Interview with Gary Duggan – Tales from the Woods – Theatre Upstairs


We had the chance to interivew Gary Duggan ahead of the opening of Tales from the Woods: Sinister Tales for Hallowe’en at Theatre Upstairs. This is three new short plays written by Gary Duggan, Kate Gilmore and Karl Shiels. You can see the results below!

Tales from the Woods: Sinister Tales for Hallowe’en by Gary Duggan, Kate Gilmore and Karl Shiels

Runs – 27 October 2015 – 7 November 2015

The horror genre is rarely performed on stage, why do you think that is?

I’m not sure that’s true. There seems to be quite few horrror-y options about this Halloween, currently shows in Theatre Upstairs, The New Theatre, Smock Alley and then the Bram Stoker festival. More and more younger or smaller companies are trying it out. It’s tricky to get right. One person’s scary is another person’s cheesy. I think it might be easier to scare someone live but it’s also hard to maintain an atmosphere or build it when you have limited means. I think for horror onstage shorter is always best. Brief creepy tales that can unsettle or unnerve you but then spit you out before you have time to question the artifice too much.

Why do you think it is such an established genre in film but not in theatre?

With film the ability to edit and focus on details in film is sometimes more effective for horror. Film can take you to more places in a more convincing and visceral way. It tends to be more about images and dreamlike whereas a lot of theatre is more about words and can be more cerebral. But theatre has the live, tangible feel that is also very useful when freaking you out! And your imagination tends to be more engaged in theatre which helps for horror stories getting in under your skin.

This play features three short plays, does the format allow you to experiment?

It takes the pressure off having to sustain a story over a full length. The short format allows you to focus more on a moment or feeling rather then having to develop a complicated plot or detailed characters. So it allows you to do something that hopefully has impact but with very little. My piece is more of a sketch or a picture with a sting than a full story. And I suspect the other pieces might be like that too. I like the short format. I’ve been watching a lot of old TWILIGHT ZONE episodes, which pack so much thought and atmosphere into 20mins. I was aiming for a hint of that!

Did you know what the other playwrights had written when you wrote your piece?

No. We all wrote separately and around the same time. I have an idea what area the others’ pieces are in but I’m only going to discover them properly when I sit down to watch the whole show with an audience.

Do all three plays have a similar style?

Karl Shiels is directing all three together so some of his stamp will be across them all, I imagine.

How did the production come about?

I’ve worked with Theatre Upstairs a few times before. I love working with them. It’s always a fun and efficient but satisfying process. They asked me would I write a short piece for Halloween and I said yes.

What is the writer’s involvement with the rehearsal process?

Depends on the show. When it’s one of my new full-length plays I like to be there a lot and adjust the script in collaboration with the director and cast. At least for the first week or so. I also sometimes direct myself so that’s different again. For this though, because it’s a short piece and I trust and have worked with a lot of the team before, I just gave it to them and haven’t been involved in rehearsals at all. I heard one reading of the script and gave a couple of pointers but after that I won’t be involved til I watch it on opening night.

Are you working on any new work and if so, when can we expect to see it next?

I’m writing and directing a web pilot for RTE which should show up in the new year and another play I wrote for Theatre Upstairs, is having a second production at Bewleys Cafe Theatre in December, it’s a Christmas show called ‘IT’S A WONDERFUL bleedin’ LIFE’ which is inspired by the famous film and short story, but I’ve reimagined it set in contemporary Howth.

Do you have a favourite horror play / film?

I’m quite partial to CANDYMAN, ROSEMARY’S BABY and POLTERGEIST. I love the way they show a recognisable well captured ‘real’ world and then layer in the fantastical and supernatural so that the creeps and scares hit you a little harder.

Categories: Header, interview, Theatre

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