BODY & BLOOD by Lorraine Mullaney
10 – 12 July 6.30pm
Presented by Unclouded Moon Productions
A dark comedy tackling Irish arranged marriages with authentic humour and live music by second generation playwright, Lorraine Mullaney
“The Irish are a witty race and the play reflects this”
Lorraine, what’s the story?
The play tells the story of an Irish girl, Aileen, who arrives in London in 1956 looking for her sister, Maeve. Maeve ran away from their home in rural Ireland to escape an arranged marriage to an elderly farmer “with a face like the Turin shroud”. But, instead of finding her sister, Aileen meets Jimmy, Uncle Colm’s young drinking and betting partner. Jimmy shows her a new side of life, full of freedom and possibilities. Will Aileen choose this new life or return to Ireland and make the sacrifices required to stay true to her roots?
Why this play now?
The drama explores the conflicts and culture clash that result from migration and the pull of traditional values from the ‘Old Country’, which is experienced in the play by the Irish immigrants in London in the 1950s. The same story could be told about many kinds of people in many parts of the world right now. We live in a globalised world where the movement of people mixes cultures in a way that’s never happened before.
What changes have you seen in Ireland that you are featuring in the play?
I grew up in London with Irish parents who had very traditional values: we went to mass every Sunday and said our prayers every night. Girls and boys were expected to follow very traditional gender roles. Ireland has changed a lot since those days – it has its first openly gay Prime Minister and the church no longer wields the same power. This play shows how different life was for the Irish who came to London in the 1950s and how few options people had back then – particularly women. There was much less freedom and personal choice – family and tradition came first.
What role does humour and music play?
The Irish are a witty race and the play reflects this. Arranged marriages are a difficult topic so it was important to infuse the story with humour and life – in the form of some live music and dancing. It’s what the Irish are famous for!
[The director, Fumi Gomez, explains her vision behind the live music:
“Live music is used to open a door to hope. The same song is played three times, in different styles, moving forwards with the times. This is meant to signify how society can evolve, changing our world for the better. A marriage between folk tradition and modern innovation that mirrors the social changes that have happened in the last half century.”]
How would like audiences to respond to your play?
I’d like them to be entertained, to have a good laugh and to realise how lucky we are to have the choices and freedom we have today. There’s a lot of fun and laughs in the play and live music expresses hope and new possibilities.
LEAD SUSPECT by Stephanie Withers
17 – 20 July
Presented by Off The Middle
Was it the Poodle or the Pug? Naughty, cheeky, and ludicrously funny – we have some questions for producer, Matt Seager
Matt, what’s it about?
LEAD SUSPECT is a dog murder-mystery. A whodunit story, where dogs are solving the crime! Inspired by the curious case of the 2015 Crufts dog show poisoning, this is a quirky, playful, and naughty, physical comedy, where actors play dogs, and tell us the story through the eyes of the canine competitors.
Why this play right now?
I think for us as a company, it’s important that it’s a departure in content from the examination of Alzheimer’s disease and music in our previous production IN OTHER WORDS. We developed LEAD SUSPECT with a grant from Farnham Maltings at The Cockpit Theatre in January and it was received extremely well. It feels exciting and freeing to concentrate on comedy and making people laugh. It certainly feels like the right time to do that ...
What goes into making a really good comedy?
I think it’s a lot about being aware of your audience at all times. It’s most important to carry a sense of fun and take the play with you throughout – make sure you’re having fun and the audience are more likely to as well!
It’s very different tale to the company’s first play earlier this year, written by yourself; the critically acclaimed IN OTHER WORDS (at The Hope Theatre). How has the company progressed since that production?
I think you learn a lot when your first make your own work, both from a creative perspective and otherwise. You learn what worked, and from your mistakes, to make sure they don’t happen again.
Oh, and don’t panic!!
I do think we’re really discovering our style as a company, which is super exciting. Although the subject matter is worlds apart, there’s loads of consistencies in terms of storytelling style, a kind of stripped back creativity, and the ways we address the audience-performer relationship.
Who are your audiences and how are you developing them?
I’d like to think we appeal to a real variety of audiences. We love that we’re building a bit of a base in Islington now that our first two productions will have been there. If you keep an eye on our social media pages, we’re really excited about working with the Kings Head to offer further discounted tickets to students AND there will be promotional codes for those who post pictures with their dogs and include a special LEAD SUSPECT hashtag.
BURY THE HATCHET by Sasha Wilson
13 & 14 July, 9.30pm
Presented by Out of the Forest
Did Lizzie escape the hangman's noose? Based on a true crime, we chat with writer/performer/Artistic director, Sasha Wilson
Sasha, What’s the background to the story?
Fall River, Massachusetts, where our story takes place, was nicknamed “Spindle City” and in 1892 was the leading textile manufacturer in the US (second only to Manchester worldwide). It was historically a Puritan town that was now booming with industry and immigrants, from Ireland or Portugal and beyond. The world is really starting to open up. When newspapers were reporting on Lizzie, the telegraph was operational and someone could pick up a paper in California and find out the next twist of the plot. Peoples’ experiences were no longer bounded by where they could travel to.
Indeed, the World’s Fair in Chicago is just around the corner and modernity is slowly creeping in but there is still a ways to go. Lizzie Borden’s house didn’t have indoor plumbing for example! This is what fascinates me: a world, in many ways parochial, chafing with the advancements of ‘to the future’. They want to be able to test the blood spatter for details of the crime, but the technology is still so primitive that they can only tell if it’s human or not. People are yearning for the future, in a way that only people who are aware of their limitations can.
What made you want to write the play?
As a native Masshole, I grew up with it. It is the perfect melange of unsolved mystery, bodice-ripper and costume drama but oddly I have never really enjoyed other tellings. The Christina Ricci made for TV movie is preposterous in its indiscriminate embracing of all the myths and believed bits of information. I want to tell the story in a way that I felt had been woefully neglected. Additionally, I am very interested in women who did things beyond the societal limitations placed upon their gender. There are records in the reporting on the court trial of people not being able to believe Lizzie capable of a crime of such brutality because of the frailty of her arms. That was very interesting ground to cover. No one is going to suspect you; do you dare more? Or are you pigeon-holed into what is expected of you?
How do you strike a balance between honouring the dead and being entertaining?
I'm one of those dying breed that find history really entertaining. Inherently, I think the people involved in this story are fascinating. You have all the tropes of great drama - the penny-pinching father, the usurping step-mother, the diligent sister, the long-suffering maid and the enigmatic leading lady. What is fascinating to me is that the media created these tropes and very little is really known about any of the players. This play is about unpacking historiography and using Lizzie as a lens for that. The music and the puzzle piece narrative structure are theatrically entertaining but the meat on the bones is all real.
What are the unique features of the forthcoming production?
The majority of the dialogue is culled from newspaper articles from the period and inquest testimony. There are lots of incredibly telling details in the words they actually used. The other unique feature is the integration of music. I am a huge fan of folk music and murder ballads and I worked with an ethno-musicographer to compile the tunes for the show.
Who is the play for and what do you hope they will take away with them?
This play is for history buffs, true crime aficionados and lovers of the unsolved. I hope that what people take away from this is how complex it is to ever really know the truth.
FOR ALL OTHER PLAYS IN THE FESTIVAL CHECK OUT KING'S HEAD WEBSITE www.kingsheadtheatre.com
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London Pub Theatres Magazine Limited July 2017