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The Essentials
Colin Farrell and Barry Keoghan sitting on a wall overlooking the sea in 'The Banshees of Inisherin'

Image credit: © 2022 Searchlight Pictures. All Rights Reserved. / Still From The Banshees of Inisherin

A guide for aspiring performers about how to get into the acting industry in Ireland, the acting courses available and where to look for acting jobs.

Ireland is renowned for its music and literature and is home to many gifted storytellers – it’s no surprise a long line of talented actors hail from here. Liam Neeson, Jessie Buckley, and Ruth Negga are notable performers whose careers have extended to Hollywood.

Irish talent was front and centre at the 2024 Academy Awards, with Cillian Murphy taking home the Best Actor in a Leading Role award from his role in Oppenheimer, and Irish-made Poor Things having a whopping 11 nominations and four wins. Irish actor Barry Keoghan has also seen plenty of success for his role in Saltburn after a previous year of nominations and wins for his role in The Banshees of Inisherin.

All this follows a record-breaking 14 nominations for Irish talent at the 2023 Academy Awards for The Banshees of Inisherin, its stars Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson, feature film The Quiet Girl (which was the first ever Irish language film nominated for an Oscar), and Paul Mescal, who secured a surprise Best Actor nomination for independent film, Aftersun.

Belfast and Dublin boast a thriving arts scene and are great choices for actors. If you’re living in Ireland or are thinking of moving here and want to establish an acting career in the Emerald Isle, this guide will cover what you need to know.

Actor Courses in Ireland

Full-Time Training

For full-time courses, the prestigious The Lir Academy in Dublin is a great option. They have various postgraduate, graduate and foundation courses in their curriculum, as well as short courses in acting and voice. Recent Lir graduate Teddy Moore became the first ever Irish winner of The Spotlight Prize in 2023 for their stage performance of Andre’s Mother.

The three-year BA Acting course is part of Trinity College and has an association with RADA. Alumni include Paul Mescal, whose career has skyrocketed since his graduation in 2017. 

The Gaiety School of Acting also based in Dublin – offers a two-year professional actor training course, and its Alumni include Aiden Turner, Olivia Wilde, and Colin Farrell, who dropped out upon winning his breakout role in BBC drama, Ballykissangel.

The BA Drama course at Queen’s University in Belfast has a multidisciplinary approach and a specialism in Irish theatre. A lot of the teaching takes place at their on-campus Brian Friel Theatre.

TUD (formerly DIT) is on the rise, and has a host of amazing graduates. They now offer a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) in Drama Performance, and have the new Black Box theatre space since moving to a brand new campus in the heart of Dublin City Centre.

The Bow Street Academy is the National Screen Acting School of Ireland and hosts a fantastic range of workshops led by industry professionals, including auditions, self-taping, showreels, and an introduction to screen acting. It is also part of the Actor as Creator, which offers funding for actors making their own short films.

Cork is the second largest city in Ireland and University College Cork offers a Theatre and Performance course (BA Hons). The college has produced some great performers who have gone on to secure representation with top agents in the country.

Part-Time Training

Alongside their full-time programmes, The Gaiety School of Acting offers a variety of part-time courses for adults, and the Lir Academy also runs short courses

The Belltable Hub in Limerick focuses on contemporary theatre and offers masterclasses, workshops and Artists in Residence programmes to support theatre artists’ professional development. 

The Lyric Theatre is a Belfast institution where many of Northern Ireland’s notable acting and writing talent started their careers, including the Lyric’s patron Liam Neeson. The Lyric’s 14-week Drama Studio course is for 18-25-year-olds, and the workshops run on Tuesdays and Saturdays. Upon completion, students are invited to audition for their summer Drama Studio production. Many of these classes are in the evening and are a great way to brush up on your skills, meet people, and keep up to date with local castings.

The Lir Academy also offers a variety of short courses for several age groups. They range from audition workshops, accent masterclasses and voice over.

What Acting Jobs Are There in Ireland?

A slew of fantastic Irish TV shows have been on in recent years, including Derry Girls, Normal People, and Blue Lights, and production is not slowing down. Ireland is home to breathtaking scenery, so it’s a popular film location for home and international projects like Bad Sisters and Wednesday Season 2, which is currently filming in Co.Wicklow. Screen Ireland is a great way to keep up to date with the latest production news.

Irish theatre is highly regarded worldwide with Oscar Wilde and Samuel Beckett being two of the most well-known Irish playwrights. Dublin boasts a thriving theatre scene, and The Gate Theatre is a hub for world theatre with many famous faces starting their careers on its stage – including Orson Welles, who made his professional debut in 1931.

The Abbey Theatre is the National Theatre of Ireland, and The Gaiety Theatre hosts a varied schedule throughout the year. The Civic Theatre is 45 minutes from the city centre and champions contemporary and international theatre. The annual Dublin Fringe Festival is a 16-day event every September, with over 100 shows happening across 40 venues, so be sure to search for casting opportunities online and via social media well in advance. It’s also a huge platform for all performers to showcase their talents in spoken word, comedy, drag performance, dance and so much more. 

Druid Theatre Company has been a major showcase for both classic Irish historical works of theatre, and as well for developing new and upcoming artists. Most recently Irish actors had the opportunity to perform in New York as Druid presented their DruidO’Casey Trilogy to an American audience.

Project Arts Centre is a huge supporter in showcasing experimental and adventurous projects and supporting emerging theatre companies. It is also a home for touring productions.

Dublin Theatre Festival creates a lot of opportunities for actors and supports the careers of many first time theatre makers. The highly anticipated festival brings world class theatre to Dublin every year.

An Taidhbhearc in Galway is the centre of Irish Language theatre in Ireland that showcases projects from the Irish speaking community. Actors with Gaeilge should definitely get in touch.

The Lyric Theatre in Belfast and the Playhouse in Derry are prominent theatres in Northern Ireland with both producing incredible pieces of theatre throughout the years. Mac Theatre Belfast is another great venue for theatre in Northern Ireland as well as the Big Telly Company who endeavour to bring theatre to smaller communities in Northern Ireland. 

You can find an interactive map of theatres in Ireland here.

Finding Auditions in Ireland

Casting platforms like Spotlight are a fantastic tool to find auditions – whether you have an agent or are self-represented. We have a small team based in Dublin who have specialised local knowledge of the industry. If you’re based in Ireland, you can add your location to your Spotlight profile, and filter casting breakdowns for Irish projects in your jobs feed so you can find local projects. We also offer membership payment in euros and you can now pay by direct debit. Find out more about Spotlight membership.

Spotlight also offers workshops to its Irish members and in the past has done workshops on TV and film castings, musical theatre, scriptwriting and voice.

If you’re looking to work in theatre, you may also want to look at The Abbey Theatre as they have a casting email on their website and welcome submissions for upcoming productions as well as invitations to attend actor’s productions. The Gaiety School of Acting and The Lir Academy both post castings directly onto the news section of their websites.

Some notable casting directors that work in Ireland include Louise Kiely Casting, Carla Stronge Casting, Maureen Hughes Casting, Amy Rowan Casting, and Moiselle Casting. If you want to catch the eye of casting director Frank Moiselle, whose credits include Penny Dreadful and Vikings, then watch his self-tape musts. It is always worth following Irish casting directors on social media to keep up to date with their projects and any roles they may have available. 

Living in Ireland

Dublin is the most expensive city to live in Ireland, with higher rent and cost of living than the rest of the country – although cheaper accommodation is available on the outskirts. 

Other cities actors could consider are Galway which Lonely Planet ranked as one of the best cities in the world, or Ireland’s second most populated cities, Cork or Belfast. 

Ireland is a great place for actors to develop their careers, with fantastic training facilities and a close-knit industry to navigate. The country is renowned for producing quality theatre, TV and film and is a wonderful option for anyone wanting to establish their acting career in beautiful surroundings.

Ready to launch your acting career in Ireland? Check out our performer memberships and see if you meet the criteria to join Spotlight.

Take a look at our website for more industry news and acting advice, including how to get an agent in Ireland.

Sarah Ridgway trained as an actor and has dabbled in stand-up comedy. Sarah is now a freelance writer, and her credits include Backstage and Actors Pro Expo; she is also passionate about empowering solo female travel.

Headshot credit: Sarah Ridgway