Monday, November 26, 2007

John Breen's Falling out of Love

No amount of applause really tells you how well a play has gone, according to playwright, John Breen. "But when you've got them laughing, you've got them."

Breen should be in a better position to know than most Irish playwrights. His breakthrough show, Alone It Stands, left audiences all over the world breathless with laughter. So who better to try and breath some life into that most undernourished of genre in Irish theatre: the romcom.

"It was a very deliberate decision to write a romantic comedy," says Breen. "As a genre it tends to be very undertreated in Ireland. Certainly Tom Murphy hasn't been writing many of them lately…"

But for the man who had 62 characters played by a handful of actors in Alone It Stands, no simple romcom would do. Falling Out of Love is perhaps the world's first bungee jumping romantic comedy.

Set in contemporary Ireland, the play tells the story of three couples, in various stages of break up, who all happen to live in the same building, and on one particular night find their lives intertwined with a bungee chord.

"The image comes from the experience of trying to make someone love you, or trying to make yourself love someone," says Breen. "It has that terrible quality, like falling off a building and trying to grab the air to stop yourself falling. That and Wile e Coyote…"

Huh?

"…well, your original influences are always things like the cartoons, which I grew up watching and loving. And those cartoons, of course, were influenced by silent stars like Buster Keaton and Harold Lloyd, except the animation let them take the whole slapstick thing that bit further…"

And so Breen's little comedy calls for the contents of a small apartment to fly through the air, as well as for the mid-air, bungee-jumping rescue of a woman falling from a tower block.

"I'm interested in doing things on stage that you don't expect…like in Alone it Stands I could see it all in my head: the job was getting it into someone else's head."

And that somebody was uber-clown and Barrabas founder, Mikel Murfi, who these days is most often found directing shows for the likes of Druid.

"Mike was somebody I knew from college and somebody I knew believes in comedy as something important, something he rated. And I knew he would be able to make these things happen."

After the current Irish tour, Breen intends give the play a little oil-change and then take it back on the road, perhaps to Edinburgh the following year. So it is possible, then, to know that a show will still have life in a year or two?

"You can't know that it will still be alive, but you just act as though it will be," says Breen. "And it is a lot easier to know with a comedy, because, like I said, if they're laughing, you know it is working…"

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