Billy the Boat Loves Angelina
Interview by: Caomhan Keane
Sandra is Late, Tim's in love and Susan is back on the gear, where will it all end?
'Billy The Boat loves Angelina' tells the story of three young siblings, Susan, Sandra and Tim Smith, who in various ways are caught up in the drugs scene in Dun Laoghaire. Susan, 21 has been clean for nearly a year but when she meets Rayo, King of The Underworld she finds herself drawn back into the seductive world of heroin. Tim, 18, has just fallen in love with Angelina - his first racing pigeon, but when he meets Mike at the pigeon club it leads him to face his own emerging sexuality. Sandra 20, is fiercely loyal to Susan and despite the fact that her own life is about to change irrevocably, she's determined that nobody will drag her sister back into the darkness. Funny, gritty, powerful and at times poetic, 'Billy the Boat Loves Angelina' is a vibrant theatrical experience that sweeps the audience on a breakneck journey through the underside of the Borough. Writer Isobel Mahon (Michelle from Glenroe) talks here to Caomhan Keane.
What is Billy the boat loves Angelina about?
It's basically the saga of three young Dublin siblings. It's a Dun Laoghaire play. It's kind of a coming of age story. A story of family loyalty. It's in two episodes. The first piece is a short piece called The Rules, which happens 18 months after the title segment. It has one of the characters, Sandra, just talking about her life. And it then emerges that there is actually a tragic secret in the story. So that's twenty minutes long and then we go straight into Billy The Boat Loves Angelina. It's set the week before Christmas when Tim and Sandra, who are both going through their own coming of age dramas go on a quest to find Susan, who has been pulled back into the world of Heroin by her boyfriend. To find her and bring her home for Christmas.
Where did the idea come from?
It's a very strange thing how characters come from the ether. I believe that there are voices waiting within us that are waiting to be written. And as soon as you sit down to write they kind of dive in and go "this is my chance". So in that first piece the character talked about this family. And I spoke to the director of that piece Caroline Fitzgerald and she said, "you know, you should really write about the family." So they came into being on their own. I just had to write them down.
Who are your influences as a writer?
I like Chekov as a playwright but he wouldn't be an obvious influence. The Alan's Ayckbourn and Bennett. Writers of farce. But talking to taxi drivers would be the biggest influence. This show is about sex, drugs and racing pigeons. And I remember getting a lift home with a taxi driver who talked all the way home about his absolute passion for racing pigeons. I was so fascinated by his intensity for his feeling for this.
Did you write this play specifically for Eska Riada?
Yes it was. We had Gina Costigan who played the character of Sandra Smith on board. So that character and actress already existed. So it was just a matter of writing around that and finding actors to fill the other characters. We had a structure before we began.
How involved were you in the process once you finish the first draft? Are you a write it and hand it over type of writer or are you involved throughout the rehearsal period?
Sometimes I have to get involved if the actors or the director tell me that something isn't working. But often what people do is that they just trim the script that is holding up the action, a line or a scene and I usually just say, "Go ahead." After years of working as an actor if its not working in rehearsal I understand the need to trim.
Would you ever act in your own work?
I am going to. In the next thing I am going to write there's going to be a part for me in it. I'm not sure why I haven't done it so far. I'm sure it has something to do with insecurity. I need someone else’s input at the end of the day. If you are acting and writing in the same thing there is too much of yourself in it. It's a big risk. That being said I have tried. I've started writing something for myself, but the characters form themselves and it turns out you are not right for it you have to cast the appropriate person in the part.
Story by EI Team | 09:00 | Wednesday 12th October 2011 | Theatre
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