Director Kris Nelson marks his swansong festival at the helm of the Dublin Fringe Festival with a dizzying array of experimentation and invention. Rachel Donnelly talks with playwright Nadine Flynn about her new show, Polar Night, co-created with filmmaker Aaron Stapleton.
A young playwright who graduated from the Lir Academy’s MFA in playwrighting in 2015, and staged her first major work (Running with Dinosaurs) last year as part of Smock Alley’s Scene + Heard Festival, Nadine Flynn brings her new show Polar Night to this year’s festival. It’s a departure from her first play, where the action was set in inner-city Dublin, an environment familiar to Flynn. Polar Night, co-created with filmmaker Aaron Stapleton, is set in Northern Europe, in that area of the continent that experiences perpetual darkness for one half of the year.
The starting point was Flynn’s interest in the implications of living in such an unforgiving environment.
“I have family in Sweden, so that world isn’t completely foreign to me. They don’t live that far north but I always heard stories of that region. I was fascinated by the impact it has on its inhabitants. Northern Scandinavia has some of the highest suicide rates in the world because of this. The world of the play was established first. Once we decided on where the story would be set, the narrative itself came to us naturally.”
Polar Night is a family drama that charts a mother-daughter relationship, within the confines of a cabin surrounded by the polar night of the title.
“We wanted to isolate our characters, so much so that their reality becomes distorted and the lines between what’s real and what’s not becomes blurred. The characters become products of their environment as the play progresses and I think their inability to leave is something self-inflicted.”
The film and sound aspects of the play are designed to distort the audience’s senses, letting them into the sensory and psychological world of the characters.
“We are playing with lights and visuals to evoke some sincere emotions. We want the audience to feel what the characters feel: the isolation, the darkness, the claustrophobia.”
The relationship between the mother and daughter in Polar Night is central to the drama, bringing in questions of motherhood.
“We’re exploring the idea that not all women make great mothers. Mothers are expected to be happy, to love their children, to cherish them. This play examines a mother who lacks any maternal instincts. The abortion issue is something that pops up a lot in theatre, but what about the mothers who don’t want to be mothers after the fact? I think this play will raise some interesting questions.”
When asked about the relevance of theatre in these times, particularly to younger audiences, Flynn is positive.
“I think theatre is making some huge leaps, especially with bigger theatres like the Abbey making themselves more accessible to both their young and working class audiences. I think we are in the process of encouraging a new generation of theatre audience, and it’s only going to get bigger.”
Words: Rachel Donnelly
Polar Night is on in The New Theatre with a preview performance on Thursday September 14th (1pm) and shows on Friday 15th and Saturday 16th at 1pm as well as from Wednesday 20th to Saturday 23rd at 1pm also. €10/€12