Irish playwrights are experts at creating works that reflect issues of their time and beloved plays like Philadelphia, Here I Come and The Field are well ingrained in the Irish psyche by now and whenever they are staged – be it by a professional troupe or an amateur dramatic society – the crowds flock to see them. However, for some reason new plays by young Irish playwrights, are largely ignored.
That is why taking a new show on tour is a risky move. However, the Gúna Nua Theatre Company, in association with the Civic Theatre are willing to give it a try and give audiences in and outside of Dublin the opportunity to appreciate a contemporary work which deals with themes and ideas that are both prevalent and consistent.
Don Wycherly, star of Paul Meade’s Faith, hopes that people will give this new play a chance. He explained to me that while he thinks Ireland does not have a huge theatre going audience, those who do like to see live theatre from time to time are generally more likely to embrace something like John B. Keane’s Sive. New plays, he says, are harder to sell.
‘The logic [behind bring Faith on tour] is that people down the country deserve to see a new play as much as people in Dublin. Usually you might get something touring that has done quite well but with new plays, people don’t know anything about them and they may not necessarily come along if they don’t know if it’s their cup of tea.’
Despite the potential risks attached to touring with a brand new play, Wycherly, well known to us for his roles as Raymond in Bachelor’s Walk, Fr. Cyril in Fr. Ted and Fr. Aidan O'Connell in Ballykissangel, does not choose every script that comes his way but he believed in the play enough to get involved. He is proud of being part of a new work from the ‘building block stage’ and is confident that the play will appeal to a wide audience due to its wide range of issues and its timeliness.
‘It speaks to an ‘Ireland Now’, it deals with issues that are relevant in any time, it deals with friendship, it deals with marriage, it deals with health and mental health and it also has great humour in it.’
Wycherly feels it’s important to highlight that there are ‘some good gags, some really funny, funny moments’ that he thinks ‘people will relate too’ especially given that the play is set in post-Celtic Ireland and centres around a man, Michael, who has lost his job, is in arrears and is ‘stuck between a rock and a hard place.’
Michael meets Chris (played by Michael Glenn Murphy) an enigmatic stranger who helps him find a job as a security guard in an unoccupied building. They discuss life, get up to high jinks to while away the hours and bond, much to the dismay of Michael’s wife, Maeve (Jennifer O’Dea) who does not approve of the fledgling friendship. Wycherly tells me that out of the situation a ‘three way tug of love’ emerges, with Maeve and Chris at one stage coming to a head.
Michael is 'in the doldrums, suffering from many things, melancholy and depression' and Wycherly hopes ‘that the audience will buy into that and become captivated by the process that is going on in Michael’s head.’
The seeds of the play started to grow from an actors' workshop where Paul Meade, who is a writer, director, actor and joint artistic director of Gúna Nua Theatre company, took notes and developed the themes and ideas. According to Wycherly, the play is still evolving; the 'original cast' have been collaborating closely with the writer, director (David Horan, Artistic Director of Bewley’s Café Theatre) and crew throughout the whole preparatory process.
It's a brave move by the company to bring a not yet established play on tour, but it proves the entire cast and crews' faith in Faith. Wycherly says that when it comes to committing to plays he is 'choosy' but this one 'moved something' in him and he dearly hopes that Irish people will go to see it and begin to support new plays and playwrights.
We at entertainment.ie wholeheartedly agree.
Faith opens in the Civic Theatre, Tallaght on Tuesday, March 4th - Saturday, March 8th and will make stops in An Grianan, Letterkenny (March 13th), Mullingar Arts Centre, March 15th, Pavilion Theatre, Dun Laoghaire, March 19th, Riverbank Arts Centre, Newbridge, March 20th, Axis, Ballymun March 21st and 22nd, Roscommon Arts Centre, March 25th, Droichead Arts Centre, Drogheda, March 27th and Mermaid Arts Center, Bray, March 28th and 29th.