In an ideal world, I’d write a play and it would be put on and people would show up and you could just afford to let the work speak for itself. But the machinery of theatre hustle needs oil so here are some words on my new play Taboo and maybe you’ll read them and consider coming to see it.
Taboo is about the first date between a boy and a girl. Their names are Lily and Tom. Lily doesn’t get out much. Tom finds it hard to meet people. They don’t know each other very well but that’s what a date is for, right? You get to know someone a little bit better. The play unfolds in real time over a three-course meal. They chat. They eat. And then the rest of the story plays out and I’ll say nowt.
What’s it about? It’s a dark comedy about dating in a roundabout way. It’s also about loneliness in all its forms: social exclusion, fear of dying alone, incompatibility, as well as having trouble connecting to people. In a world where more of our interactions take place online (including dating) I thought it would be interesting to look at two people trying to connect in a very traditional way.
It’s my fifth full length play to reach the stage (and first outside the nurturing bosom of Devious Theatre). With every play you write, you’re trying to do something different and stretch in some way. Although I noticed that by the time I’d finished this one, I had a habit of writing plays in pairs, usually taking different angles on whatever themes or preoccupations were on my mind at the time. My first two plays (Heart Shaped Vinyl, Smitten) were both musical comedies, set in Kilkenny with large ensembles and twenty something characters trying to figure out whether they were staying or going, both geographically and in terms of relationships/friendships. The next two (Scratcher, War Of Attrition) were angry, dole fuelled, media baiting, paranoid slices of agitprop about being angry with the establishment and fighting back. Taboo is number five but it wasn’t supposed to be. That was actually Tenterhooks, which I’ve had staged as a short play and a work in progress. But Taboo came along and got itself ready first and a lot of the themes I was interested in for Tenterhooks bled into that. Which is when I realised that I was writing in pairs and now I’m hyper aware of it so I really should stop doing that thing. Those themes were loneliness, people falling through the cracks of society and I guess, toying with settling down. Tenterhooks is still being worked on and will hopefully arrive in time but Taboo is getting served up first.
The title, and indeed, the germ of the idea came from Lisa Fox and we developed it for Collaborations in 2014. It was a 20 minute one woman piece about a girl nervously preparing for a date. I pretty much just creeped on the audience watching it and the reaction was interesting. Some audience members were silent, maybe a bit shocked, but there was a sense of discomfort that was punctured by the ones who were laughing loudl. It was split down the middle. And that’s kind of what we were hoping for. Some people not getting why other people find something funny or conversely people not understanding why other people wouldn’t find it funny. This schism is the play itself in a nutshell and the relationship between the characters. Connection isn’t an easy thing to find.
The real time chat, for me, was one of the challenges of this play. I’ve never written anything that unfolds in real time so I got to scratch that itch. It’s a lot more challenging than I had expected. Particularly when you include a full three course meal. I didn’t make it too easy on Sarah Baxter, our wonderful director, who has risen to the challenge impeccably and made a story about two people sitting down and eating even more dynamic and layered than I ever imagined when I was writing it.
I’m acting in it alongside the aforementioned Lisa Fox, who has brilliantly cooked her role over the last two years and I’m very excited to be bringing it to the stage. There’s a fantastic team working on it and it’s been ably supported throughout its development by White Label, Rough Magic and DCC who have been a great help.
It feels like I’ve said more enough about the play now and I hope my ramblings here have given you a taster and persuade you to indulge in the full three courses. Speaking of tasters, here’s an interview we did with RTÉ Arena about the show. Buy a ticket and ideally, go for a meal beforehand. It’s good to get in the spirit of things.
Taboo plays The New Theatre from February 15th to 27th at 7.30pm nightly. You can book tickets right here.