Interview with Shaun Dunne | Death of the Tradesman
We at entertainment.ie do love us a bit of Talking Shop Ensemble. We really have praised them to the hilt. Now we want some answers. Caomhan Keane talks to Shaun Dunne about Death of the Tradesman, which returns, as part of The Lir Revival Award, this week.
Tradesman seems like a natural follow on to the conversation you started with Homebird. Was that deliberate or just representative of you writing about what's going on in your own world?
Tradesmen is actually an older idea. I had the idea for Tradesmen when I was in school so the line of work kind of just came out that way. Homebird definitely represents the younger generation while Tradesmen covers our parents demographic. The progression may seem sort of planned or coordinated and its weird to think now that Tradesmen was actually conceived as an idea first... I suppose Homebird feels very like the beginning of everything for me.
Your plays seem like you are trying to work things out but haven't made a definitive opinion. Is that your process? Do you have a definite idea as to what you want to say when you start or are you informed by research and contemplation?
I think that's very much how I approach the subject initially, yeah. I don't like to come down too heavy on either side. The work is more about presenting a situation or a process than it is about giving an answer either way. I think that's more interesting and I don't want to preach what I think the answer to particular social issues are. A lot of the time there is no one way. Myself and my collaborators definitely come to our own realisations but we like to leave room in the shows for the audience to take the subject further.
Where did the idea for Tradesman come from?
My father is a carpet fitter who has been largely unemployed for the past five years. When I first read Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller in school, I remember thinking there were a lot of parallels there. Work wasn't as dry for him back then though so it was only when things got really bad that I started to think about the idea more seriously.
How did you develop it from the idea to get it stage ready?
I started with interviews. I sat down with several different tradesmen that an unemployment service called Jobcare put me in touch with. I also took part on their Employment Preparation Course, which helped me get in the mind frame of a person looking for work. After that I began to write. Then when we started to develop the show on its feet with Lauren Larkin and Talking Shop Ensemble we would improvise with the script. This helped to find a structure and really honed the editing of the piece. The show also benefited hugely from a residency I did called TITLE as part of the Cork Midsummer Festival. I worked with dramaturg Thomas Conway and the piece really sped along after that.
Tell me how your director helped shape this project?
We didn't work with a director per say. When I approached Lauren and Talking Shop we discussed how the piece might be made and we all agreed that myself and Lauren would stage the piece together while Lisa Walsh and Aisling Byrne would co-choreograph. We also had the added outside eye of our second dramaturge, Aifric Ni Ruaric. We work as an ensemble so everybody has their say in some way across the board. This is the same for designers and stage management. Anyone in the room is encouraged to chip in where they want. It's a very open environment where suggestions and ideas come from all angles- at times this can make your day a little longer but it's how we like to work. There will be days that certain people take the lead in certain ways - the way a director would - and as the conceiver of the piece that can often fall with me but the emphasis on the ensemble is huge.
Was Lauren Larkin your first choice of wife?
First and only. Originally, I thought it was a one-man show and I didn't even imagine myself in it initially. The play has a documentary strand to it, which pulls from the fact that myself and Lauren are the children of tradesmen. If Lauren wasn't in the piece the piece would have to change.
Who, directly and influentially has shaped Talking Shop's style?
There are two styles at play when Talking Shop and Shaun Dunne present together. My main influence would be my degree in journalism - this is where the documentary strand comes from - while Lisa and Aisling from TSE are Theatre Studies alumni so their influences are from a completely different bag.
We both want to make work about what it is to live here and now though so we unite on that. The main influences in my writing would be my parents... they taught me how to speak after all... them and the people I grew up around.
What's next for you and the rest of Talking Shop?
Touring Tradesmen! We've got a few dates lined up in the coming year so we're going to be pretty tied up with that. We're also starting development on our next piece where we hope to explore service provision for people with disabilities in Ireland, and are beginning a collaboration with St John of Gods Community Services shortly so it's all go really!
Death of the Tradesman runs in The Lir from 12th - 16th February at 7.30pm. Matinee: 15th February at 1pm.
Story by EI Team | 09:00 | Monday 11th February 2013 | Theatre
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