Theatre review: A Tender Thing

Originally published by, Wednesday 29th January, 2014. To read the original please click here

A Tender Thing, Ben Power’s adaptation of William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet

In his essay ‘Reimagining Shakespeare’, featured in the program for A Tender Thing, Patrick Lonergan states, quite rightly, that “…every generation of theatre-makers and audiences feel the need to reinvent Shakespeare”. The impulse to visually contemporise Shakespeare in theatre and in film – be it West Side Story, or Baz Luhrmann’s 1996 film adaptation of Romeo and Juliet – is testament to the longevity of Shakespeare’s themes: be they love unfulfilled, the downfall of powerful leaders, or health and social issues that remain, in the news, to this day, such as dementia and euthanasia.

The success of A Tender Thing, Ben Power’s daring and visionary adaptation of one of Shakespeare’s most popular and enduring tragedies, is that it somehow manages to remain true to the muscular, romantic and poetic intensity of Shakespeare’s original text, while feeling truly original and fresh with subtle visual dimensions that shine through in Selina Cartmell’s direction and Monica Frawley’s set design.

The set – a bedroom with symmetrical wall lamps and bedside lockers, an en suite, featured upstage left, as well as featuring the central characters dressed in bedclothes – immediately recalls Alan Ayckbourn’s Bedroom Farce, particularly the bedroom of Ayckbourn’s ageing married couple, Ernest and Delia, albeit without the hilarity of Ayckbourn’s comedy. While Ayckbourn’s ageing couple spend most of their time delivering their lines from their bed, however, Owen Roe (Romeo) delivers his soliloquies with his back turned to a bed-ridden Juliet (Olwen Fouéré).

Olwen Fouéré as Juliet

At the centre of Power’s adaptation are two very contrasting performances that encapsulate the central dichotomies of Power’s adaptation. Owen Roe is, quite simply, Romeo as you’ve never seen him: Roe delivers soliloquies in a manner that is unexpectedly natural and less laboured. Much of the verbal force and energy of Power’s adaptation comes through in Roe’s predominantly verbal performance. The opening moments in which Roe bellows “Give me the light!”, downstage left, grabs the audience’s attention; once gained, Roe’s performance relaxes into natural, unforced tones that reflect the stripped down nature Power’s adaptation.

Contrasting sharply with Roe’s nuanced performance is a magnificent and startling performance from Olwen Fouéré. A master-class in physical acting, Fouéré’s brave performance brilliantly articulates Juliet’s terminal decline, while at the same time working closely with Sinéád Wallace’s subtle use of light, which is true to the mostly- silent nature of Fouéré’s performance. Wallace’s lighting, at times, almost feels like another character in the adaptation.

Featured on back on the play’s program is Shakespeare’s Sonnet 116, in which The Great Bard writes “Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks, / But bears it out even to the edge of doom”. In Ben Power’s slow-burning adaptation of Romeo and Juliet, we get a sense, over 90 minutes, of that doom through a compressed and consistent adaptation, full of imagination and, most of all, heart.

A Tender Thing runs at the Project Arts Centre until 15th February.

Star rating: 4 / 5
Venue: Project Arts Centre

Written by: Ben Power (adapted from William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet)
Directed by: Selina Cartmell
Cast: Olwen Fouéré (Juliet), Owen Roe (Romeo)

Interview: Genevieve Hulme- Beaman (Lydia) and Kerrie O’Sullivan (Kitty) from The Gate’s production of Pride and Prejudice

Originally published by To read the original, please click here.

Pride and Prejudice at The Gate Theatre

This week, I sat down with Genevieve Hulme- Beaman and Kerrie O’Sullivan, two young actresses starring in The Gate Theatre’s production of Pride and Prejudice, 200 years after Austen’s masterwork was first published. We talked about the enduring qualities of Austen’s great novel, what writer James Maxwell and director Alan Stanford have brought to their stage adaptation, and the tricky business of not tripping over in period- style garb

This year marks the 200th anniversary of the publication of Pride and Prejudice. Why, after countless stage adaptations, TV adaptations and film adaptations is the material still fresh for new audiences?

Genevieve Hulme- Beaman (Lydia): I think it’s the characters: there’s someone everyone can relate to in Pride and Prejudice, whether it’s Mrs. Bennet, one of the sisters…the sisters are all so different from one another.

Kerrie O’Sullivan (Kitty): It’s such a classic love story, too: boy meets girl, they don’t get on, time elapses, and, finally, they fall in love. It’s just a beautiful story. I remember Alan Stanford telling me that Pride and Prejudice is in the top five list of books that people read every year.

What has director Alan Stanford done to keep it fresh and vibrant?

Kerrie O’Sullivan: James Maxwell wrote the script and he and Alan adapted the script together. It moves really, really fast. It’s really Lizzy’s story, which of course it is in the novel, too, but in the show Lizzy narrates as time is passing and the narration really does add to the flow of the show.

Genevieve Hulme- Beaman: And he’s really aware of the rhythm of it; the rhythm of the comedy and the moving scenes. So I think that using that and being aware of it works and keeps it alive.

The balance between comedy and drama is very even in this production.

Kerrie O’Sullivan: I think it is, definitely, which is what I think Alan Stanford is great at doing. If there’s a tense, dramatic scene, Genevieve and I will often burst in to change the mood.

Your characters in particular, Lydia and Kitty, are two sides of the same coin. How do you both find time, as actors, to move away from the ensemble nature of the production to bond and work solely together?

Genevieve Hulme- Beaman: You try and make it happen, as much as possible, in rehearsal. It’s true that there are scenes that are busy and tense and demand that the two of us burst in, add a little color and ten burst off again, so it was quite easy to develop that.

Kerrie O’Sullivan: We’re constantly together, too: we’re joined to the hip.

Is Pride and Prejudice, as a play, a screenplay, a production that every actress aspires to perform in?

Kerrie O’Sullivan: It is, in the sense that it has five great roles for women. I don’t know that it was ever an ambition of mine; I just found out it was on, the script and the director were great and I think that’s what excited me most. Anyone can be part of Pride and Prejudice, but you want to be part of a great production.

Genevieve Hulme- Beaman: The character I play, Lydia, for me, is the character I was particularly excited about when I first auditioned to be part of Pride and Prejudice. I would love to be in Pride and Prejudice in years to come; like play Mrs. Bennett when I’m older! It’s a possibility, when you think about it, so for us, at this time in our lives, it’s exciting to be part of this production.

Kerrie O’Sullivan: And it’s great to be part of such a classic production, too. Bruce Schwenghl has done such an amazing job with the costumes.

Would you have seen other productions, or would you have constantly stayed away from other productions for fear that they might inform your choices?

Genevieve Hulme- Beaman: Well I’d seen the BBC production, before even the auditions came up. So I had very specific memories of all the characters. I wouldn’t be opposed to watching it again, though I wouldn’t be taking notes for myself, because it’s much more fun to start from scratch and create the character from nothing but the script. What I liked about the BBC production is the fun: they really keep the fun nature of Pride Prejudice going throughout and I would hope that we’re doing the same with this production, too.

What is like doing this play, in Ireland, in 2013, when attitudes to sex, marriage and relationships have, in the last 20 years, at least, become more liberal? Does Kitty’s “scandal” seem tame in the current culture?

Genevieve Hulme- Beaman: Well I think that Lydia’s “scandal” in Pride and Prejudice is of the time, so it is very hard to compare. Certainly, people nowadays hear stories, everyday, about a “cousin who ran off with another guy” or some such story and it doesn’t really seem to be a big deal. I think Lydia is probably the character who most people relate to in the current age, because she’s just doing what she wants to do, which is what young people are like these days. So it’s probably a much bigger jump to play someone like Jane, who is much more composed; that character doesn’t exist as much in our society, though there are plenty of Lydia’s running about the place!

Kerrie O’Sullivan: She is very much of the time.

Genevieve Hulme- Beaman: She is, and I think that Lydia is a romantic and naïve. She goes for the wrong guy, but apart from that, she doesn’t mean any harm. She’s having fun, but it’s naïve fun, because she doesn’t know what she’s getting herself in for.

Genevieve, you also performed in She Stoops to Conquer. Where there choices that you brought from that production to Pride and Prejudice?

Genevieve Hulme- Beaman: I think so. In both She Stoops to Conquer and Pride and Prejudice, you have are characters in search of fun and mischief and that provides great action and entertainment for all of us, I hope.

Kerrie, you also starred in Frank McGuinness’ The Factory Girls, another play that has five great roles for women. How did coming to Pride and Prejudice from The Factory benefit your performance and did you make similar character choices?

Kerrie O’Sullivan: I played Rosemary in The Factory Girls, who was quite a submissive character who watches everything; she’s an observer. She is the character who, at the end of the play, stands up on her own two feet and is young enough to make a change and believe that she can do whatever she wants. So with Genevieve’s character, Lydia, I think there is definitely a link; that sense of independence. With my character, Kitty, there’s definitely a link in the physicality and the presence of both characters: Rosemary in The Factory Girls and Kitty in Pride and Prejudice are both watchers. Kitty shadows Lydia for much of Pride and Prejudice and when Lydia leaves Kitty behind, Kitty has to stand on her own two feet. In Factory Girls, Rosemary is influenced by the older ladies in the factory and listens to their conversations and, by the end, she’s the one who, again, stands on her own two feet.  I’m not sure Kitty gets to where she needs to by the play’s end: I think her journey of discovery and maturity is just beginning.

Where do you see Kitty ten years on from when we leave her?

Kerrie O’Sullivan: What with Lizzy making such a good marriage, I think that Lizzy’s marriage throws Kitty in the way of a good marriage and that she marries a nice gentleman. Yesterday, in rehearsals, it was hinted that I should marry Fitzwilliam, because he loves to dance, to be lively, so marrying someone; not becoming a schoolteacher or a spinster.

Do you think the pressures for women in Pride in Prejudice are identical to the pressures that face women, today?

Genevieve Hulme- Beaman: I think so, in some respects, but also the advancement of women in society has brought pressures with it, too. Certainly, there is more pressure on women to provide, have a career, marry, have a family, look good in terms of appearance…they’re all there. The challenges are different to the challenges that characters in Pride and Prejudice face. There’s a lot expected from women today, I think.

Kerrie O’Sullivan: The pressures on women, today, are changing all the time, depending on where you are, as woman, in your life. It is funny, though, to think of an 18 year old in the era of Pride and Prejudice and 18 year old in the current era. The experiences are worlds are apart. An 18 year old, now, is preoccupied with going to University, travelling to Australia. The priorities are completely different. The education was different, too. The women then were very educated, but not in the classical sense: they learned music, sewing, etiquette, how to converse…it was a different kind of education. It is easy to say that weren’t educated, but they were encouraged to be artistic and to converse and practice good social etiquette. Obviously, it doesn’t compare to the opportunities that women have, today, with education.

Whether it’s Downton Abbey or Pride and Prejudice, what it is it about these period productions that people keep coming back?

Genevieve Hulme- Beaman: People go to these productions, especially in the case theatre, to suspend their belief. The audience is willing to go with the story, with the characters and with the time. They come in and they hear the language, they see the costumes and they’re there. And they go with Lizzy, with the Bennetts…they become emotionally attached to Lizzy. They feel the shock and upset of the characters.

Finally, I have to ask: the costumes: how much fun has it been to waltz around in period- style clobber?

Genevieve Hulme- Beaman: It’s been great! We’ve only really tried them on, but the first thing I’ve noticed really is the detail. Again, it’s that craft of women at the time: sewing, design…they were incredible craftspeople. Every little frill has detail.

Kerrie O’Sullivan: We were also given rehearsal dresses, which was absolutely key. They change the way you move. The dresses are floor- length: I’ve fallen twice already, which I hope I don’t do onstage!

The Gate Theatre’s production of Pride and Prejudice runs until January 18th 2013

Genevieve Hulme- Beaman, who plays Lydia in The Gate Theatre's production of Pride and Prejudice.

Genevieve Hulme- Beaman, who plays Lydia Bennet in The Gate Theatre’s production of Pride and Prejudice.

Genevieve Hulme-Beaman (Lydia Bennet)

Gate Theatre: Debut.

Other Theatre: Little Gem, (Touring nationally and to Australia); She Stoops to
Conquer, Monster /Clock, Pondling (written and performed as part of the 2013 Dublin Fringe Festival, Smock Alley Theatre); Pineapple (Lir); Heroin(e) for Breakfast (Pillowtalk Theatre Co.); Broadening (Glass Doll Productions).

Last year she directed a production of True West by Sam Shepherd in Smock Alley Theatre.

Kerrie O'Sullivan

Kerrie O’Sullivan, who plays Kitty Bennet in The Gate Theatre’s production of Pride and Prejudice.

Kerrie O’Sullivan (Kitty Bennet)

Gate Theatre: A Christmas Carol.

Other Theatre: The Factory Girls (Millennium Forum, National Tour); Perve (Peacock Theatre); Skin and Blisters (TEAM); The Hostage (Wonderland Productions); By the Bog of Cats (Abbey Theatre). Her dance credits include Beckett Embodied (Smurfit Business School). Film/Television: The Tudors (Showtime); Ten Steps (SP Films); Fair City, No Tears (RTÉ).

Theatre interview: Actor David Ganly and Choreographer / Actor Philip Connaughton

Originally published by, Friday 11th October, 2013. To read the original, please click here

A still from The Gate Theatre’s production of Brecht and Weill’s ‘The Threepenny Opera’

Extending its run from October 12th to November 16th, The Gate Theatre’s wildly successful production of Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill’s ‘The Threepenny Opera’ shows no sign of slowing down. Philip Cummins sat down with actor David Ganly and choreographer / dancer / actor Philip Connaughton to talk about risk-taking in Irish theatre, how Irish audiences are expanding their horizons and how Sonny Knowles and Bob Fosse inspired the cast’s dance moves.

Philip Cummins: The Threepenny Opera’s Macheath has been described as the Hamlet of musicals: he’s the anti- hero who every actor wants to play. How does the role compare with other work that you’ve done?

David Ganly: “Hamlet of musicals”: I love that! It’s a dream of a part and it’s a hell of rollercoaster ride. Our first half is one hour and forty minutes and once you’re on, you’re on; it’s full throttle and you have to hit it running. What I’m loving about it is the fine line- and no better country- between Macheath being an absolute villain and a rogue. He’s an unpleasant man who’s accused of everything from murder though to raping a young bride… and yet the audience somehow understands him. And I could feel parallels between figures in Irish history and Irish politics. I grew up in Dublin during the 80’s when there was, as we now know, a lot of dodgy dealing going on and those involved were quite blatant about their dealings.

It’s also no surprise, for example, that Love/Hate is so huge in Ireland, because people understand it: they understand those characters and the violence that has ensnared them, but Love/Hate doesn’t glamorise violence, and nor does The Threepenny Opera: what we do, I think, is hold a mirror up to the audience, each night, and say “in this situation, what would you do?”

The Threepenny Opera has also been described as “a socialist critique of a capitalist state”. How did much of the current sentiment among Irish people towards the current government, the current state of the country, feed into the performance?

Philip Connaughton: I think what’s so interesting is how The Threepenny Opera has lasted: it’s still so current. So it’s really the whole idea that nothing ever really changes, which is mentioned in the play.

I went to university in Barcelona- I studied Philosophy- and I remember discovering Marxism and Brecht through that and his concepts of alienation. To me, it’s remarkable how it feeds so well into today’s society; it’s horrific, almost. Again, it’s like Love/Hate: why do we have an interest in the underworld? The answer is, of course, that there’s a transparency to it. Brecht is telling you, throughout The Threepenny Opera, “This is what it’s really like; this is why it’s alluring.”

David Ganly: I think the play works very well for a working audience and Wayne Jordan, the director, pulled a masterstroke in using Dublin accents and Dublinese for the tone of the play. It isn’t about us, it’s about them and the people in this town. There’s an ownership of what is being said.

It’s interesting how a song like ‘Mack The Knife’, perhaps the most well known song in The Threepenny Opera, has been covered by everyone from Frank Sinatra and Michael Bublé to Tom Waits and Nick Cave…

DG: It is, but then it’s been sanitized by some of those acts. Sinatra’s jazzy version is a far cry from the spirit of the original, which mentions lines like “violated in her slumber” and “Mackie, how much do you charge?” The hair goes up on the hair of your neck.

PC: The melody and the tempo, too, are like clockwork: they’re getting the message across. We’re so used to ‘Mack the Knife’ with a jazz softness, but when you listen to how Weil’s version works with the Bob Fosse-esque movements. Simplicity, for me, works well in this piece, in terms of the choreography. I think sometimes choreographers can get carried away with movements, but I think that an audience responds well to simplicity. I remember in warm ups how the audiences would be fascinated with music hall singers from the 50’s in Ireland, such as Sonny Knowles, Dickie Rock, whomever…they always seemed to have gimmicks. Sonny Knowles used to use hand gimmicks on stage and I thought “That’s what this show needs: simplicity in the Bob Fosse style, paring it all down and letting the audience in.

One of the criticisms of theatre in Ireland is that there’s no hub, like Broadway or the West End, for musical theatre. What’s your view on that?

DC: The problem is that musicals aren’t here; the problem is that they don’t start here. I’ve lived in London for eighteen years and once every four / five years I will do a major musical production, really, as a commercial necessity. The reality is that you have to put a musical on for a year and a half and that it costs so much money, which, of course, you have to make back. One of the problems here is that we can’t do that because the initial investment isn’t there. The Gate couldn’t possibly make its money back on this show with eighteen actors and the crew…you can’t possibly do that in a short run. So, therefore, who in their right mind would invest in starting something in Ireland? The exception, of course, is Once, which could have been an Irish endeavor, but which had to start in New York and is now playing in London. It’s the element of risk-taking. We are living in a climate where people are afraid to take risks and, to be fair, risk-taking should be rewarded. Michael Colgan and the board approving this production is an extraordinary brave move on their part. To endorse the young talents in this production by approving the production- to say that this talent is here in abundance- does not often happen.

PC: I think, too, that the reaction to The Threepenny Opera has been overwhelmingly positive in a way that none of us really expected. I think that Irish audiences, in the past, have enjoyed musicals a lot more than they would let on, though they had a tendency to be a little cynical about new, homegrown work, here; this seems to be changing.

Have Irish audiences broadened their horizons and gone to see new work that might be considered out their comfort zone?

PC: I think it’s hard to say. From a dance perspective, I would say yes. I think it’s important that theatres like The Gate- incredibly established theatres- are always willing to push the boundaries and move out of their own comfort zones. At the same time, The Gate has a very established audience and by moving away from tried and tested programs, they are educating their audiences.

DG: It has been hard, though, to introduce new, innovative work. I recently did a play in the Abbey called ‘Drum Belly’- a really wonderful, fantastic production that resonated with 18-25 year olds. The Abbey stalwarts- the regulars who go time and time again, fled from the play. To be fair, it was a challenging piece, but also beautifully theatrical. Sometimes, we as an audience can deny ourselves theatrical pleasure by never really embracing the newness of something. It’s really hard to get people interested: times are tight and people will go with established plays and productions with stars or productions that are well known over taking the risk of embracing new work which they may / may not like.

PC: I know with the Dublin Dance Festival that, ironically, audience numbers are increasing and one would imagine that, things being the way they are, that dance wouldn’t be a priority for most people and it is, on the whole, a tougher sell. Every year, though, audiences and sales are increasing. There’s something very real with theatre that you don’t get anywhere else and people are recognizing that.

Did you expect that audiences and critics would receive The Threepenny Opera with the overwhelming positivity with which they have?

DG: No, not all. I had no idea how this production was going to go down with audiences. It’s a very rough, edgy, blue piece that could easily offend people. But it has landed so well.

PC: Macheath’s line “I’m thinking of going into banking” has audiences rolling in the aisles every night. That’s the line: it resonates with everyone.

How optimistic would it be to think that more work like The Threepenny Opera will find its way in The Gate and The Abbey: is this the start of a new chapter in Irish theatre?

DG: I sincerely hope that it is the start of a new chapter, though the onus is always on the audience to go out and enjoy and support new work. You forfeit the right to say that there’s no good theatre in Ireland if you don’t go out and explore what’s out there. My hope for The Threepenny Opera is that the risk that Michael Colgan and the board of The Gate Theatre have taken is rewarded not just by those in Dublin and the surrounding areas who come to see the play, but also that something like The Gate’s production of The Threepenny Opera could be co- produced so that The Gate could work with an English theatre, an American theatre and showcase the standard of work that we are capable of in this country. This production is world class: it would hold its head up high anywhere in the world, but we need the fiscal support to showcase it. That’s where the future of a show like this is.

PC: It’s also reaffirming that good decisions are being made and it shows that there’s growth and progress in Irish theatre.

DG: It’s like Macheath says in scene two, “Today’s the start and starting is the hard part”.

Due to an unprecedented, The Threepenny Opera will enjoy an extended run at the Gate Theatre until 16th November.



Theatre Review: ‘The Boys’ by Gerard Humphreys, The New Theatre, Tuesday 24th September, 2013

Originally published by, Wednesday 25th September, 2013. To read the original, please click here

Gerard Humphreys’ ‘The Boys’.

Gerard Humphrey’s The Boys- the latest in a list of plays performed at The New Theatre that carry a sociopolitical punch tells the story of Michael Connors, a young Traveller who finds himself marooned between the fraught tensions erupting within his extended family and the failure and shortcomings of the Irish judicial system and social services.

Opening, as it does, during a seisiún ceol in the aftermath of a Traveller’s funeral, The Boys – somewhat dangerously – aligns itself to Stage Irish perceptions of Irish life and, well, Irish theatre. Even an impassioned monologue from actor Michael Collins struggles to distance the opening scene from the jaded clichés that have, through the years, riddled otherwise good productions.

What one eventually realizes, however, is that the tired traditionalism of the opening scene is merely a starting point for a play that explores one young man’s quest for liberation from what the late Liam Clancy once termed “bad tradition”. Playing Michael Connors, the play’s protagonist, Drogheda native Barry Morgan shines in an understated and well-crafted performance, which works beautifully against Conall Keating’s operatic and accomplished performance as his violent, menacing and increasingly unpredictable nephew; a character pitched somewhere between The Playboy of the Western World’s Christy Mahon and The Godfather’s Sonny Carleone. Interestingly, Morgan is almost always center stage, further emphasizing his being stuck between the central dilemmas of the play.

Hovering over both men is The Don (Séamus Moran), who, in a sense, represents the loss of tradition towards a more materialistic, pseudo American and feckless being. The Don is a wayward devil and the architect of the nightmarish world inhabited by the Connors family, always leading the boys of the play’s title down a slippery slope of violence, recklessness and alcoholism.

In its weaker moments, however, The Boys plays subserviently to the expectations of Official Ireland. During the play, Barry Morgan’s Michael finds himself at the mercy of social workers (played by David O’Meara and Róisín O’Neill), one of whom offers Michael marijuana and later defends him from a violent priest who beats him, promising the priest that he- the social worker- will report the priest to members of An Garda Síochána. It’s a contrived scene that seeks to pit the left against the right; progressive attitudes against outmoded views of “the plain people of Ireland” that lacks any subtly or surprise and spoils a production that works best when it capitalizes on its well-written characters.

For all the lack of subtlety in key scenes, however, The Boys ends on a dénouement that is utterly unforgettable; Barry Morgan brilliantly delivers the play’s final line of dialogue, which, like all great final lines, echoes the thematic concerns threaded throughout the play and leaves audience members with a sense that they have seen the ending of an age and a way of living.

Star rating: 4 / 5
Review by: Philip Cummins
Venue: The New Theatre
Written by: Gerard Humphreys

Directed by: Patrick Joseph Byrnes
Cast: Michael Collins, Seamus Moran, Barry Morgan, Conall Keating, Kate Gilmore, Róisín O’Neill

The Boys will be showing at The New Theatre, East Essex St., Temple Bar, Dublin, from September 23rd to September 28th. 

Interview with Joey Kavanagh, Director of Whelp

Originally published by, Wednesday 11th September, 2013. To read the original, please click here

WHELP!: Mary Conroy (Left) and Lola White (Right)

BILLED as ”a new show about extended adolescence and protracted parenthood”Whelp, from Dublin company Come As Soon As You Hear explores Ireland’s ”Boomerang Babies” in a quirky and irreverent style.

We chatted to director Joey Kavanagh about Irish adolescence, the vibrant theatre scene in Ireland and how Margaret Atwood inspired Dublin’s latest recession-era play.

What attracted you to write and direct a play about Irish adolescence?

It was inspired by own experiences and those experiences of those involved in the show. At the time, all of three of us were living in our family homes, at an age where we felt that maybe we should be living independently. I had just finished a masters in college and I was just completely broke and I couldn’t afford to live on my own, so I ended up having to move back in with my parents. The other guys involved in the production, too, had to move in with their parents.

Interestingly enough, one of the guys who originally inspired the show – though is no longer involved in the show because they moved to Berlin – has now found his dream job in London as a designer for Generator hostels, so things worked out well for him. He’s no longer involved in the Fringe show as he’s gone on to bigger and brighter things. Our show is only for people who haven’t fulfilled their potential! So it’s based on our own experiences, really.

The tone of the play seems to be quite quirky, quite irreverent, in spite of the crime times we live in…

I think that’s a fair assessment. The stuff we do is generally a bit whacky, but also we don’t want to be feeling too sorry for ourselves. We’ve had to constantly remind ourselves during the rehearsal process and during the development of the show of the Twitter hashtag that seems to be doing the rounds quite a bit lately: #firstworldproblems. We don’t want to be moaning about or playing it like a sob story, because, at the end of the day, we’re very lucky and grateful that when things don’t go right, or don’t go our way, that we do have an opportunity to move home and we are all very fortunate to have our families.

The central message of the show is that you can either get caught up in these things and make them out to be bigger than they are or you can get frustrated by it all. At the end of the day, though, if we’re failing, at least we’re failing together and that’s something. So the show, in that respect, could be considered quite off-kilter; it doesn’t really follow much in the way of a conventional narrative. There’s going to be installations, different episodes where whacky things will happy on stage. I don’t want to give too much away! What I can tell you, though, is that it’s going to be a little bit hysterical, a little bit over the top… but hopefully good fun. We’ll be in Smock Alley, so the space is perfect for audience participation and interaction, which is always fun.

Smock Alley is a fantastic space. I saw Pat Kinevane’s Silent in Smock Alley and there was certainly a lot of participation. Is that what attracts you to the stage? That in the era of video uploading, the spontaneity and adrenaline of the stage can’t be matched?

What we really love is feeding off the live energy of people. We’ve done a few shows now and one show is never the same as the next: they’re all different. We always try and bring an interactive element to the shows, so that the audience can feed off the performer and the performers can feed off the audience and together we can make a show and we can make a performance. So that’s where the thrill in theatre is for us. It’s from the danger and the risk that things could go horribly wrong at any point in the performance, but also for the potential for things to get elevated to the next level and to become more than we originally set out to do, so that’s, I suppose, what the draw is for us. We try to involve the audience in a way that isn’t uncomfortable for them or for us.

WHELP!: Mary Conroy (Left) and Lola White (Right)

How long have you been involved in Come As Soon As You Hear?

I’ve been involved in Come As Soon As You Hear, the company behind Whelp, since 2009 and it’s very loose; the way we work is very loose. So while I have the title of director, it’s actually much more democratic than it seems and we do take each other’s suggestions and opinions on board. And we are blessed with a fantastic group of people: we’ve got a fantastic designer, we just drafted in a choreographer, an assistant director… so it is quite democratic and we do try and bring our own experiences and opinions to the thing. I’m not ruling with an iron fist! I don’t tell people to do things that aren’t coming naturally.

The last performance I did was a show in the 10 Days in Dublin festival and it was one it was called ”Lovely Girls Guide to Lovely Living”, which, again, was quite tongue-in-cheek and it was like this one woman crusade against 21st irony and sarcasm and it went down quite well and we’ve since performed it in Cork and we’ll hopefully stage it again. The main focus at the moment, though, is Whelp.

Who would you rate as writing or directing influences? The work seems to be laden with no small amount of social satire. Neil LaBute is a name that springs to mind…

It’s interesting that you would say that about one of my favourite ever playwrights. One of my favourite plays is LaBute’s ”Bash”, which i did in college. In Yer Face theatre is certainly an influence: something that gets under your skin and provokes a reaction. One of the lynchpins in Whelp is Karl Watson, who is really influenced by German theatre. In general, there is a sense that the Berlin theatre is really exciting. But I think there’s also so much going on in Dublin, too. Dublin has really become a really interesting hotbed, especially for scratch pieces and works-in-development. There’s so many opportunities now for up and coming theatre makers and we’re really encouraged by all that.

From looking at the Fringe program, this year, do you think that the goal posts have moved in Irish theatre since, say, ten years?

I think we did see a lot of shows – and Whelp may well fall into this category – that were directly inspired by the recession. I do feel like the playing field has leveled out quite a bit: that there aren’t as many plays about the recession and that we were looking beyond the everyday realities for inspiration. There’s such a variety of things on. If you look at what the Paperdolls Performance Company are doing… just fantastic. There’s also quite a lot of spoken word events, such as Oisin McKenna’s ”Grinder: A Love Story”, which I think is one of the highlights. There’s also a lot of whacky stuff; stuff that quirky and there is, I hope enough variety for everyone on the program: that theatre can be a lot of things.

Can you tell me about the cast?

The cast is just two people: Lola White and Mary Conroy. Lola had been with the show from day one and Mary came on board when we performed it first in Cork. Mary, at the time, was in UCC. That was really fun, because we got to perform it in a house, which is obviously the most natural found space for the play.

What’s it like when a new cast member comes into a production when existing cast members and crew may have already got comfortable and found their rhythm? Does it affect the dynamics of the production?

Well when Mary came in, the show was still very much sketch-based and episodic. It was far from a finished piece. And even when we performed it the first time with Mary in Cork, it still wasn’t finished. It is always great to have another perspective; it worked so smoothly for us, which is why we immediately asked Mary to come on board for the Fringe production because she just did a fantastic job. She’s a wonderful performer and I’m in awe of both of them. Mary brought in fresh ideas and new energy to the mix. Mary and Lola do make a good double act and we did consider expanding the cast for the show – perhaps adding a third person – but we figured that it might be enough to have just Mary and Lola, because they’re more than up for the job.

In Irish theatre, childhood, adolescence and friendship are becoming recurring themes and settings for plays – whether it’s the recent production of ”Disco Pigs” or Declan Hughes’ ”The Last Summer”. What do you think that’s down to?

I guess they’re themes that will never go away; that will never really be irrelevant to people’s lives. There was a poster that we put up on our Facebook page, the other day, and it was a quote from Margaret Atwood, which is ”everyone else my age is an adult, whereas I am merely in disguise.” I think that’s definitely something that everyone feels, now and again, if you have those moments where you remind yourself of your responsibilities as an adult.

I do think that this idea of living at home and the fact that people are a little bit stuck at home and feeling as if they’re not moving forward at the pace that they would like to… it does bring to mind a feeling of prolonged adolescence: a feeling that you’re still waiting to grow up. No one I know, my age, is buying a house in the current climate. All these things that we expected we would be beginning to do in our lives – mortgages, marriage, children – they all seem much further away than we ever really though they would be. The recession kicked in while I was in college, so I guess, like many Irish people my age, there was a sense that we had been working towards prosperity and, all of a sudden, the rug was pulled out from under my feet. So, in a way, there are many, many people who feel like they are in limbo. All that said, I think what the Fringe program reflects is that there are people out there making things happen for themselves and making lemonade from the lemons.

Whelp runs in Smock Alley Theatre until 13th September at 6.30pm. Tickets: €11 – €13. For more information and to book tickets go to: