I'm the creator and performer of five sell out solo storytelling shows including Border Fairies, 2021, and There’s Bishop in my Bedroom, 2017, both premiered at the MAC theatre, Belfast. One of my stories features in the Array Collective’s 2021 Turner Prize winning installation ‘The Druithaib’s Ball’. A regular live storyteller at Belfast’s tenx9.com my stories have been recorded for BBC Radio Ulster’s ‘Tell Tales’. In 2019 I was artist in residence at the Outburst Queer Arts Festival. I like to think that I'm reinventing the tradition of Irish oral storytelling with a queer twist for the 21st century.
Born near Blarney Castle and educated at a Catholic seminary I escaped Ireland in 1987 for Communist China. In the early 1990s and in love with a Belfast Protestant I hid out on the Irish border. Falling under the spell of numbers I became a don at Oxford University and a Lecturer at Queen’s University Belfast before in 2016 finally embracing fairy storytelling. My fairy stories are true. My storytelling is renowned for using my own personal physical objects to re-enact my past.
MAC Theatre, Belfast
12-14 November 2021
A Catholic fairy escapes from 1980’s Cork to Belfast, that well known utopia of Gay Liberation. A 1920’s Protestant with a Cork accent flees the Irish Free State for the freshly bordered North. What buried stories bring two dislocated fairies together in life and in death? Hiding out in Bandit Country, who is actually the bandit? In the 100 years since the partition of Ireland, history has never looked so queer.
Excavating personal stories that shine a light on the troubled relationship between The Fairies and The State, master storyteller Richard O’Leary (There’s a Bishop in My Bedroom; Stories for The Month of The Holy Souls) brings us the most powerful chapter yet of his trademark poignant and insightful storytelling theatre. Using surviving love letters, personal photos, press cuttings, unofficial papers and fascinating ephemera, this intimate, funny and telling show reminds us that official histories never give the whole story and that questions (and who can ask those questions) are often more interesting than answers.
An Outburst Commission, supported by the Shared Heritage Fund distributed by Heritage Lottery Fund on behalf of the Northern Ireland Office.
LOOKING FOR LOVE DURING LOCKDOWN
Black Box, Belfast
November 2020 (recorded / pay per view)
It’s never too late to look for love. Again.
But where do you even start looking in 2020, in the middle of a pandemic lockdown?
The personal ads? Tinder or Match.com? The Knock Marriage Bureau? Or pray to “Saint Anne, bring me a man…”?
It’s time to take off the mask and reveal your true self.
A master storyteller who brilliantly weaves modern gay experience with traditional Irish storytelling, Richard O’Leary has created some of the most memorable shows in the Outburst programme over the last few years. From There’s A Bishop in My Bedroom to Stories for the Month of the Holy Souls, his autobiographical tales are warm and entertaining, surprising and revelatory.
Richard’s latest one man show takes us by the hand through the Otherworld of online dating. Expect dates, sweets, granola and adventures with Tintin and Snowy.
Don’t forget to pack Barry’s Tea, fairy cakes, two glasses, plastic gloves and beard oil.
This is a fairy tale. My fairy tales are true.
STORIES FOR THE MONTH OF THE HOLY SOULS
Black Box, Belfast
My grandfather was an undertaker. My dad was a storyteller. Naturally I want to tell stories about death…
November is the month when Catholics traditionally remember their dead - the Holy Souls.
Observed since the ancient Irish festival of Samhain, it’s the time of year when our physical and the supernatural worlds are closest.
But what do you do when there's a dead body in your bedroom, the body of your gay partner?
Send out the notices.
Stock up on Barry's tea and barmbrack and prepare for the funeral. A DIY funeral.
CUT: ADULT CIRCUMCISION FOR THE UPTIGHT
The MAC, Belfast
Adult penile circumcision is a subject in health that is rarely discussed, at least in public, but Cut aims to speak out and break the taboo. In this entertaining true-life story of a Cavalier who became a Roundhead, Dr. Richard O’Leary takes us beyond the embarrassment and squeamishness of a tight foreskin in this hilarious educational talk about that most sensitive of body parts – the penis. In the comforting hands of Dr. O'Leary, this short performance lecture will lead you comfortably through the minefield of questions you were too afraid to ask.
This short performance lecture – inspired by his own experience with adult circumcision and taboos in the health service - aims to get health professionals, men and others talking about the important things we are reluctant to say out loud.
THERE'S A BISHOP IN MY BEDROOM
MAC Theatre, Belfast
13th 14th November 2017
If you’ve ever been whacked by the crozier you’ll know how it feels!
Written and performed by Richard O’Leary, There's a Bishop in my Bedroom is a hugely entertaining new one-man show that riffs on the familiar local theme of religiously mixed marriage to address a very contemporary topic: same-sex love and equal marriage.
Emerging from Outburst’s New Queer Writing workshops with Tinderbox Theatre Company last year, this performance combines Irish oral-tradition storytelling with folk theatre to take on sex education, sourcing illegal condoms in 90s Dublin, falling in love, religiously mixed and same sex relationships and facing the realities of end of life care. Based entirely on Richard’s own extraordinary story, we follow his early years as a would-be priest in Cork through to coming out as a gay man and falling in love with a Protestant minister who would become his life-long partner.
Directed by Patrick J O' Reilly, this is wonderfully feral, funny, raw and deeply affecting storytelling theatre that will leave you in no doubt about the power of real love and commitment.
Turner Prize Winner 2021: Druithaib's Ball/Síbín
My Fairy Story commissioned by the Array Collective
This newly created eight minute story was performed and recorded at The Black Box, Belfast for the Array Collective's Druithaib's Ball for their Síbín art installation. This installation at the Herbert Gallery Coventry won the 2021 Turner Prize.
Short Performed Stories on YouTube and Podcast
Richard O'Leary introduces you to his great aunt Esther. She was a professional nurse during World War One. We'll have a peek inside Esther's satchel. Maybe we will find notes from her (no longer) secret admirers. Because she is his relative, her story is his story. Her story is also history but a history which is not widely known. This bold and brilliant woman deserves a medal.