Charolais a surreal comedy about love, longing and one woman’s intense rivalry with a Charolais heifer which was written by and stars Noni Stapleton, and runs as part of Tiger Dublin Fringe in Bewleys Cafe Theatre from Sept 11th to 19th.
We had a chance to ask Noni some questions, you can find the results below.
This work seems to be a very rural tale, what inspired it?
I was sitting at home, alone in my Mam’s kitchen in Naas, last year, talking to myself! Out loud! Just kind of improvising in a country accent for my own entertainment. (Tell me other people do that too…please) Anyway, this character, Siobhan started to emerge and I kinda thought there was something there so I scribbled down what I could remember. Left it for ages and eventually with a lot of encouragement from Bairbre Ni Chaoimh (my director) I applied to the Arts Council for development funding and to Show in a Bag as well. I got both and then the real work began. I made contact with a farmer and his family who live in the Dublin mountains and I was lucky enough to be given access to his farm. I spent hours up there one day, driving from field to field picking up gems of information and at the end of one particular day I calved a cow! It was amazing. There I was shoulder deep in the business end of a very big heifer trying to feel for eyes, mouth and a tongue. At one point the farmer asked if I could feel the calf’s nose “it’s soft and squishy” and I thought this is all just mental. What do you say?
“I have my hand IN A COW. EVERYTHING’S soft and squishy!”
Do you think with so many people living in rural communities, that there should be more theatre about rural lives?
mmm I think that there should be more productions touring regional venues for sure. My play has a rural feel, certainly more Butcher Boy than John B Keane but the themes are universal and that’s what an audience will connect with I hope.
The description of ‘one woman’s intense rivalry with a Charolais heifer’ sounds unique! In what way are they rivals?
Well, Siobhan is a woman who is very alone in the world. She wants to change that but the way she goes about doing that is pretty strange. She is looking for love. She is very determined and there are obstacles to her achieving that sense of belonging she craves. One of which happens to be a terribly beautiful Charolais Heifer, who appears to be vying for the affections of Siobhan’s fella. There are bumps in the road but I won’t give the game away. Put it this way, her method of getting rid of any perceived threat to her idea of happy families is very unusual. There is plenty of room for dark humour, and a little gothic horror here.
It is an exciting time in Dublin with the Fringe Festival kicking off, will you get a chance to see any of the other shows?
God yes! More after I open my show and can relax a little I’d say. There are some really exciting events this year though. I’ll see all of the other Shows in Bags naturally. I’ve seen sneak previews and they are very, very strong pieces. I’m really looking forward to Ramblin Man’s “Hitting the Mark”, “Bastard” by Oddie Braddell, “Sick” To Space, Advocacy, Aaagh there are so many! Bernarda’s House, Lurky Lurky and Gerry Adlum’s new show ” How to Build your First Robot”
You recently worked alongside Timothy Dalton in Sky’s Penny Dreadful. What was it like to work with a former James Bond?
It was a little surreal actually. He is a brilliant actor and I had a fairly daunting first scene with him. On “action” I had to rush in, give him a kiss and burst into tears! No pressure like. He was lovely and very kind and supportive. I just tried to listen and learn as much as I could. If you watch the series he has this magnetic presence on screen and I wanted to to absorb as much as I could during my time on set with him. And indeed with Eva Green and Anna Chancellor too. Timothy is so pleasant though. I really liked working with him. We chatted about cricket in between takes!
How difficult was it to resist using the James Bond catch phrases in his presence?
Ah sure resistance is futile Miss Money Penny! But there were a few raised eyebrows when I deployed the ejector seat in hair and make up!
What are you working on next?
Believe it or not I am not at liberty to say! It’s a role I am very excited about though. And then in the new year the plan is to take Charolais on the road. That’s the great thing about Show in a Bag. It’s very empowering. Have show will travel.