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People: Kieran Griffiths on his special relationships

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Centre stage: Kieran Griffiths is producing West Side Story

Centre stage: Kieran Griffiths is producing West Side Story

Centre stage: Kieran Griffiths is producing West Side Story

The 35-year-old creative producer of the Playhouse Theatre, Londonderry will direct West Side Story in Belfast’s Grand Opera House this month. He lives in Derry with his fiancee Charlene Lourens.

My fiancee, Charlene Lourens

We met at a dinner party in 2010 through a mutual friend. Charlene was visiting from South Africa on a working visa for a few weeks. We fell in love and we'll be getting married in March next year. She now works as the head of sales and marketing at the White Horse Hotel in Derry.

I think my hectic schedule was a bit challenging for her at first. I can be in rehearsals all day, even up to 3am.

Thankfully Charlene knows what I do is my passion and she understands I need to put the hours in. We make a real effort to spend time together when we can - you have to work on your relationships as much as you work on your career.

My best friends

I don't have that many casual acquaintances, just two very close friends who are like brothers to me. I met Conor McGilloway and Daniel Ferguson at St Columb's College, Derry.

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Conor still lives in Derry. He works as a software engineer and got married last year.

Daniel is also a software engineer in Derry but he spends half of every year working as a missionary in El Salvador.

The three of us go on retreat once a year to Lough Derg together - we've done it every year since we were 21. We also get together for meals out in an Italian restaurant each year on our birthdays. It usually ends up with us singing Italian arias at 3am with the owner and his staff. It has happened every year for the last three years so the owner now expects us to show up.

My parents

My dad Tommy works as a van driver and my mum Colette was a housewife looking after the six of us. I'm the second - my older sister Stacey and I are Irish twins as there's only 11 months between us. Then there's Nicola, Ryan, Conor and Maria.

We're a very close family - I think it comes from the six of us all sleeping in the same room, as my mum and dad only have a two-bedroom house. Now that we've all left, mum and dad are having the time of their lives.

I was in my first play when I was 17 - I did very well as the lead. My dad took me aside after and told me there was no money in theatre and that I should at least get a degree in something I could make money at. I think I'm the only teenager to ever take their dad's advice as I went and did a degree in software engineering. I set up a production company straight after university but spent six years working full-time as an engineer too. I graduated in 2001 and didn't manage to take my first holiday until 2012 because of working both jobs. Mum and dad have been hugely supportive the whole way through.

The person I go to for advice

That has to be both of my parents. They're really good friends as well as being my mum and dad and are very wise too. I go to them about everything - nothing is taboo.

My secret celebrity crush

I have two. The first is Julie Andrews but she would have to come dressed as Mary Poppins. The second would be Maureen O'Hara but she'd have to be dressed as Kate Danagher from The Quiet Man.

My mentor

Pauline Ross of the Playhouse in Derry, of which she is the founder and artistic director. She is my theatrical guardian angel. I went to the Royal Academy to do a Masters in Musical Theatre in 2006 and asked if I could put on a show to raise funds for my fees. She essentially handed me the keys of the theatre and told me to go ahead. She's been supporting my career ever since.

Fantasy dinner party

I would ask Rik Mayall because he was a brilliant and courageous comedian and every dinner party needs a laugh. Then I would have Oscar Wilde so he could wax lyrical about his non-conformity.

Next would be Jesus Christ, as I would have a lot of questions for him.

Finally, I would ask Daniel Day-Lewis. I'd like to talk to him about his work, his preparation for his roles and his hobbies.

  • The New Lyric Operatic Society's production of West Side Story runs from Tuesday to Saturday, November 18-22, at the Grand Opera House, Belfast. For details, visit www.goh.co.uk or tel: 028 9024 1919

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