an old disused public toilet. They are killing time as they wait for the mysterious customer, Ash, to finish his meal and allow them to begin their weekly poker game - a game they'll never forget.

From the writer of Closer - an intimate and intricate examination of sexual relationships, which was made into a film starring Jude Law - and co-writer of the Alan Partridge vehicle, Knowing Me, Knowing You, Dealer's Choice is certain to raise the odd chuckle - but it's not all witty banter. 

'For anyone who thinks it's about a poker game, they're completely wrong. It's all about Dealer's Choicerelationships,' reveals Little. 'This is [Marber's] first play. It's been revived and revived. He was a fanatical gambler himself. 

'On the surface the first couple of acts are hilarious. There's a character in it called Mugsy, who is just off the wall. He reminds me of Fireball in The History of the Troubles. Ciaran Nolan acts the part brilliantly. People will enjoy it as a comedy, but I think they'll come away after the third act and realise that there was a lot more going on.'

It's an interesting challenge for Little - a self-proclaimed poker novice - but one that he hopes might open up more varied stage doors in the future.

Although he doesn't consider himself a gambling man, it remains to be seen if the daring hand Little's played, in terms of career choice, will pay off in the end. There's no doubt that the public will be behind him whatever he chooses to do. He has, after all, enjoyed a phenomenal career thus far. Here's to another thirty years of thespian tomfoolery from everyone's favourite blooper.

Lee Henry 

Dealer's Choice runs in the Grand Opera House's Baby Grand from February 4-13. The History of the Troubles [Accordin' To My Da] returns to the Grand Opera House from March 9-14.