A red nose is a mask. It is the smallest mask in the world. We all wear masks.

We wear them for different reasons. The clown I'm most interested in is the clown that is you. I've found that in investigating the clown it comes very close to the self.

When you put on the red nose, it suggests you are funny. However, there is also tragedy in the clown state. Even if you never become a clown, it's a valuable place for performers to go. You get quite a lot of philosophy from the clown state.

The tragedy of the clown appeals to me. There is also a loneliness and dignity and poignancy in the clown. You can really bring that out. One minute you can be laughing at something, the next minute you can be pulled up by something. I love it as a discipline.

The clown is a very tough discipline. I facilitate some classes, and some of the finest actors in Ireland actually struggle with it. I've been doing it for years, and I'm slightly more confident with it now. If you think about it, the clown is the flip side of theatre.

Even though part of me hates the clown, I also love the clown. When I'm a clown on stage, I'm in a different place.

I used to be scared of clowns in the circus. I find Ronald McDonald abominable. I adore some circus clowns but I remember running out of the cinema as a child from Laurel and Hardy. We think the clown belongs to the circus. I would argue 'are clowns for children?' When we see the clown we pick up the kids and bring the kids over to the clown, but the kid is petrified and crying.

It's really interesting.

There is a difference between the clown at the circus and the clown that I am here. I am interested in the character of the clown and the theatre of the clown. I would never do the unicycle. I'm not interested in the performing clown. I'm much more interested in the story of the clown, where he comes from and all of that.

I began devising this show around the theme of mid-life crisis. I liked the notion of mid-life crisis. I was thinking about things like life and death and the life hereafter, and then of course the clown hereafter.

I think the clown is more zen than god. The clown lives in the moment. But he also invents the moment. He is always here now. The clown is not a character but a state.

The clown state breaks the fourth wall. The audience is with me and I'm with them. I look at the audience. It is very in the moment. Although there is a beginning, middle and end to the show, even as a character I don't know what is coming next. That for me is the essence of theatre.

'Tanks a Lot' runs at Project Arts Centre until 11 June, and goes on tour afterwards