Three Chairs and the Truth
Bono once robbed a line from someone that always stuck with me: “All I need are three chords and the truth.” As cliched as that may sound, I totally bought into it as a young, hopeful musician. And maybe that’s why I’ve just performed the theatre equivalent.
Three chairs and a table. And three actors. (In this case, myself, and the amazing Ciara O’ Connor and Abi McCormick.)
And the truth, of course. Hopefully, we got that. The truth, or as close to it as we could possibly get.
The play was called KINGDOM OF THE MAD, and I was lucky enough to have it chosen to be part of the Scene+Heard Festival 2020 in Smock Alley. The festival closed on Saturday night after eighteen days which saw 109 companies performing in 125 events, seen by over 8,000 people. Now in its fifth year, Scene and Heard is the brainchild of Caoimhe Connelly and Cliona Dukes. Their aim is to provide a platform for theatre artists to explore ideas and get feedback from audiences.
So, what was our play about? The lives of the three famous poets Anne Sexton, Sylvia Plath, and Robert Lowell were inextricably linked. They were all patients of the Maclean Psychiatric Hospital at different periods in their lives, and Plath and Sexton were also writing students of Lowell’s at one time. KINGDOM OF THE MAD tells the imagined story of these three poets sharing the halls of the McLean Psychiatric Hospital. Sometimes humorous, sometimes dark, the play examines issues of mental health, creativity, and the line between genius and madness.
Given that Scene+Heard put on 125 shows in 18 days, you might think that the attention to detail might be lost. Not at all. For instance, all audience members were given a feedback form going into each show, and those forms will be collated, and the results passed onto the various companies, something that will be invaluable as they take their shows forward.
And, at the end of the day, it all comes down to the play. KINGDOM OF THE MAD was featured in The Boy’s School – a beautiful, intimate room – alongside Jennifer Laverty’s hilarious short play, SHROUDED. We played to a full house on both nights, and the audience reaction was amazing.
Sometimes, all you need are three chairs and the truth.
Derek Flynn runs Writing.ie's SongBook blog, and is an Irish writer and musician. He has a Masters in Creative Writing from Trinity College, Dublin. He’s been published in a number of publications, including The Irish Times, and his fiction was featured in 'Surge', an anthology of new Irish writing published by O’ Brien Press with the aim of showcasing “the very best of the next generation of Irish authors”. Online he can be found at his writing/music blog – ‘Rant, with Occasional Music’ – and on Twitter as @derekf03