Interview with Breege Brennan

Posted July 12, 2011 in Arts & Culture Features

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Take soap opera scale drama and jaw dropping twists; add a dash of revenge and a pinch of seduction, and top it all off with a dollop of deceit and a heavy dose of passion. What do you get? Robert Hewett’s mysterious, hilarious, and enchanting play The Blonde, the Brunette, and the Vengeful Redhead, having premiered in late June, is traveling throughout Ireland all of July. The Irish-set play, directed by the highly acclaimed director and producer, Breege Brennan, tells the story of middle-aged Rhonda Russell (the vengeful redhead) who receives a call from her husband telling her that he is moving out after twenty years of marriage. With the help of her manipulative best friend, Lynette (the brunette), Rhonda uncovers the truth about her husband’s infidelity with another woman (the blonde). This revelation results in a shocking crime of passion that forever changes her life and the lives of those who surround her. But what is really extraordinary about this play is that it is a one-woman show—the exceptionally talented Clare Barrett plays every character. We spoke with Breege about his experience with the show thus far, and we’ve got to say—it sounds phenomenal.

Firstly, could you tell me a little bit about the show and why you selected this show in particular to direct? 

Set in Anytown, Ireland, the play tells the story of 43-year old Rhonda Russell.  One day, her husband rings to say he is leaving her, after almost 20 years of marriage. Dumbstruck, Rhonda turns to her next-door neighbour, and best friend, Lynette.  In the events that unfold in the quiet suburban neighbourhood, some comic, some tragic, friends and strangers are drawn together, and relationships are torn apart.  The play provides eye-opening insights into a world where relationships are not always what they seem.  We are offered different versions of the truth about what happened.  Is there such thing as absolute truth, or is fact a matter of perception alone?  In the end, the play is not about who might be to blame – it is about who earns redemption, hair colour notwithstanding.

I was particularly looking for a one-woman show, and for a show that hasn’t been done in Ireland before, something new on the theatrical landscape, and yet a show that was tried and tested.  I was reading plays and was first drawn to this play by the title!  When I read it, I fell in love with the story and the characters.  Added to that, the reviews for previous productions in the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand were stunning, so that was it – decision made! 

I understand the show has been going on for a little over a week now. Dare I ask how things have been going so far? 

As I write, we’re in Clonmel as part of the Clonmel Junction Festival, and the response has been amazing!  We’ve had great houses, and the audience really enjoys the show.  People are so buzzed up about it, its great! 

Since this is a touring production that performs in a wide variety of venues, how do you adjust to having to perform in a different theatre each night? 

As they say, it’s all in the planning!  We did a lot of research leading into the tour.  The set is deliberately simple, but effective.  Obviously, lighting and sound are planned in advance.  We work with the venues to plan the best use of the time, so that by 8pm, the show looks its best and the audience is guaranteed a good night’s entertainment. 

Have you ever directed a one-man (or in this case ‘-woman’) show before? What is that like as a director to only have one actor to work with?

This is my first time to direct a one-woman.  It’s really exciting and Clare Barrett is amazing to work with.  She’s an intelligent, gracious actor, with the most excellent comic timing.  From the moment she begins telling the story, as an audience, we trust her and go with her on the journey, and she never fails to deliver.  She’s brilliant! 

What do you think Robert Hewett is trying to say with this play? What do you, as a director, hope to bring to the production? 

Robert Hewett wrote the play for a friend.  She had won awards for her work as a director and actor but was out of work.  So together, they planned this one-woman show, which tells a great story and showcases her abilities.  As it happens, in the end, she was unable to participate, and the show was passed on to Jackie Weaver, an Oscar-nominated Australian actor.  It opened in Sydney in 2004 to amazing reviews and since played venues in New Zealand, across the US and Canada and is very well received wherever it goes.  Hewett tells a cracking, funny story, and the characters are recognisable.  We can empathise, laugh and blame in equal measure! 

What can the audience expect when seeing this show? Will they laugh? Cry? Scream? Wail and sob uncontrollably? 

Oooooh, they will certainly laugh, and there may be the odd furrowed brow and look of shock!! 

Do you have any hopes or goals that you wish to accomplish before the run is up? 

Hmm, it will be great to, for example, sit down for a coffee, and maybe even to finish it! 

Breege, we certainly think you deserve that (entire) coffee.

The Blonde, the Brunette, and the Vengeful Redhead plays at the Helix Theatre in Santry on July 15th and 16th and the Mill Theatre, Dundrum on July 21st & 22nd with shows starting at 8.30pm. 

Words Laura Burdine



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