Stefanie Preissner’s new RTÉ comedy is both hilarious and unflinching. Just don’t go and compare it to Girls, writes Ed Power
TWO young women, adrift in the big city, discover life is not as straightforward as they believed. They drink too much, stay out late, go to bed with the wrong guys. It’s a story told many times on television, most recently by Lena Dunham’s Girls. But Can’t Cope Won’t Cope is different because it is set in contemporary Dublin rather than New York or Los Angeles.
The new comedy, debuting tonight on RTÉ2, offers a warts and all look at the growing pains of Irish millennials and is by turns hilarious and unflinching.
“Girls is an easy comparison,” says the show’s writer and creator Stefanie Preissner. “It’s written by a girl, it’s about girls. But American girls are different to Irish girls. I went to a Catholic school — the context is different. My experiences are not the same as those of an American.”
Can’t Cope, Won’t Cope is a surprise: an RTÉ comedy-drama you won’t cringe while watching. The script is as sharp as a box of tacks, the humour at once dry and uproarious. It also has profound things to say about what it’s like to be a young woman in 21st century Ireland.
“I’m really interested in female friendship,” says Mallow, Co Cork, native Preissner. “We tolerate an awful lot from our female friends that we wouldn’t from a boyfriend. We are really aware about being exploited by men. And yet we are told to be a good friend — to make sure our friends are okay. I’ve suffered more emotional turmoil at the hands of my female friends — and caused more to them — than from any guy. This isn’t about girls and their relationship with men. It’s about girls and their relationship with girls.”
Danielle (Nika McGuigan) and Aisling (Seana Kerslake) are friends from Cork now working in Dublin. In a rare departure for Irish drama, their Cork accents are immaculate — impressive considering both actresses grew up in Dublin.
“It’s a very different experience living in Dublin if you’re not from Dublin,” says Preissner. “My friends from Dublin, even if they are living away from home, tend to go home at the weekends. Whereas, if you’re from outside, Dublin — you discover the there are no grown-ups here. Your weekends are different. There are more hangovers, a lot more activity. You have to fill your home with whatever you enjoy. You don’t have to live in Australia to be away from home.”
“I’m glad we got the accents right,” she continues. “Starting off, I was very pernickety about it. But, talking to my friends from Cork, I realised that our accents change. When you’re not talking to people from home, it gets diluted. So I let go of it a little.”
Preissner (28) studied theatre and drama at UCC and had a critical hit with her 2012 Dublin Fringe play Solpadeine Is My Boyfriend.
“The production company, Deadpan Pictures, saw it and asked if I’d considered screenwriting. It all came together very slowly until we got the green light from the Broadcasting Authority in February. Then it started to come together really quickly.”
Social media makes it possible to instantly gauge reaction to a new show. But Preissner will be staying away from Twitter when Can’t Cope,Won’t Cope airs tonight.
“There’s obviously that part of me that wonders if people will like what I’ve done. I don’t think I’ll play that game. I stopped using Facebook. I was constantly comparing myself to other people and to their opinion of me. It’s quite a toxic thing.”
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