Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Mark O'Halloran fills Dublin with Lamplight

“I’m middle class and I’m a middle class culchie at that -- the worst sort of middle class person,” says Mark O’Halloran in partial explanation of how he came to write the script for the Dublin junkie film, Adam and Paul. Being a middle class culchie, it seems, has some distinct benefits.

“I’m from Ennis,” says O’Halloran “so when I came to Dublin I saw something different from Dubliners, they almost couldn’t see the junkies on the streets, whereas I would notice them. We didn’t have junkies in Ennis…”

The actor has already two further scriptwriting commissions underway (both for Adam and Paul director, Lenny Abrahamson) but now O’Halloran is taking the time to work once more with perhaps Ireland’s most innovative theatre companies, Corn Exchange. The subject, however, remains rather similar: Dublin lowlife, although this time the ne’er-do-wells are from 1904.

Dublin by Lamplight, which chronicles the efforts of an imaginary theatre company to stage a play in turn of the century Dublin, has, according to O’Halloran, its fair share of scangers. The capital was, according to O’Halloran, still a location of a grubbiness familiar to those who have seen Adam and Paul. And them some.

O’Halloran plays a fading English actor in the piece, but some other opening available at the time were, apparently, even less desirable. “We came across some really odd jobs when we are researching Dublin at the time, like the Dung Dodgers, whose job was literally to shovel shit from the tenements.”

Part of Corn Exchange’s raison d’etre has long been the workshops the company ran for actors, inculcating local performers in the traditions of company director, Annie Ryan’s native Chicago.

The techniques Ryan brings into play include everything from improvisation, to an updated version of the version of the Italian commedia del’arte technique, complete with garish whiteface make-up, live music and an interesting habit of turning and staring hard out into the crowd when delivering a speech. The technique can be decidedly unnerving for anyone sitting in the auditorium but, according to O’Halloran, has a very significant effect.

“Those stares out at the audience when you are speaking are extremely cinematic,” says O’Halloran of the show’s style. “They are the closest you’ll come in theatre to a close up.”

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