The Librarian’s Cellar: At the Theatre: The Woolgatherer…putting skin in the game.

I don’t write about every play or film that I see. And of the ones I do write about, it’s more for the impact the work has had on me personally, rather than for any critiquing or reviewing of it. Recently, I went along to the Blue Moon Theatre Company production of the Irish Premier of ‘The Woolgatherer’ written by Emmy award-winning American playwright, William Mastrosimone.

Starring Sinead O’Riordan and Michel Hough, and directed by Dave Byrne, the play, set in Philadelphia, is a two-act, up-close and intimate portrayal of Rose and Cliff; the former being a fragile and highly sensitive candy-shop assistant, consumed and scarred by her history of mental health issues, and the latter,  a disappointed, long-distance trucker, with a cynical, wise-cracking edge that belies his empathic core.

Waiting for his truck to be fixed, Cliff just wants some fun and a bed for the night, preferably with Rose in it. That is, until he gets drawn in under the skin of this complex, highly strung, yet sweet and innocent young woman, and his earlier wants reveal a deeper need.

What struck me about the performances was the physicality and intensity of the actors as they absorbed the traits of Rose and Cliff. To the point of exhaustion, the audience were pulled into the lives of two wounded warriors, one pushing, one pulling, yet both being drawn in the same direction. Rose’s status quo could be summed up in the following lines, spoken in the midst of a heart-breaking monologue…and there was white feathers on the water. And the water was real still. And there was big swirls of blood. And the birds were real still. Their beaks alittle open. Legs broke. Toes curled. Still. Like the world stopped…

And from it, a sense of her trauma and neurosis, and the loneliness that engulfs her life, emerges.

Mastrosimone wrote of the play, that Rose dreamed of a prince of sorts, a kindred spirit who would one day walk into her life and liberate her from the imprisoning memory…a theme as old as time, and yet, in this instance, told with a refreshing, sometimes comedic and always riveting energy. Her prince does indeed appear, a hulking great specimen of humanity, and beyond the wisecracks and the cynicism, a pathos begins to ooze slowly from Cliff as Rose’s layers of fear and insecurities are slowly peeled away…

At its core, the Woolgatherer is a contemporary love story, told in a very unsentimental way, and dealing with the warts-and-all intricacies of two complex, everyday people, which is extremely satisfying. And if you listen carefully, beneath the lines and under the skin of these accomplished performances, you will go away with lots to think on, as I did.

The Woolgatherer runs in The New Theatre from 1st – 13th April. For more information go to www.thenewtheatre.com

Featured image is the copyright of Anita Kulon. 2013

Chilling with the ladies…and talking film!

Yesterday, on a day that was dedicated to features, short films, documentaries, workshops and panel discussions that showcased the work that women in the Irish film industry are involved in, I had the privilege of being invited as guest speaker for a panel discussion, Celebrating Women in Film, at Dublin’s 3rd annual Underground Cinema Film Festival.

The Festival is a unique concept that celebrates independent Irish film-making with an exciting mixture of work from some of the country’s best writers, directors and actors. Created by Underground Cinema, a well-established body recognised for presenting some unique, cutting edge, visionary works that Irish cinema has to offer, the organisation, led by Festival Director Dave Byrne, and Assistant Festival Director, Denise Pattison, takes pride in enthusiastically bringing attention to the Irish filmmaker.

The panel discussions, facilitated by writer/directors Fiona Ashe (Rapunzel) and Orla Murphy (Nollaig Shona), included guests such as the wonderful Olwen Fouere (This Must be the Place, The Other Side of Sleep) Kirsten Sheridan (August Rush, Dollhouse) Marian Quinn ( 32A), Birch Hamilton (Screen Directors Guild of Ireland) cinematographers, Eimear Ennis Graham (Charlie Cassanova) Kate McCullough (Snap) and producer Lesley McKimm (Stella Days, Happy Ever Afters)

Suffice it to say, there were a lot of rocking females hanging about the place!

The experience was enlightened further by the fact that the panel I was on, and the subsequent one, Making your first feature, turned into round-table discussions of sorts. This encouraged audience members to get as involved as the speakers on topics that ranged from looking at the statistics and the ratios of males/females working in the business, how women can support each other, dealing with the challenges of working in what is still seen as a male-dominated environment, conquering fear and confidence issues, successful models that could be emulated, better support and networking, internal misogyny (yes, unfortunately it exists, it seems!) and my favourite theme; just getting on with it, making it as good as it gets, and generating work that raises the game for all of us! 

On a personal level, I don’t want to write or make ‘women’s’ films. I just want to write and make ‘good’ films. Good films that screen in gender-neutral environments to be enjoyed by all.

Yes, I sometimes write about women who do bad things (Iris in Evanescence, Beth in Lady Beth, Ava in The Lupeni) but I make no apologies for also attempting to create a subtext that explores these character’s ’emotional’ (a dirty word, apparently!) dilemmas…the hidden side of their natures…where, in my opinion, the real story lurks.

As females, we are relational, therefore we feel and act out of that core place, be it filled with light, or heavy in the darkness. Out of doing the bad things, can come an internal crisis that is for me, much too compelling not to explore through my writing, so if it needs to be ’emotional’, then blessed be and fuck the critics!

And criticism, as was pointed out during the first discussion, is something that women should not be afraid of…neither the giving of, nor the receiving of!

I am also of the opinion that while the sisters absolutely should be supporting each other, the fact remains that talent is talent, and that through mentoring, shadowing and sharing good advice, we can all help each other out in what should be a collaborative process, whatever your gender.  And Viva la difference!

Check out the festival here: http://www.underground-cinema.com/