Xnthony returns to the Fringe Festival with his most personal work to date and memories of double beige fashion choices.
How did you feel when you found out Roscommon was the only county/constituency to vote no in the Marriage Equality referendum?
I was very upset. My sister and I were huddled together on a couch in London, as the votes rolled in. We had already opened a bottle of prosecco, there was clearly a sense that the result was going in our favour. Needless to say, when Roscommon was the lone county, I was disappointed. I did a lot of soul searching and I went out and asked the people of Roscommon, gay and straight, what they thought had happened. So I made this show.
How has the disconnect of living in London, enhanced or contributed to, your development of work about Ireland?
Well, my Irish friends call me Marian. Because I listen to Marian Finucane every weekend and of course Sean O’Rourke on a daily basis. I am not so up to date on Irish life but …I still think I’m a part of it. I work between Ireland and London quite alot, not just on this show but lots of different projects.. I live in London but my life leads me home regularly.
How does it feel to return home as you get older? Is it all ESB 1980s?
It actually is! And especially having made this show. Making the show really brought my parents and I back together. Especially my Dad. As gay men we often don’t seem to have the best relationships with our Dads, there can be distance there, while we ingratiate ourselves more with our Moms. There was a balancing of the scale during the making of this project, my Dad and I became so much closer. During research I was down on the bog with him regularly, and taking trips around the land while he told me the stories about the history of the land, like the Land Wars, how our land was discussed in the House of Commons and also the family history.
Has the referendum proved a game changer in terms of acceptance and relationships with people there?
I think there is certainly a shroud still covering queer life in Roscommon. And that may be down to visibility. Many of the LGBT+ community I met there live very regular lives, and in that very Roscommon way, they’re just minding their own business. When I started working on the show a year ago in Roscommon, I did make a point of going on a date with a cute boy just because I felt I needed get past that before I went spouting on about it on stage. We went for a drink in a pub and people understood what was happening and they were really nice about it. It was lovely. We’re still friends. My personal relationship with the people of Roscommon has always been positive.
We discovered this week that the expressionist painter Roderic O’Conor is from Roscommon (Castleplunket). Do you have any heroes from Roscommon?
I have a huge hero in my old secondary school principal. I know, it’s not obvious, but he changed my life. Back during my Leaving Cert days, I was getting into a bit of trouble with lads. There was a lot of name-calling and I was beginning to feel so pent-up and anxious that I could see myself going off on one.
One day, after a lot of verbal abuse in the schoolyard, I hit the roof. I throw a cup of coffee at a guy. A whole cup of scalding, freshly brewed coffee. It hit him. He screamed. I moved on. Later that day my principal pulled me out of art class (pretty much the only safe space I had). I thought I was going to be suspended. We walked around the school, and he turned to me and said: ‘Never change who you are for anybody’. And that, as they say, was that
What memories do you have of your own confirmation?
I remember I wore two different shades of beige which at the time seemed like a great decision but my Mom let me make my own ‘fashion’ choices. I remember being surrounded by envelopes packed with cash and stacks of white, crispy, pristine pavlovas layered to the brim with fruits. I was really into the church at the time so the big day brought a lot of excitement. I had put a lot of work into it!
This is billed as a ‘poignant’ pop concert. How are your approaching this? Is bringing Klennex advisable?
The show works between two worlds – spoken conversation and a great pop experience. I think the tension between the two is really delicious. It’s poignant because I am trying to tell a story that up to now I have kept personal. I haven’t tended to make personal work, so I think this is quite a shift. I am revising moments of my childhood too, the good and the bad, a time when I thought I was magic but also the problems with realising that you’re just different. I have also written it with so much love for my hometown and my family that I really hope that sense of love oozes out into the audience.
Confirmation runs at The Lir Academy from September 18-22 @ 9.30pm. Preview Sept 17 @ 7pm. Tickets €11/€13/€15