I’m headed out to Ballymun today to watch a rehearsal of my play For Saoirse, a play I have on out there as part of the Dublin Fringe Festival. For anyone who doesn’t know, Dublin Fringe is like a party popper that explodes across Dublin once a year and loads of wild and colourful theatre appears all over the gaf and it’s great to be part of it again.
I was involved with the Fringe before, with Three Men Talking About Things They Kinda Know About, a play co-written and performed by myself, Kalle Ryan, Stephen James Smith and directed by Sarah Brennan. We were three blokes who thought we knew what we were at until Sarah came in a brought a fourth dimension to it. We’d written a series of interlinked poems and thought yeah, this’ll be deadly, us standing there taking turns talking into a mic, wow, and then Sarah watched us do poems and she was like, any chance you could like, walk around a bit on stage? We’d never even thought of that. We were experienced performance poets, but when it came to theatre, we were relative dopes. She brought it to a whole new level.
That was the combo – Three men and one woman. This time the number is the same but the configuration is different. Me having written my first full play with no role on stage, Eric O Brien acting, Mark O Brien directing and Suzie Cummins on lighting design and I’m mad excited about where all these new elements have taken the writing.
The story I wrote was first commissioned in 2016, and it literally grew out of the rubble of Plunkett tower, the last tower in Ballymun to be demolished. When the play was in development we had a rehearsed reading on the Axis stage and I watched Eric under a spotlight, reading the script to an audience. Near tied to a lectern, he was like a hawk tethered to a stake, wild and mad for flight, and I can’t wait for people to see what he’s like untethered. His energy and use of space, alongside the timing, the lighting, the soundscape, all deployed by Mark O’ Brien, are taking the words beyond anything I could ever have imagined.
The play is about movement most of all I think. Movement in two ways.
Movement through the city – the story begins in Ballymun, actually it begins in the pub, where you could say a lot of Irish men are born, and Craner is drawn back to Ballymun over and over again. He is under constant pressure, from the women in his life, from his past, from his circumstances, and like a lot of people in Ireland right now, he is struggling to cope with high expectations with limited resources.
Secondly it’s about movement through time. Ballymun has always been a very special place to me and a unique place in Dublin, and now it is even more so. It is a place populated my people who are in the same location they have always lived in, but have had to leave everything behind. I lived there myself but even if you haven’t, I think you can still understand this feeling because what happened to Ballymun is like a intense, compressed version of what happens to us all – time, the cruel bastard, takes everything away and it’s that experience really, that Craner is coming to terms with in the play. He’s a bit of a mad yoke, and he’s a standard little hard man, walking the walk, doing the do, but he’s also about to be a father, and like TS Eliot’s Prufrock, he finds himself pinned under the universe’s gaze, the world he’s in collapsing on him, and how he reacts to that is (I hope) both great craic and an uplifting, feel good story.
(c) Colm Keegan
For Saoirse is part of Dublin Fringe Festival. Preview 18th September, shows 19th-22nd September at the axis, Ballymun, Dublin. Tickets available here.
About Randomer by Colm Keegan:
Randomer, is a poetic tour de force.
The reality of life stripped back to its bare fundamentals. Despite charting a life lived through austerity and the predations of political elites and bankers, Colm Keegan’s optimism for his children, his family, and his community never flags. Even on the most difficult terrain he is a sure-footed and trustworthy guide. While still honouring his roots in the Dublin vernacular, Keegan increases his range, more sophisticated and diverse in style, more mature in tone. In the rubble and the detritus, in the waste and the ruin, Keegan finds nuggets of subtle and pervasive truth, all of it from lived experience. A doll s house, a simple meal, a trip to the library, all are imbued by Keegan s signature ability to see the world anew, and, tellingly, to take it on its own terms.
Order your copy online here.