“I had about six opening games. Then I got fucking cancer ‘

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“I actually wrote part of it at St Luke’s when I was getting radiation,” says Deirdre Kinahan. “The chemotherapy almost completely killed me, but the radiation didn’t make me breathe. So I was in Terenure, delighted with myself, lovely cafes and all. I used to receive my treatment in the morning and write in the afternoon. I have lots of good friends in Dublin and I used to go to see my friends at night. These three weeks were child’s play.

It was a disaster, however, when she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2018, while performing her play Rathmines Road at the Dublin Theater Festival: “2018 has been an amazing year for me, I had about six years. opening pieces, all over the world. world, London, Ireland. And I was 50 years old. And then I got fucking cancer. She had written The Savior for Landmark Productions; Anne Clarke planned to stage it in 2020. First cancer. Then Covid.

Now, says Kinahan, she’s back with various plays in the works, including In the Middle of the Fields, “a play for Meath Co Council, which has been turned into a play that just opened in Washington DC.” And the Savior.

Playwright Deirdre Kinahan

It was a late decision to stage The Savior for the Cork Midsummer Festival. “You light a tuppence with this Covid all the time, with changing regulations and rules. The people have been incredibly inventive and determined.

The duo, with Marie Mullen and Brian Gleeson, directed by Louise Lowe, will broadcast three performances during the festival, live from the Everyman stage.

He opposes social, political and religious changes in Ireland over the past 30 years, but he does so by focusing on a domestic situation and a woman, Máire. Everything is there: responsibility, trauma, forgiveness, faith, weight of history, religion, God, laundry, emigration, family relations, piety, deception, homosexuality, change of attitude, secrets.

While the storyline involves some heartbreaking and at the same time morally difficult revelations, it doesn’t start out that way. It begins happily, reveling in the sexual pleasure of a mature woman. The note is enigmatic: “On the morning of her 67th birthday, Máire sits in bed and smokes a cigarette. There is a man downstairs. She blossoms. It’s sort of a giant cheer “for all the Máires!” Agree the three women in the rehearsal room – actress Marie Mullen, director Louise Lowe and director Leanna Cuttle.

Mullen, looking through the glass of the door, is perched in an ornate brass bed. Looks a little like Bailegangaire, and besides Mullen jokes: they think, old woman in bed? We will launch Mullen!

They rehearse The Savior in a beautiful, airy hall at the top of DanceHouse on Foley Street, Dublin. Their safety rules are strict on numbers in space: I can only visit when Gleeson, who plays Máire’s son, Mel, is not there; Kinahan sometimes joins Zoom. A large sliding door opens onto an outdoor patio and a gentle breeze blows through the curtains, airing the room. A camera on a tripod faces the bed. Lowe watches the monitor as she directs.

Post-coital happiness

They repeat a first section. Máire reveled in the post-coital bliss, nonetheless wondering, “So, did I completely go to the dogs at the end?” Or is it fair? I wonder if you will tell me, Jesus? Later, out of bed, there is a discussion about Mullen’s beautiful hair, how she handles the hairbrush. Máire is a pious woman – it turns out she was a teenager in the laundry on Stanhope Street Magdalene.

Louise lowe

Louise lowe

Cuttle signals that the regulated indoor time limit has expired, and we take a break outside on the terrace. I stepped into what Lowe calls their cuddle bubble, the tight repetition of an intense piece. That alone is a thrill these days. Lowe: “How lucky am I?” A, we rehearse, B, I rehearse with amazing people. Yesterday they did such an amazing thing that I couldn’t speak. I was hit by the suction cup.

Mullen: “The support in the room. That one [Lowe] has levels of understanding that she can generously impart to you.

They talk about layers – in the script, in the performances, in the rehearsal process. Lowe describes Mullen as “almost like watching someone have this physical palimpsest of themselves. You see the lost girl and the woman struggling with her sexuality, then you see hope, faith, and the divine.

Mullen: “It’s a tortuous piece, it’s very revealing. “

Lowe: “He catches you. You think you’re laughing, and then it’s gone with a line. Oh.”

Mullen: “The audience will think, did she really say that?

During rehearsal, Lowe walks around planning camera angles on a tablet. The theater designer has done acclaimed in situ work exploring this area of ​​the north of the city (including the laundry, on Gloucester Magdalene Street). In 2018, Lowe trained as a multi-camera television director with RTÉ, and this experience was also useful in streaming theater, bringing the camera eye to his vision as a director early on, rather than “someone else’s funnel it”.

Mullen says, “She comes out of the rehearsal room and goes on stage, and only we are involved. She works with us, and she works on the cameras at the same time.

Lowe loved streaming theater during the lockdown, with a global audience sharing the energy of the live. “We were playing with digital media anyway [before Covid]. I don’t think we’ve cracked it all yet as an industry, the hybrid of theater and screen, but there’s something really exciting about it.

By the end of the rehearsals, she’ll have written a three-camera script, planning the shots, and sitting down with a vision mixer, calling it live during the performance. “Because it will be live, and no cheating.” Does this mean that some recorded performances are presented as if they were live broadcasts? “Ah, there was a lot of cheating on the live broadcasts! ” she laughs.

Live shocks

Vivacity is part of the evolution of history and its shocks. “This hour and six minutes is real time,” Lowe explains. “While it’s uncovered or stripped, we’re on it with you, but we can’t push ourselves forward or back. When she opens it [gift in the script] it’s like a Pandora’s box, what she will discover, about herself and about this tsunami.

Máire’s character is both strong and vulnerable, they agree. Its development will resonate with mature women. “You really want it for her – do it for all the Maries.”

Mullen says, “When I was about 59 or 60, that’s when I noticed I was a bit invisible. Maybe when my hair turned pure white or something. Things had changed. And they shouldn’t. Because I feel like I’m 16 in my head. Still, the world changes you a bit.

“I remember thinking at one point that my knees would give up the ghost. But they stuck it out. She rubs her knees.

There is a lot of humor in the script. And yet, says Lowe, “don’t make it funny with debauchery. It’s not Shirley Valentine-y.

Kinahan says The Savior “was floating around in my head for a while, hugely influenced by the trauma this country has dealt with over the past 20 years. It seems that we are finally faced with the caliphate that we have all lived under since the formation of the state. All of this thinking and examining our revolution and the deep betrayal of ideals, and how the Catholic Church has kind of taken hold and ruled us for almost a century. There is collateral damage there – men and women brutalized, raped, abandoned, chased away. It feels like it’s reaching a climax, with all the courts and all the reports, the exhibition. We are grappling with this as a nation. There is something about this story of a deeply devout woman who befriends this man that allows you to unlock the trauma of that.

She evokes “a kind of Orwellian twist”, with those “who had all the power now presenting themselves as victims. I think the progress is fragile. The extraordinary joy of the referendum on marriage, the abrogation of the eighth, is so fragile. Eirexit and the right and the church and the Gemma O’Dohertys, they’re sitting in the tall grass. They would take us back to the dark in a moment. All of these things were fermenting in my head.

Adaptation mechanism

To get the big picture, they’re “big themes in small pieces, kind of like Patrick Kavanagh’s Epic. These types of disasters manifest in bodies, relationships, families, and societies, and affect us all. Like Máire or hates her, she is one of us. We all came from this story. You can show it in how it affects Mel, her siblings, which can also harm the next generation. “

Traumatized as a child, Máire’s coping mechanism, of Jesus responding to her, saved her for years, Lowe observed, but it is “the thing that will destroy her real relationship.” In order for her to allow herself freedom, says Kinahan, she must see it as part of Jesus’ plan. “Because that’s how tightly controlled women like her were.”

“These are just brushstrokes. The whole piece is really just a meeting, one morning, but it can say a lot, and you can sew these things into the fabric of a person’s life. This tenderness between her and Mel. But then she has hiccups.

Máire embodies forgiveness but also illusion and denial. “I think we all do it in some way, we all have a very complicated relationship now with religion and spirituality, with God, with our past. Because it has been slammed in our courts and in our Constitution. And coming out of idealism and internationalism, feminism and socialism, the labor movement, that was all the momentum behind our revolution. How did these ideals die? And how did the church get such a hold that we all turned on ourselves, and we maybe hurt ourselves more than the British ever did.

Landmark Productions’ The Savior, a new play by Deirdre Kinahan, will be broadcast live from the stage of the Everyman Theater as part of the Cork Midsummer Festival, for three performances June 19-20, with a return on demand by the suite, from June 21 to 27. corkmidsummer.com



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