Breda Larkin on her new play about moving statues

FROM coming out as gay on a stage in Galway to creating a one-woman show inspired by the moving statue in Ballinspittle, Breda Larkin was always going to be a performer.
Breda Larkin on her new play about moving statues

Initially interested in stand-up comedy, this 34-year-old Ballinasloe native was the funny child growing up in a big family.

After expressing an interest in comedy, she was invited to perform a five-minute slot in a Galway pub.

“Even though I wasn’t really ‘out’ at that stage, I wrote about coming out and about the horse fair in Ballinasloe,” says Larkin. “I found it terrifying even though I got the odd laugh. It was cathartic but the confidence wasn’t really there.”

She decided to give it another bash and wrote to Galway comedy stalwart, Gerry Mallon, who gave her a gig. “I thought it was going to be an amateur night but on the poster, I saw Jason Byrne’s name and Carol Tobin’s. I noticed that there were nervous in the green room which surprised me.” It turned out that Larkin was playing the amateur slot in the show. She enjoyed the experience but still found it scary.

Having travelled the world, Larkin decided to focus her energies on performing, and signed up for a three-year course in drama, improv and script-writing at Kinsale College of Further Education, under Belinda Wild. Larkin wrote her story and performed it at the Theatre Development Centre at Triskel in Cork in 2013.

This showcase, in front of an audience, was followed by a Q&A. Larkin was advised to enlist script writer, Nicola Depuis, who helped her to write with greater depth, moving from stand-up to theatre.

“When I turned 33 last June, the 30th anniversary of the moving statues at Ballinspittle, I had an idea. I had been fascinated by the moving statues and had lived near Ballinspittle. I decided to do a show starting in Ballinspittle and visiting a town in every county in a camper van borrowed from my sister. I would ring venues in advance and ask them if I could put on my show. All I needed was a microphone. I brought Mary with me — a statue from home that’s actually older than I am.

“I put up posters in towns and learned a bit about each one from various people I met. I used the titbits in the show. It was all self-development for me. I wondered how much I really wanted to do this. It was interesting for me to be on my own.”

A producer from RTÉ picked up on Larkin’s show. “I was told that RTÉ were trying to do a programme on the moving statues. They followed me around , filming me for six weeks and Breda’s Way ended up as a documentary in the Would You Believe programme (it was broadcast in April 2015). I went to Mount Melleray [Cistercian monastery in Co Waterford] and got to stay overnight with the monks and chat to them. I have an interest in religion and I suppose I was questioning the idea of Mary, wondering why she doesn’t have a voice. I’m giving her a voice in my show.”

Breda’s Way, which featured at last year’s Dublin Fringe Festival, starts in Ballinspittle and then becomes a road trip.

“It’s storytelling with a bit of footage.” While it was said to Larkin that the show is slightly blasphemous, she doesn’t agree. “Certainly, I’m asking questions. I don’t mock. I genuinely have spirituality and I think the grottoes around the country are very peaceful places. I believe that these days, it’s good to get out of the wifi hotspots and do a bit of meditation,” says Larkin, who has clearly found her calling.

Breda’s Way is on at the Cork Arts Theatre on February 26 and 27 at 9pm.

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