Could you tell me a bit about the title and how it refers to the piece itself?
The title refers to the fundamental question of the piece, which is: what is the efficacy of the interrogation of the events of the Kerry Babies? What are the limitations of exploring events like these in a theatre environment, and how can we begin to face these issues now, in 2017 Ireland? One thing to make clear is that it is not a play, but a piece of fact and fiction based on Nell McCafferty’s A Woman to Blame, as well as pieces I have written and material generated by the cast. My role is directing and designing the piece.
“People will be disappointed if they come expecting a dramatization of the material; this is a post-dramatic piece that takes a fresh look at the material and the controversy surrounding it.”
The Kerry Babies case was such an important moment in Irish history; what about it stirred your imagination and made you want to explore it through theatre?
The thing that brought me to this story was the fact that the story itself is unfinished, it’s still alive with questions we don’t have the answers to. I was intrigued by the challenge of trying to perform the remains of the story. Theodor Adorno said there cannot be poetry after Auschwitz, and I think that’s a really relevant thought, particularly with these events. How can we even consider making a piece of art about a story like this? But we have to try. When people come to the piece they’ll see this process, they’ll see the glitches in the story.
As a director, did you know when to pull back and let the weight of the history speak for itself, and when to get really involved?
The way I see it, my main responsibility as an artist is to not put words into people’s mouths. There is no narrative to the Kerry Babies case; what we’re doing is a non-linear, highly visual exploration of the shattered remains of the story. For me, it’s about being truthful to the story, which is to say it’s about allowing it to be fragmented, inconclusive. People will be disappointed if they come expecting a dramatization of the material; this is a post-dramatic piece that takes a fresh look at the material and the controversy surrounding it.
When you were doing research for the piece, did you notice any parallels between Ireland then and Ireland now, particularly regarding motherhood and how women are treated in society?
Definitely. Similar to current times, the illusion in Ireland of women’s sexuality was being challenged around that time, with women like Anne Lovet, or Eileen Flynn, who suffered extreme pressures from the state based on her personal life. What’s really interesting is that we face those same problems today, resurfacing in today’s Repeal the 8th movement and the ongoing battle with misogyny. I should say I recognize the peculiar nature of my own status as a 22-year-old male telling the story of a woman who was silenced and manipulated by the state. We have a predominantly female cast and crew, gathering lots of different viewpoints and perspectives, and have ensured that the piece has a nuanced voice.
What does it mean for you to have this enigmatic piece at Fringe?
To be honest, Fringe is the perfect platform for this piece; Efficacy 84 is hazardous, dangerous and fragile, and Fringe has a great reputation for putting on cutting edge work. We can’t wait for audiences to come and see the work and to respond to it. It can be heavy at times because of the topic, but it’s also a very exciting, challenging piece. I think it’s going to be one for those who are looking for something new in theatre – not to sound too self-congratulatory!
Where? Smock Alley, Black Box
When? September 21-23.
Cost? 14€/12€ conc.