Request Program | Galway Arts Festival
Interview by: Caomhan Keane
Request Program is a play written in the 1970s, by German playwright Franz Xaver Kroetz. Experimental in it's day and continuing to be so now it is the story of one woman who comes home from work and how her night pans out ahead of her. She is a lonely old soul making it the story of an inconsequential life and an inconsequential death. Starring Eileen "YOU ARE NOT A MAN OF GOD" Walsh (to give her her proper dues we should also mention Terminus, Saved, the original Disco Pigs and her Irish Times Theatre Award nominated turn in Medea) it ran as part of the recent Cork Midsummer Festival to rave reviews. She chats here to Caomhan Keane.
How did you get involved with Request Program?
I met Pat (Kiernan, director of the show and AD of Corcadorca) about a year and a half ago and he started to speak to me about the project. He had read the play and was very exited about it. He knew that this year he wanted to focus on a one woman show and said that that he would love me to do it. I had never read Request Program. Never even heard of the guy. But Pat spoke so passionately about it, it got me exited about doing it as well. I would do anything with Pat. And for Pat. And cause he believed so strongly it filtered down through everyone.
Was there anything else that turned you on to the project bedside a lemming like devotion to Kiernan?
It was exiting to do something that was site specific and that was kind of dangerous cause you are on your own, performing a silent piece. That takes an awful lot of focus. From the audience as well. It asks a lot of them and it asks a lot of me. So it’s kind of scary. But good.
How important is the venue to the piece?
The venue is like another character. The whole piece becomes like a dance piece, where you have to move around the apartment and the audience has to move with you and then move out of your way and let you flow through. The venue itself is incredibly important because it tells its own story. We are on the 12th floor of the Elysian Tower and its very lonely. It’s a lonely building. It has very few residents. And as the audience make there way up, one by one to the apartment they then start that lonely journey that she has daily. The lonely building holds a lonely character and hopefully 20 lonely people can get in touch with aspects of their own life as well.
Given that you have built up such an intense relationship with the venue are you worried about changing venues for The Galway Arts Festival?
I was initially because we only had such a short length of time to get to know the apartment. Because the apartment I am in now I could lose my eyes and bring you around and know exactly where the spoons are and the tea bags are and all that kind of stuff. But that awareness comes with time. And the character is sitting in me now so the transition to Galway will be easier.
Tell me about your relationship with Pat?
We know each other so well that we have shorthand. Pat has changed hugely over the years but he remains just as passionate. He used to be quite anxious and wound up in rehearsals, like a coiled spring. So whenever anything went wrong all you would hear from the back of the room would be a "Goooooooood". But he is somebody who remains incredibly focused. Its great craic working with him. You don't realise how much work you are getting done. And he is surrounded by people who love working with him as well. So it becomes like a very tight project that is done by people who are anxious to produce good work.
How did yis get Request Program on its feet?
We worked for a week last year to see if it would work in an apartment. It went really well and we got the first 20 minutes up and running. This year we did another week so by the time it came into the actual rehearsals itself it wasn't at all frightening. Usually you do a week of sitting around a table, reading a script and it is terrifying getting up on the floor. Whereas with this it wasn't and it became necessary to get an audience in as soon as possible as they are so a part of the telling of the story.
What is the power of silence?
It makes the tiny noises more powerful. You are suddenly more aware of the hum that comes from the light bulb. Or the swallowing of a bit of toast. Everything is magnified. The swishing of the water. And you, as the audience, become desperate for more noise. And then the moments where it is dark and silent and the moments where there is a minute piece of noise attains a huge emotional importance to the audience. So you can feel people hungry for it. I had somebody come to me on opening night that said, "Yeah, it was great. But you would miss the dialogue." And then she texted me the following day saying she couldn't get it out of her head. She was a very social person. Very active. And she suddenly realised what a large part of her day she actually spent alone or in silence. Which came out of the piece. So hopefully people will carry it with them.
As an actress what do you have to think about when you have no words, per se, to work with?
People need to connect. It is through their connection with me that they mirror themselves. That they can reflect themselves back in some way. But they need to be allowed in first. To understand her. To empathize with her. So that connection with the actor is massively important. You just want to be inside someone’s soul.
What has Request Program taught you about yourself?
I suppose how busy we try and make ourselves all the time. How as an actress I am constantly trying to SHOW things and how its a great release to kind of go, 'ok, we've done that one, where you have showed us everything, or you have ohhed and ahhed for a while. Lets loose all that and do it again.’ It is so much more emotional when you stop pretending; stop showing it all the time.
Request Program runs at a Galway City Centre Apartment from July 11th-23rd at 6PM.
Story by EI Team | 09:00 | Friday 8th July 2011 | Theatre
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