We had the chance to interview Seána Kerslake and Stephen Jones who are currently performing in ‘From Eden’ at Theatre Upstairs. They are a couple in real life, and this work is their first time on stage together. You can see the results below…
From Eden – Theatre Upstairs – Until 5th December
Theatre Upstairs is a great space for new work, have either of you performed there before?
Seána Kerslake (SK) – It’s actually the first time on the Theatre Upstairs stage for the both of us. We both have been huge fans and supporters of what Karl Shiels, Laura Honan & Co have built so it’s great to finally be able to perform there.
Stephen Jones (SJ) – I have helped out with fundraisers for Theatre Upstairs in the past so doing a full production there has been on the cards for a long time. I’m a massive fan of the space and its ethos about producing only new work so the timing was perfect to produce the show. It was the right fit.
Where does the title of your new play ‘From Eden’ come from?
SJ – I probably have twenty reasons while it’s called ‘From Eden’ and I think the audience come away with their own thoughts on it. For me when I think of Eden it represents a perfect place but we all know that a perfect place/person doesn’t exist and so these two characters have to come to terms with their own flaws and be able to move on from there. In the Garden of Eden story from the bible Adam and Eve become the world’s first outsiders and that’s what Alan and Eva in this play are. Also, the house in which the party is being held is called ‘Eden’ but beyond the door of this bathroom the people who seem happiest of all have the same problems as we all do. Some people are better at hiding it I suppose. The bathroom the characters are locked in becomes a bit of a safe haven for them, an ‘Eden’ if you will but they know that they will have to leave that room and we wonder what will become of them when they do.
This new work seems to discuss the loneliness of the holiday season. Is that something you wanted to explore?
SJ – Yeah I think loneliness and how we all deal with it is a fascinating subject and the idea of being lonely when you’re surrounded by people is really interesting. The holiday season for me is a time when a lot of organised gatherings happen, with family and friends who are home for Christmas etc and sometimes if you’re going through a tough time it can be difficult because you’re ‘supposed’ to have fun and it’s ‘meant’ to be a happy time. Life isn’t always like the Xmas ads though.
It is true that you can feel most alone surrounded by people, was this part of the inspiration for the piece?
SJ – I think that’s absolutely true. I think the characters of Alan and Eva, they haven’t been in many recent situations where they have been surrounded by people so something like a New Year’s Eve party has them on edge. And obviously when people see the play there are many reasons why that’s the case. But yeah, the idea of a party going on downstairs and the play opens with a guy hidden away with a bottle of wine and his thoughts makes me ask straight away ‘Okay, what’s going on with him? Why isn’t he down there enjoying himself too?’ And I think everyone who has lived in a big city or has been to a party when they don’t want to be there can get that lonely while surrounded feeling.
I believe you are a couple in real life. Is this your first time on stage together?
SK – Yeah it’s out first time to act together in a full production and it was written by Stephen for the two of us to perform. I would always hear about the plays he had written years ago when he was in UCD and so I was excited when he started writing again. One day he asked me to read a few scenes he had written and from there the idea of ‘From Eden’ started to develop.
Does it complicate things in real life to work together?
SK – I think that we tried as much as possible to have fun with it. It was an opportunity to work together and enjoy that time so if we ever got stressed in the rehearsal room we sort of had to remind each other and ourselves why we were doing the play in the first place.
SJ – Yeah, same as Seána said really. It was about knowing that crossing personal/professional lines would only harm the play. Our brilliant director Karl Shiels helped us so much because he gave us great insight into these characters to the point whereby you forget that it’s your partner up there with you. You’re just seeing this character that your character has never met before.
SK – On a practical level it helped too because we didn’t have much time so we were able to get stuck into the work really quickly and there was a shorthand communication if you like.
What is your favourite memory of New Year’s Eve?
SJ – I’m like my character in the play. I HATE New Year’s Eve so I don’t have a favourite. Maybe this year when the countdown happens it will remind me of the play and that’ll be a good memory.
SK – Last year we went to stand at Christchurch and listened to the bells at midnight. That’s probably my favourite memory of New Years.