Interview with Fiona Looney – Are you there Garth? It’s me Margaret


Are you there Garth? It’s me Margaret – Gaiety theatre from 13-25 October. – Interview by Frances Winston

Tuesday – Sunday evenings: 7:30pm Saturday & Sunday matinee: 2:30pm

We know what you didn’t do last summer!

Last year Ireland erupted into a frenzy when country and western superstar Garth Brooks cancelled all five of his planned live dates in Croke Park when Dublin City council refused to grant a licence for more than three. Despite the fact that the country had far bigger issues this was something that really caught the zeitgeist and it became international news with some fans even petitioning President Obama to use his influence on DCC. All in all it was one of those “you couldn’t make it up” scenarios so it was only matter of time before some witty spark decided to give it the comedic twist it so richly deserved. Step forward Fiona Looney who has penned the upcoming ‘Are You There Garth? It’s me Margaret’ which uses the events of summer 2014 as a catalyst for its tale of an ordinary housewife who turns to Garth to get through the drudgery of her daily life.

Despite the wealth of material just waiting to be mined from the incident Looney admits that the idea didn’t hit her right away “It wasn’t like it struck me from day one that this would be a good idea for a play or something. I was actually on holiday when it was happening and I’m not a Garth Brooks fan so I was aware of it but I wasn’t really caught up in it. But as it dragged on it started to strike me how apoplectic people were getting about it. I mean they were incandescent with rage at a time when the country was still on its knees. The Greeks took to their streets to protest austerity but we’ll protest a concert cancellation! I think when it really struck me that there was something in it was when I saw a headline about it mentioning the Mexican ambassador and I realised how ridiculous the whole thing was getting.”

Obviously the story was a hot topic at the time but like all stories of this nature there tends to be a time frame regarding how long it remains in the public consciousness –something Fiona was fully aware of insisting after initial discussions that it would have to be done this year while it was still fresh in people’s minds. Well, that and the fact she loved the tagline “We know what you DIDN’T do last summer”! Also the topicality of the story also means that this story may have a short shelf life – something which Fiona was fine with.

“I’m not bothered about how it travels or if it will run and run and we were aware of that when we were working on it. That said though now that it’s on its feet I think it actually has a lot more substance to it than people would think. I mean its core story of the hopes and dreams and frustrations of Margaret who is an ordinary housewife is something that people will relate to. The whole Garth scenario is just a tool to tell her story. You don’t even need to know anything about the background of the events to understand what’s going on. So I could actually see it having a life after this run but it’s fine if it doesn’t.”

Margaret is played by none other than Deirdre O’Kane but obviously all eyes will be on the actor charged with playing the much loved Garth. This task falls to Fair City’s Maclean Burke and Fiona has assured us that the fans have nothing to worry about from his portrayal.

“We knew the casting of Garth was a huge deal because he had to be believable and we were throwing around a few names initially. I’d seen Maclean in a play a while ago and I had thought he might be really good. He came in and auditioned and he was great but I had no idea if he could sing or not but then when he did we were blown away. And when he’s all dressed up he really looks like him! He’s playing a few roles and most of them are almost cartoonish or caractiture but he plays Garth very seriously with a gravitas. It’s important because we didn’t want to make fun of the people who had been looking forward to the concert by being seen to make fun of Garth.”

Despite his sensitive performance however Fiona does point out that no one really comes out of this well – not even the music legend.

“I think Peter Aiken comes out OK because we tried to write him sensitively and it wasn’t really his fault but no one else comes out of it well, not even Garth. I think it will be a minor miracle if it were ever to get his approval. He’s aware of it and his people know about it and we’ve been told he will be sending someone to check it out so we’ll see.”

So perhaps the Garth lookalike in the snazzy Stetson at opening night might just be the man himself!

Are you there Garth? It’s me Margaret runs in Dublin’s Gaiety theatre from 13-25 October. Tuesday – Sunday evenings: 7:30pm Saturday & Sunday matinee: 2:30pm

Tickets: Previews €25 All other shows €32.50-€45

Categories: Comedy, Header, interview, Theatre

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