Hurling piece performed in a natural setting

Timmy Creed brings his Spliced play to five of the city’s GAA clubs, writes Marjorie Brennan

Timmy Creed begins his run of Cork GAA clubs at Brian Dillons tonight.
Timmy Creed begins his run of Cork GAA clubs at Brian Dillons tonight.

Timmy Creed has been performing his acclaimed one-man show Spliced for the guts of two years now but has spent most of his time trying to avoid the stage. Instead, his performance spaces have been the handball alleys, squash courts and sports clubs of Ireland.

“I’ve become so used to it now that doing it in a theatre is weird. Handball alleys and squash courts are brilliant stages, they’re like black box theatre spaces except with much higher ceilings.”

In Spliced, Creed uses his own experience in the GAA to explore issues of identity, mental health and masculinity. It is a powerful piece of physical theatre, that is enhanced when staged in a venue such as a handball alley.

“You can also use the walls in them, which you can rarely do in theatres, because they are either cladded with some soundproof material or else they have windows or radiators on them. I use the walls, I run up them, I hit the ball off them, I bounce off them,” says Creed.

While there were once hundreds of handball alleys around the country, the majority have fallen into disrepair, with few active clubs among the ones that remain.

“They are unused spaces really, I was thinking you could have a gig or a rave there because right at the top is a small booth for the referee, which would be perfect for a DJ, and hundreds of people down on the floor.”

Creed has been gratified by the hugely positive response to Spliced but still felt the show wasn’t drawing the people who he really wanted to see it — the players themselves, so he has undertaken a tour taking in sporting venues around the country.

“We are still trying to get the current players to see it, that is still a big challenge, to get them engaged and active in the conversation. We are hoping to get more of a crossover with young people who play.”

Creed previously played hurling with Bishopstown in Cork, and brought the show to the club when Spliced was performed as part of the Cork Midsummer Festival in 2018. He will also finish the current tour at his former home club, where he says he was given a warm and open reception.

Loads of members of the club came — they were supporting me but they were also interested because they were wondering ‘What is this fecker going to say, he hasn’t played with us for three years and now he’s making a show of us’. But they accepted it, that’s the thing.

In Spliced, Creed explores how the competitive element of the GAA led to him questioning his role within his club and the organisation.

“I wanted to challenge the emphasis on the result, this sense that everyone is in it to win. Whereas in fact, the reason people play is to connect… to feel part of something that is outside yourself. People who are in any way different end up quitting and feeling like the organisation isn’t for them because it doesn’t allow any sort of diversity.”

And while there are signs that things may be improving in this area, Creed wonders how much of this is down to changes in society, rather than the GAA.

“There are definitely more immigrants playing, and it is brilliant to see people with different-coloured skin playing for county teams. I don’t know if that shows a change in the landscape of the country or a change in the landscape of the GAA.

"Sometimes I think they can use that as a way of saying the GAA is progressing, whereas maybe the mentality isn’t,” he says.

However, Creed says his experience of dealing with the clubs that are hosting his performances epitomises all that is good in the GAA.

One thing we have seen is the kindness — you go into any GAA club, they will do anything they can to support you, which is really humbling.

  • The Everyman, Cork presents Spliced at:
  • Brian Dillons GAA Club, Tues, Nov 5
  • St Finbarr’s GAA Club, Wed, Nov 6
  • Glen Rovers Hurling Club, Thurs, Nov 7
  • Blackrock Hurling Club, Fri, Nov 8
  • Bishopstown GAA Club, Sat, Nov 9

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