Gemma Doorly — who played Sarah O’Leary on Fair City — wrote Joe Prop, a full-length play and one-man performance written for Maclean Burke, who plays Dominic in the TV soap.
Joe Prop tells the story of 12-year-old Joe Kavanagh whose illness has left him overweight and a target for bullies. The play is set in his bedroom, far from bullies and illness and where he gets to be the greatest tight head prop in rugby and captain of a winning Irish Rugby World Cup team. The only witness to Joe’s dreams, his confidante and best friend, is a teddy bear known simply as Teddy.
The play was inspired by the experience of one of Gemma’s friends who had a brain tumour as a child.
“It meant operations and hospital stays. He missed a lot of school, put on weight because of medication and was bullied. He was a big guy, with a great passion for rugby, who found solace on the school rugby team. He went on to become a coach. He proved you could be big [overweight] in one part of the school and yet a hero on the rugby team,” she says.
The play is about cheering on the underdog, “about overcoming obstacles and succeeding”.
Speaking about his ideal Teddy co-star, Burke said he must be large, able to take Maclean on in a rugby tackle, and be a team player. “From time to time we may need him to drive the tour bus too. No divas or difficult teddies need apply!”
The children who auditioned teddies took the casting very seriously.
“Some teddies were in costume. The children filled out a contract, explaining Teddy’s dietary requirements and how many hugs a day he needed.”
Barnardos CEO Fergus Finlay says he was going to bring his teddy, Aslan.
“He’s probably a bit battered now. At 58 years of age he’s lost one of his eyes — driving the tour bus will be out of the question. But like every teddy bear I’ve ever known, he’s still a friend, willing to provide unconditional comfort during life’s difficult moments.”
Tickets, available from theatres, cost €15 — 10% of sales go to Barnardos. Full proceeds from opening night (October 27) in Smock Alley and closing night at Ballymun’s Axis (December 12) go to Barnardos. Joe Prop is at Conary Community Hall, Avoca (September 6); St John’s Theatre, Listowel (September 26); Carnegie Arts Centre, Kenmare (September 27); Riverside Theatre, Coleraine (December 6); Roscommon Arts Centre, (January 25); Ramor Theatre, Cavan (February 21). Also Smock Alley, Dublin 2 (October 27-November 1) and Axis Theatre (December 10-12).