Interview with Ross Dungan | The Life and Sort of Death of Eric Argyle
Eric Argyle is having a bad Sunday. It’s late. He’s still in his pyjamas. A room full of people are staring at him. And he died at 11.42am, two days ago. An issue people don’t seem all that receptive to.
Off the back of a hugely successful Edinburgh and Dublin Fringe, award-winning theatre company 15th Oak are delighted to once again present The Life and Sort of Death of Eric Argyle, a new play by Ross Dungan, about a man who barely lived enough to have regrets. Nominated for Best New Play at the Irish Times Theatre Awards catch it before it travels to the Soho Theatre in London in April and then even further afield during the summer. Caomhan Keane talks to Ross Dungan here.
For those who haven't had the pleasure, what's The Life and Sort of Death of Eric Argyle about?
It's about a 58 year old man name Eric who believes his entire life has been one missed opportunity after the next. He hasn't amounted to anything or achieved anything in his life. And then he is knocked over by a car and killed at the age of 58. In a purgatorial setting he looks back at moments from his life reenacted again, the different turning points that made up his time on earth.
Where did the idea come from?
When I was in Edinburgh in 2010 I was wondering what we were going to do for our next A Betrayal of Penguins show, a comedy troupe I was in until last Saturday. And I went out for a run or a walk and came up with the idea to do a sketch show about a dead guy looking back at his life, played out through sketches. And the more I thought about it the more I didn't want to make it a full on comedy show, I wanted it to be more of a play. It needed more than three or four people so it became something different altogether.
It's very different from your previous show, Minute After Midday, which dealt with the Omagh bombing and was included amongst entertainment.ie's top ten shows of 2011. Was that deliberate?
I didn't sit down after that and say I am going to write something that's more comic. It’s just the way the ideas came to me. It just happens to be different...although I was conscious of not being pigeonholed , for people not to go ‘that's the type of thing he would write about’. I'm glad it’s quite different but it’s not something I set out to do specifically.
Did you think much about your own mortality and funeral when you were writing this. Or was it inspired by thoughts of others. Did you look at certain people and go "No one would turn up for that feckers funeral."
If it was, it was all very subconscious. Although there were those who came up to me after and said "I know who that character is". And I'd go "really?" And they go "yes,that's so and so. And I'd be like "God, no that's not what I think of that poor such and such at all." But I'm sure there are countless things that have influenced me from my life. I try to make it all fictitious. But every so often you think 'oh god yeah, I could genuinely amount to nothing in my life' and be in a similar position to Eric. Which is always a comforting thought.
Were you surprised by how well the show has been received?
It was a really intensive rehearsal period. We had two weeks and I was, at the same time, trying to write the new Penguin show, so the script, given its nature and including my total incompetence, had to be totally rewritten, as we only had a certain amount of time in the space in Edinburgh. It was so demanding on the actors and so many things went wrong along the way. We were plagued. It was one thing after the other. When we did it the first day in Edinburgh there was only two people in the audience. But they seemed to connect with it really well and it took off from there. We all believe it could do well but there were so many stumbling blocks that it could easily have just been an ambitious thing that never came off, that never found its audience. But thankfully it did
Is it tough to have new actors come into the parts? To watch them shake it up?
You have to respect the way they attack the piece. And back them up. Back their instincts. Respect their take on a line. Get that other performance out of your head. And if that means changing the tone or atmosphere of a scene, you have to go with it rather than trying to recreate the old thing. It also keeps the returning cast on their toes. They have to adjust.
The Life and Sort of Death of Eric Argyle will run for two weeks at the Smock Alley Theatre from the 14th January - 26th January. Tickets available now from entertainment.ie/tickets and Smock Alley Theatre.
Story by EI Team | 09:00 | Tuesday 15th January 2013 | Theatre
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