Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Michael James Ford's Rooms

After success translations to the stage of Mel Brooks’ The Producers, and the songs of Freddy Mercury (and the imminent arrival of U2’s Spiderman: The Musical) could it be long before it happened…the stage version of Declan Lynch's novel, The Rooms?

Lynch’s widely praised novel is a fictionalised exploration of alcoholism, its sufferers, its effects, and their struggle to be free. So perhaps the all-singing, all-dancing version was never on the cards. But how about the all-measured tones, all-sober reflection version?

Rather than pass over the job of turning the novel into a live show to a journeyman writer, the author himself has taken on the adaptation, under the watchful direction of actor-director and former Bewley’s Café Theatre boss, Michael James Ford.

So far, following the model of the big Broadway musicals, the stage version, called Breaking Out, has had a couple of “out of town” previews “to get a feel of how it is working”. The Axis Arts Centre in Ballymun was the chosen location earlier this month, and, according to the director, response from the invited audience was very strong.

Lynch has adapted the piece for the stage as a one-man show, with the talents of actor-writer, Arthur Riordan (the man behind the brilliant Irish musical, Improbable Frequencies) “very much in mind.”

“We just wanted to see what shape the piece was in and we were very pleased with it,” says Ford of the preview shows. “We are not sure yet what scale we want to do the show on. It could be done from a country pub upwards. The play is set in a pub, so that would be a good place to perform it. One way or another, I think it has great touring potential.”

“I also think it is a play that will divide the AA community. It asks a lot of questions about that. But happily, it is also very entertaining.”

More out of town test shows are planned for the summer.

Meanwhile, another theatrical stalwart (that's a kind of military vehicle, i think) is also preparing his latest show. Donal O’Kelly, whose name must never be mentioned without evoking the spirit of Catalpa, the actor’s virtuoso one man show, is back on the road with an extensive national tour of Vive la!

The actor’s interest has been sparked, not for the first time, by a historical story, this time one concerning a Frenchman who turns up in North Dublin in 1798 with the notion of helping in the struggle for Irish freedom. An ardent fan of the phrase Vive La Revolution, he is soon nicknamed, Vive La.

O’Kelly, whose has moved his company westwards, is producing the play as part of an ongoing collaboration with The Glens Centre, Co. Leitrim, where Vive La received its “out of town” previews. From the looks of the show’s touring schedule, there are very few venues around the country that will not have welcomed it by the end of the summer.

Sorcha Fox, collaborator in several of O’Kelly’s more recent works, also stars, while Barabbas’ Raymond Keane, who directed O’Kelly in The Cambria and The Hand, is once more in charge.

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