New Cork theatre group makes musical debut

New Cork theatre company, Scruffy Duck Productions, stages its debut show, The Last Five Years, at the Stack Theatre in the CIT Cork School of Music this week. The musical is by Tony Award-winning playwright, Jason Robert Brown and runs until Saturday.

New Cork theatre group makes musical debut

Scruffy Duck comprises UCC Dramatic Society members and graduates.

The Last Five Years, starring Sherelle Kelleher and Mark O’Sullivan, is directed by Catherine Gillespie, a music student at UCC. It premiered in Chicago’s Northlight Theatre in 2001 and was produced Off Broadway. A film adaptation, to star Anna Kendrick, has been confirmed.

The show’s disjointed narrative explores a five-year relationship. Cathy, a struggling actress, begins the show at the end of her marriage to Jamie, a rising novelist. Jamie’s story is told chronologically, after the couple meet. The two characters do not interact, apart from performing a wedding song in the middle of the show.

With theatres regularly forming in Cork, and many producing just one show a year, due to lack of funding, Scruffy Duck’s head of PR, Jonathan Twomey, says marketing is vital to impact on the city’s cultural life.

An arts graduate of UCC and former member of Dramat, he says “I’m looking after the posters and filming loads of videos for the company, getting the name out there. As a brand new theatre company, I think that’s important.”

Twomey has shot a video that “mimics” ‘Blurred Lines’, the raunchy music video and song performed by R’n’B artist, Pharrell, and pop artist, Robin Thicke, and which is a YouTube sensation.

Twomey says that “other theatre companies in Cork can be quite dormant. They’re not really doing that much to promote themselves, whereas we are, at least, putting stuff up on Facebook every day. We video interviews with company members. Our marketing is really out there.”

As to the company’s vision, Twomey says “what we’re offering is the Cork premiere of this musical, which is going to be a Hollywood film. We hope to put on one or two productions a year. It all depends on getting spaces to perform in and it depends on the success of our first play, as well. Also, it depends on the availability of each member of the company.”

Scruffy Duck raises finance “through company investment and donations from people. We raised over €1,000 alone from the online donating website, Indie Go Go. Whereas ‘Dramat’ gets funding from UCC’s societies’ guild, we have to raise every cent ourselves. That’s very difficult. We needed money to buy the rights of the musical and pay for the set and costumes. We managed to do that.”

Twomey says that Cork “has become a real hub for theatre. There’s a huge demand for places on the UCC drama-and-theatre studies degree and you’ve got the Gaiety School of Acting here. There’s a big audience for theatre in Cork.”

— Colette Sheridan

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