WHEN playwright Enda Walsh was moving into his new home in London’s Kilburn in the Noughties, a long-time resident of the area didn’t exactly welcome Enda and his wife, enquiring instead as to when they were going to leave.
So relates Pat Kiernan, artistic director of Corcadorca, who says Walsh’s play, Gentrification, loosely inspired by the writer’s experience.
“Enda admitted that to a degree, the guy had a point,” says Kiernan. Gentrification is an out of the ordinary conversation between what might be called an interloper and a native resident of a traditionally working class area. Enda Walsh’s character is played by Evan Lordan with Kieran Ahern playing Barry.
This collaboration with sound artists Eat My Noise is a site specific production that will be performed in the former Cork Savings Bank on Lapp’s Quay. The classical limestone building was known for generations of city savers as the ‘penny bank’. But the bank’s history of thrifty clients is not what has drawn Kiernan to this imposing building. Rather, it is its grandeur.
But, Kiernan emphasises, the play is not in any way trying to create reality. “There isn’t that ambition with the piece at all. It’s very exaggerated and theatrically heightened in terms of the location.”
The play is relevant, says Kiernan, because it is about the idea of moneyed people coming into existing communities.
“They increase the value of the houses. The argument of the play is that these people interfere with the sense of community. They change the dynamic of these places that were not desirable before. I suppose the play is about class, to a degree, and the way different people look at each other when they’re suddenly put in close proximity to each other.
“There’s a sense of the Enda character coming in with his notions and ‘good taste.’ But is it good taste?”
The two characters make assumptions about each other and are prone to stereotyping without even being aware of what they’re doing.
As well as the tense interaction between Enda and Barry, there is a surreal but nonetheless very troubling revelation about some of the children of the neighbourhood.
The vast space of the bank will be animated not just by the small cast and the musicians. Like last year’s Corcadorca production of Walsh’s How These Desperate Men Talk, performed in a factory in Kinsale, the text is quite short — about 40 minutes. But there will be a lot more going on, as happened in the Graepel Factory space production.
“The audience (limited to 22 people per performance) will walk through the building and witness installations and events and will hear sounds that are relevant to the text. The challenge for us is that each of those elements will be of interest and will stand alone,” says Kiernan.
Later, when the play, performed in the magisterial powder blue boardroom, is over, the audience, having been informed by the text, will experience the installations and events in a new way as they wander back to where they first came in.
Next year, Corcadorca will celebrate 25 years. Walsh has been commissioned by the company to write a short play for 2016 that will complete the trio of plays the Cork company produced with Eat My Noise.
Kiernan enjoys a close personal and professional relationship with Walsh.
The ground-breaking Disco Pigs, which Walsh wrote for Corcadorca, propelled the company and the playwright onto the worldwide stage when it toured internationally for a few years in the 1990s. (Walsh’s profile was raised when it was announced earlier this year that he is working on a project with David Bowie).
Kiernan says there is plenty of good writing out there, and Corcadorca is already working with Pat McCabe — “one of my favourite writers ever” — on a site specific play planned for next year’s Cork Midsummer Festival.
Entitled Sacrifice at Easter, Kiernan says it’s not about the 1916 Rising. It is more of an exploration of where we are 100 years on from the historic event. (McCabe’s play, The Big Yum Yum was produced by Corcadorca a couple of years ago at the Half Moon Theatre.)
Kiernan also admires the work of Ailís Ní Ríain and would like to work with her again, having staged her play, The Tallest Man in the World at Triskel Christchurch.
An exciting new voice on the Irish theatre scene, according to Kiernan, is Gavin McEntee of Conflicted Theatre Company.
While there is a lot of theatre activity in Cork at the moment, with the Everyman in particular being available to theatre professionals, Kiernan fears many theatre makers have to effectively subsidise their work themselves. He says that could create a world they railed against 20 years ago. “The landscape that we came into was very much the semi-professional/amateur drama world. I would really hope that doesn’t start again.”