Nadine Flynn is tackling the representation of the working class, in theatre, in her new production, Birthright.
“There were quite a few times that I felt that the voices in the plays weren’t a true representation of the working class voices. And that annoyed me.”
“I’m not trying to tell anyone to feel anything,” says Nadine Flynn about her upcoming production, Birthright. “I want the audience to leave contemplating what they’ve seen, and asking questions.”
From what Flynn has in store, play-goers will have plenty to contemplate.
The idea behind Birthright began when Flynn left college and began to attend theatre productions in Dublin — specifically plays about Ireland’s working class.
“I found that often, rather than going to them and feeling like I was a part of something, there were quite a few times that I felt that the voices in the plays weren’t a true representation of the working class voices,” she says. “And that annoyed me.” From a working class background herself, Flynn noted how these productions often fetishized a community that was suffering from trauma and a lack of opportunities. “It became that stereotypical, funny play that people go to and laugh at the accents, and those are the punchline, rather than the narratives themselves,” she says.
Thus came Birthright, a play-cum-commentary on the genre of working class theatre in Ireland. It focuses on the archetype of the working class mother, who has sacrificed her grieving period for the sake of an audience’s laughs. With a previous play about the working class struggle, called Running with Dinosaurs, already under her belt, Flynn wanted to look at the issue from a different angle with this production.
“It starts off quite high, with the characters fitting that archetype of working class characters and those stereotypes,” she says. “But as the play progresses and they become aware of this world that they’re in where they have to perform, they break these roles and they dive into the realities of their situation.” And, spoiler alert, “It’s definitely not an uplifting ending.”
Moving away from the traditional narrative form, Birthright also incorporates experimental theatrical devices. “We’re using canned laughter, which is more of a sitcom device…to show that this world is being watched, that there’s an audience,” she says. “It’s metatheatrical.”
This is Flynn’s second production at the Fringe and the first she has written by herself. “The Fringe is so good because it’s a really open platform,” says Flynn. It’s also her first time trying her hand at an experimental form of playwriting. “I’ve found it a lot harder. It forces you to interrogate everything you’re saying and the meaning behind everything,” Flynn says. “So it’s definitely been a challenge, but I’m glad I’ve thrown myself into it.”
While Flynn may be wading into uncharted waters, the people behind Fringe have ensured that she never feels lost in the process. This is the ethos behind the Fringe Lab, a space and platform that provides support to both new and experienced artists, as well as their entire production teams, all year long.
Not only does the Fringe Lab offer a space for play rehearsals, but it has also offered Flynn emotional and creative support throughout the development of Birthright. “The people at Fringe are open for conversations if you’re feeling stressed, if you feel like you’ve hit a wall,” she says.
They also organized a meeting with renowned playwright Mark O’Rowe who came in to the Fringe Lab to read scripts and provide notes. “To get someone else’s opinion, an objective opinion, really helps in the development of a play that is so subjective to you,” says Flynn.
Flynn also has a partner in Gráinne Holmes Blumenthal, the play’s director. Blumenthal recently directed the play Gonne, shown at the New Theatre, which caused Flynn to reach out. “I really trust her own artistic vision,” says Flynn. “As the director, the show is just as much hers.”
Even as the play gets closer to its opening night and Blumenthal takes over directions, Flynn remains an integral part of the process. “For me, the writing process is never really finished,” she says. “So even though the script is finished now, we’re going into rehearsals and the actors are interrogating lines, we’re mixing things around. It kind of feels like a collaborative project.”
As for what the future holds, Flynn is focused on showtime. “I’m really interested to see how the audience reacts to it,” she says.
Words: Hannah McKennett
Smock Alley Theatre (Boys’ School)
Preview September 13, 1.15pm (€11)
Performance September 13-15, 9.30pm & September 14 & 15, 1.15pm (€12/€14)