The Piano Lesson a Ken Wardrop Documentary interview with Mary O’Sullivan who features in the Film


Limerick Musician and Actress Mary O’Sullivan and her students Heather Small (11) her sister Rachael (9) and Gráinne Lynch (14) from the Redemptorist Centre of Music, were featured in the Ken Wardrop documentary, The Piano Lesson, which premiered at the Irish Film Institute (IFI) Dublin, as part of the Audi Dublin International Film Festival (ADIFF) on Monday, February 20.

Internationally acclaimed, Multi-award winning director Ken, interviewed and filmed a number of Piano teachers and their students throughout Ireland for this unique production, and received an extended standing ovation at the end of the screening from a sold out venue.

“The way it’s shot and the moments that Ken catches are stunning, I think he has got an amazing talent, an amazing eye, he’ll let you see things and then it’s for you to judge how you felt.

“He captured people’s personalities. There’s really funny moments, where there’s the interaction between pupils and teachers, so many different characters, and it was interesting to see how involved parents are at different levels. As a teacher I’ve never gotten to see pupil’s at home, to see the part that music plays and how it slots into their life,” said Mary.

Though this is Mary’s first time seeing herself on the big screen and in a documentary, she is no stranger to the limelight and over the years has combined teaching piano with a flourishing acting career.

In 2015 while completing a Masters in Education and the Arts at Mary Immaculate College, she played Little Voice’s mother, in the College Players Theatre production of, The Rise and Fall of Little Voice, at the Lime Tree Theatre.

Mary has studied at the Gaiety School of Acting, and worked as a professional actor in London. In 2010 she won Best Supporting Actress at the All Ireland Drama Festival, toured with Mirage Theatre playing the title part in Educating Rita, worked with Island Theatre, Shoestring Theatre, performed at the Riverside Studios, Edinburgh and London Fringe festivals, toured with College Player’s ‘Metamorphosis’ which won the All Ireland Drama Finals and then went on to represent Ireland at the International Drama Festival in Japan in 1995, and was Musical director when they represented Ireland at the International Drama Festival in Monaco. Mary has also worked on radio and television and composed music for an RTE documentary.

“I don’t like watching myself but you actually saw the real Heather and Gráinne, I was very proud and delighted for them. Heather was so excited, Gráinne so laid back, very natural in the film, they are both fantastic and really talented,” said Mary.

Growing up in a musical household as her mother was a piano teacher and a member of a well known band the Therant Sereneraders, Mary’s first piano lesson was when she was 8years, but from an early age she would have been curious and tinkled on the piano in the family home.

“I hope my students get enjoyment out of the lessons. There is the side where you can decide you want to achieve something at the end of the year which is the certificate, at least you have targets, but at the end of the day it’s a hobby and it’s a talent. The exams are an achievement but also, it’s nice just to be able to go away and relax and play the piano. That they look forward to going to the lessons,” added Mary.

Produced by Andrew Freedman, The Piano Lesson examines the special bond between piano teachers and their pupils, with over 30,000 students in Ireland preparing for exams each year, this funny, sensitive, touching film shows the students as they practice and prepare for exams, their struggles, and their teachers’ dedication.

Ken who studied filmmaking at the National Film School (NFS) at the Institute of Art, Design & Technology (IADT) Dún Laoghaire, has had his films screened at the Sundance and Cannes film festivals, the Cork International Film Festival, and at festivals in the UK, Croatia, The Netherlands and Scandinavia.

In 2008, his work received the Grand Prix Award at Sapporo International Film Festival in Japan. His short film Undressing my Mother, won a European Film Academy Award, Special Jury Mention at Sundance and an IFTA for Best Short Film. His Documentary on Circumcision Ouch and Bongo Bong, were both nominated for an IFTA. Farewell Packets of Ten won Best Short Documentary at Toronto. His & Hers, his first feature debut won the Audience award at the Dublin International Film Festival, the Feature Award at the Galway Film Fleadh, an IFTA for Best Feature Documentary and the Cinematography Award at the Sundance Film Festival 2010.

“It was a joy to be involved with this, these are really nice guys and so professional. He is fantastic, with all kens achievements he is such a nice down to earth genuine guy.

“I am really looking forward to the gala night in April, because it was lovely to go to the screening. We will get to talk to the people afterwards and maybe get to know the people a little bit better, because there were some really interesting characters in it, some fantastic kids,” added Mary.