Setting The Scene – Dreams Of a Brighter Future


Posted 6 months ago in Arts and Culture, Theatre

Director Wayne Jordan and actor Paul Reid ponder Dublin and their relationship with it ahead of Somewhere Out There You, a new show, written by Nancy Harris, which receives its world premiere at the Abbey Theatre this month.

“I think the play is very much about the dream we have for our life, how we might go about getting it and what we are willing to settle for in the roles that we play and those forced upon us. Can we ever escape them? If we give reign to our imaginations what could we be?” says director Wayne Jordan as he reflects upon the play he has just started rehearsals on.

And while Somewhere Out There You is a “genre-bending rom-com” which, while ostensibly is about Casey (Eimear Keating) and her concerns with finding the perfect man entangled with the concerns of her sister Cynthia (Danielle Galligan) and family in wondering if Brett the one she finds actually is, it also delicately reflects our relationship with the city, one which both Wayne and Paul know the push-pull nature of.

“The gesture of this show is about Dublin and one of celebration of personal identity and imagination.”

“In one particular scene, Casey is romanticising the city. If we could turn it around, could we make something around us into something more beautiful and enjoy it? She refuses to live in a miserable place and wants something better of it,” says Jordan who has directed in the Abbey and elsewhere over the years, before leaving in 2017 to spend four years in Prague.

“I have very strong feelings about Dublin. I find it very hard. I am from here and love it and the people here but it is a very difficult city to live in. I spent my life savings going to an experimental puppetry school. My concern is ‘how the hell am I going to live here?’ I’ve moved five times since I came back. It feels like a bucking bronco trying to throw you off all the time.”

Reid recollects 2017 as being the last time he was on the Abbey Stage also in Corn Exchange’s revival of Dublin by Lamplight. He’s currently living between here and London. “This feels like a total reset, getting into a rhythm again. I was thinking what way am I going to approach this, who do I want be going into the room? Yesterday (the first day of rehearsals) there was loads of familiar faces and people. Ultimately I wanted to say so much but thought that I should sit back, reign myself in, listen and learn, figure it out together.”

Eric, Cynthia’s husband played by Reid, is having his own mid-life crisis struggling with his career as a documentary producer and masculinity within a world of low-fat beers. “How do you relate to it?” scoffs Jordan when I query this take on Eric to Reid. Needless to say Jordan also self-deprecates in noting that since Somewhere Out There You was conceived of almost a decade ago by him and Harris, they can now “relate a bit more to the older characters and their failed ambition.”

“I want to be here all the time. As soon as I leave here I can ring one of the lads for a kick about,” says Reid about the ease of connecting in a city which is likened to a “little theatre company” by Jordan what with its various creative cross-overs. He has taught a number of the cast in The Lir and knows Harris from their days in Trinity College. They last collaborated on stage with No Romance, an Abbey commission back in 2011, while Harris has went on to write theatre, radio and TV scripts, perhaps best known for The Dry.

“I won’t even bother telling some people about shows I’m in but with this one I’m telling everyone to go,” says Reid. “People will be laughing their heads off and thinking about it. There’s also a huge sense of pride in being on the stage of the national theatre. The late Karl Shields said it’s like playing for Ireland.”

“It’s an extraordinary thing to think a group of people imagined a national theatre before we even had a nation. It is a beacon for a possibility of something that remains guarded. I wish we had several of them,” says Jordan.

Jordan is quick to laud recent productions such as Fun Home, Girl on an Altar and Every Brilliant Thing and expresses excitement about getting to see playwright Erica Murray’s The Loved Ones which is on in the Gate during the festival.

“It would be really great to create more space and language to speak about what we are doing and what else can be done,” says Jordan. “There’s not nearly enough articulation about vision…not just criticism but critique about what people are doing and could be done.

“The gesture of this show is about Dublin and one of celebration of personal identity and imagination. We’re inviting people to reach into that and open all the doors and windows in that space. We are all mired in recent history but its spirit is one of positivity.”

Somewhere Out There You receives its world premiere in the Abbey Theatre Festival as part of the Dublin Theatre Festival running from Wednesday September 27 to Saturday November 4.

Dublin Theatre Festival runs from September 28 to October 15.

Words: Michael McDermott

Photo: Ailbhe O’Donnell

The Abbey Theatre is proud to support the ‘Setting the Scene’ section of Totally Dublin. This initiative aims to support discourse around theatre practitioners, venues and productions in Irish society.

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