From Ballymena, Co Antrim, Maura Bird (24) is an actress who lives in London. During Covid, she worked as a caregiver and was inspired to write a play about it. She featured in the Marina Carr online summer production of To the Lighthouse and is currently performing on the live show Bang!
Stubborn, observant and always asking questions. We lived in the middle of nowhere. I was a very lonely kid but loved to create my own entertainment. I was running through the fields with kites made from a cutout carton of milk and plastic bags glued to string.
Choose three words to describe yourself.
Passionate, honest and non-binary.
When did you first become aware of the religious divide?
My father is a Protestant, my mother is a Catholic and I was brought up in the Catholic religion. I was called “Mudblood” at school. It was funny back then and I didn’t take it too seriously until a little later. When I went to a Catholic high school, I had to choose a side. My best friend and neighbor was Protestant and when I was 12 I really wanted to go to a Protestant church service because I didn’t know what it was.
Did that make your life difficult?
No. On the contrary, it broadened my idea of life. It is so easy to get carried away by the idea that Catholics are “right” and Protestants are “wrong”. There is a lot of hatred and bitterness. I have a lot of empathy for the Protestants there because they don’t have the same historical richness as the Catholics there. If we need to live in one place, we have to live and let live.
Video of the day
To what or to whom do you attribute your creativity?
I think I got down to writing and being creative because I saw that there were so many sides to things and I wanted to explore them all.
I have a lot of empathy.
How did your father inspire you?
He’s a singer-songwriter but he has a more stable job. He became director of a behavioral unit in Northern Ireland for children who have been expelled from school. He always sees the other side of things and says, “There’s a reason they’re like this.
How did high school go?
I was harassed verbally and physically. It was horrible. I’m not very feminine and used to stand with my legs wide apart. I think in rural areas people like to put you in boxes. They are afraid of something different.
Why are you an actor?
I want to study why we are the way we are.
Why did you move to London?
It was cheaper to live there than in Dublin.
Explain your journey to realize that you are not binary.
I am fairly masculine and growing up I have always been drawn to women. I went out and told everyone I was a lesbian. But then I didn’t feel comfortable. Then I started seeing a trans person who has female anatomy. It was right. Now I am nonbinary, gender fluent and my pronouns are “she” and “they”. Sexuality and identity are two different things. It is a specter.
Best advice given?
While in lockdown I worked as a community caregiver for the elderly in Northern Ireland. I would help them at home. A 95-year-old lady said to me: “As long as you still have your body, take a lot of nudes. And learn to love your body for what it is.
The best advice you give?
What drives you?
Has the Covid changed you?
It made me realize that life is a parallel line and not something you have to climb. I had just graduated with a bachelor’s degree in drama and suddenly it all stopped. But working as a community caregiver was so rewarding.
Why do you say it was a privilege to take care of the elderly?
I have learned so much from them. When we go back far enough in Ireland, we see that the tribes had old people as leaders because they have lived so much. I was so inspired by them that I wrote a play about it, Sharing is loving.
Maura Bird stars as Kim in Michelle Read’s new play “Bang!” at Smock Alley Theater until Saturday as part of the Dublin Theater Festival; dublintheatfestival.fr