Thursday, February 22, 2007

Danny and Chantelle's mate, Phillip McMahon


Two clubbers on the run from the "demolition wake" being held in Ballymun as the first of the neighbourhood's towers come down are at the centre of Danny and Chantelle (Still Here), a play that offer close-up insight into the everyday business of "going out and getting trashed."

The piece is the first play from Phillip McMahon, a Dublin actor, who cooked Danny and Chatelle (Still Here) up with his flatmate, Georgina McKevitt, who also happens to star alongside McMahon.

McMahon trained with the Dublin Youth Theatre and the National Youth Theatre, where he became involved with the Australia National Theatre for Young People.

"They are very like our own youth theatres, I suppose, except that they have their own premises and a national reputation and shitloads of money, donated by Fox, and by Nicole Kidman." Kidman, along with others such as Strictly Ballroom director, Baz Lurhman, are former members of the group, the world's largest youth theatre,

"All of that was about ten years," says McMahon of his various youth theatre experiences. "It was a sort of apprenticeship, more than an education, but it worked for me."

The Dublin-born actor knew from an early age he wanted to be an actor, but only recently thought about writing. "When I was younger I was always burning to be an actor, but as you get a bit older, the lustre of being up front somewhat fades…"

Faced with a shortage of juicy roles, he and his flatmate-cum-co-star decided ("over the course of a few dinners") that they would need to write something for themselves to perform in. Some months later, Danny and Chantelle (Still Here) was born.

"We knew we wanted it to be a play about two characters. And we wanted it to be something the actors would enjoy performing, something that was spoken in a language that was heightened, but which really reflected the poetic side of the way people in Dublin speak."

Part of the plays impact has come, undoubtedly, from some creative uses of marketing. The fictitious Danny and Chantelle are owners of many-friended Bebo and MySpace pages, while a clip made by McMahon and McKevitt in their flat (stripped to make it look like a dingy club toilet) let them promote the show to YouTube users.

All of which went into the mix to give the show access to an audience that only very rarely shows up at Dublin theatres. McMahon and company give every indication of knowing their audience, and indeed, the hidden fears and desires of anyone who considers going to a play. Danny and Chatelle runs for 55 minutes (in its socks).

"When we were writing the show we said: 'look, let's not labour this' especially for the audience we were trying to attract. They are not going to want to sit in the theatre for three hours! No way," says McMahon, recalling a recent run in with Julius Ceasar at The Abbey. "That really tested me..."

"I think we managed to get people who don't go to the theatre at all in the original run. I suppose being at the POD helped, but it was also a play that a lot of people who had been going out in Dublin over the last few years recognise. They feel a bit nostalgic about those times now...."

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