American-born Irish actress Saoirse Ronan made her stage debut on Broadway as the main antagonist in the 2016 revival of Arthur Miller’s 1953 play THE CRUCIBLE at the Walter Kerr Theatre. She played the manipulative maid Abigail Williams, responsible for the deaths of 150 people accused of witchcraft in Salem in 1692. It was an allegory for McCarthyism. In his review for The Hollywood Reporter, David Rooney called Saoirse’s performance “icy and commanding.” The production won the Tony Award for Best Revival.
Last year she made her London stage debut as Lady Macbeth in the Almeida Theatre’s production of Shakespeare’s THE TRAGEDY OF MACBETH.
In 2020 the New York Times ranked her tenth on its list of this century’s Greatest Actors. She has been nominated for four Oscars – for her performances in ATONEMENT (2007), BROOKLYN (2015), LADY BIRD (2017), and LITTLE WOMEN (2019) and five BAFTA Awards in the same films with the addition of THE LOVELY BONES (2009). She won a Golden Globe for her title role as Christine ‘Lady Bird’ MacPherson in Greta Gerwig’s 2017 directorial debut LADY BIRD.
Saorise signed my sketch of her as Abigail at the Almeida Theatre during the final week of MACBETH In November 2021.
It’s hard enough to spell ‘Saoirse’ let alone pronounce it. Even as I type it, a red line appears underneath, so even spell-check has concerns. The few drops of Gaelic in my blood composition isn’t enough to enable me to roll it off the tongue. It would be more rogue than brogue. I’m not alone. In fact there’s a YouTube video devoted to correctly pronouncing her name and many an interviewer broaches the subject as a rule rather than the exception. Saoirse herself says it’s pronounced ‘Sersha’ like ‘inertia’, although she said some Irish say ‘Searsha’. Either way it means ‘freedom’. The 21 year-old was born in the Bronx in New York City to Irish parents, but grew up in Ireland’s County Carlow, spending a great deal of it on film sets with her father, so her career path seemed inevitable. She came to prominance as the eccentric 13 year-old aspiring novelist Briony Tallis in Joe Wright’s Atonement in 2007, earning BAFTA, Golden Globe and Academy Award nominations.
On Sunday she was presenting a screen talk as part of this year’s BFI London Film Festival, before attending the premiere of her latest film Brooklyn the next day. A civilised crowd of us lined up to greet her at the back of the BFI on London’s South Bank, discussing how to pronounce her name when she arrives. ‘Ms Ronan’ seemed proper and easier, not that she needed reminding of her name and why we were gathered. But that didn’t stop the more vocal collectors calling out a number of verbal variations. She got the picture and it didn’t really matter how to say or spell it because she doesn’t seem bothered and doesn’t include it as part of her sig anyway.