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fair play Johnny Ward delighted to perform in front of live audience for first time in 18 months

When Ireland first went into lockdown in March 2020, Johnny was rehearsing for a nationwide tour with Copper Face Jacks: The Musical.

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Johnny Ward

Johnny Ward

Johnny Ward

Former Fair City and Love/Hate star Johnny Ward will never forget the moment he realised, early last year, that Covid-19 was shutting down the world of acting indefinitely.

There were three nights on the trot I didn’t sleep a wink,” Johnny tells the Sunday World. “I would stay up all night just watching the news. It was the worst thing I could have done.”

The hugely ambitious and highly motivated Irish actor and performer says he lives for his work and needs the sense of fulfilment and self-worth that it gives him.

When Ireland first went into lockdown in March 2020, Johnny was rehearsing for a nationwide tour with Copper Face Jacks: The Musical.

“One of the production team behind Coppers said, ‘don’t worry, this will blow over in two or three weeks. At the most it’ll be a month. We’ll be going into rehearsals at the end of May’.

“When that didn’t happen I think that’s when it hit me, ‘oh God, there’s actually nothing.’ I’m usually one of these people coming towards the end of a run in a show or TV series where I can’t wait to do nothing for a month. I’ll never bloody wish it again.

“I was missing that feeling of self-accomplishment that you get through doing a scene in a film or a TV series, or getting a standing ovation in a show. You feel fantastic afterwards seeing your hard work pay off, and suddenly that was gone and there was nothing to do.

“I need that feeling of self-accomplishment and it wasn’t there. I’m one of those people who wakes up and feels that I have to achieve something in the day and not waste my life.”

With no work on the horizon, fitness fanatic Ward says he bought himself some gym equipment and pumped his energy into regular workouts.

A talented singer, Johnny also turned his attention to songwriting and composing poems.

“I wrote a load of poems and a couple of songs, and did some performances online,” he says.

He also had a viral hit with a parody song called Life Is S***e. “I was taking the mick out of Leo Varadkar and Micheál Martin and the response I got to that song was much better than Love/Hate and Dancing With The Stars combined,” Johnny laughs.

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Coming up to last Christmas, Ward got a boost when the lockdown was lifted and he landed the role of Captain Hook in a Peter Pan panto that was set to run as a drive-in event at Dublin’s Malahide Castle.

The panto, which also starred Alan Hughes and Jake Carter, was recorded for screening.

“It was like doing panto in a ghost town,” Johnny says of the experience. “Normally you feed off the audience, their energy and the feedback, particularly being the villain. I went on the stage as Captain Hook going, ‘oh yes I will!’, and you’re getting absolutely nothing back.’ I was looking out into an empty theatre.”

The drive-in event was later cancelled due to a new lockdown, and the panto was screened online. The Peter Pan panto is now available in cinemas nationwide this summer.

However, Ward is totally elated over landing a new role in a live production of the legendary musical, West Side Story, which will be performed in front of a small audience at Dublin’s Bord Gáis Energy Theatre next Sunday.

This will be the first in-house production and performance in front of a live audience in 18 months at the Bord Gáis.

The two scheduled performances next Sunday will employ 71 industry professionals, including 20 home-grown performers who have been out of work since last March.

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