Interview with Michael O’Kelly – Eden – Smock Alley

Interview with Michael O’Kelly – Eden – Smock Alley

We had the chance to talk to Michael O’Kelly who plays Billy in the production of Eden currently running in Smock Alley. You can see the results below.

Little Shadow Theatre Company + Unravel Productions Present:

Eden – Smock Alley  – 26 Jun – 1 Jul | 8pm | Boys’ School

The tag line of this new play is simplicity itself – “Billy and Breda are married and live in an Irish midlands town. This is their weekend.” Can we expect a few surprises?

Its safe to say that Billy and Breda have an eventful weekend, certainly one that deserves re-telling. Many aspects of every day life, the challenges we meet, are encountered – family, marriage, relationships, friendships, growing up in a small town and the expectations people have about themselves, and about others.

As a monologue play, both will tell their story, their version of how the weekend plays out, and everyone’s opinion of the same thing can sometimes be different, can’t it?

This play was originally performed in the Peacock in 2001, before travelling to the West End. How did this new production come about?

Eden is a popular play, and has been staged a number of times since its inception. Eugene O’Brien’s writing is timeless, is applicable to the present day as much as to when it was first written and as such, is relevant and connects with people, particularly Irish people.

I’ve loved it from the first time I read it, which was a good few years ago. I was in the Gaiety School of Acting and my tutor Clare Maguire gave me a monologue from it and I instantly loved the writing. Ever since then it has been something that would eventually be done and as with any play or role, the time had to be right.

Carolyn Bracken (who plays Breda) and I meet on a short film last year and we spoke about the play. Carolyn loved it as much as I did and that was that – Eden was under way.

Unravel Productions was born (the name, which I love, was Carolyn’s brainchild) and while this is our first production, the creative team, both cast and crew, bring an abundance of experience to the table.

Jed Murray came on as director and Joe O’Neill from Little Shadow Theatre came on board to co-produce. All of this, plus the stunning poster, designed and commissioned by David Jones.

So, you were involved with this production from the very start?

Yes, I was involved from the outset. It is true to say that we have to make the work happen for ourselves. We have a choice, wait for someone to contact us about a role we want to play, or put the play on ourselves. We chose the latter.

I felt it was the right time for me to take on the complex character of Billy, and having worked with Carolyn previously, felt that she fit the role of Breda perfectly. Carolyn read the play about eight times in two weeks and loved it. We spoke about it and it was one of those magic moments when the enthusiasm is shared and so the journey began.

Do you play one character throughout, or do you change between a variety of characters?

Billy and Breda are the main characters on stage, but over the course of this weekend they encounter friends, old and new, and characters from the town. If you can imagine any recounting of a weekend, don’t we always embody the people we meet, quote them, mimic them and tell their stories too? Billy and Breda are a constant on stage, but the other characters come and go as well, adding a lovely colour to their journeys.

Your director Jed Murray is known for his work with Anu,. Do you think this affected his style as a director?

Jed is indeed known for his work with Anu, a brilliant company, and also has other great work to his name, most recently Mark O’Rowe’s Made in China, and he works with the Corps Ensemble too.

Jed has really dug into Eden and help us to explore and extract every drop from it. His work on physical theatre has been wonderful to see and experience, where the slightest move or gesture can add such colour to the piece.

There is such an energy and playfulness to his approach, he has that great combination of having great fun, while also getting the work done.

I think I speak for Carolyn too when I say we have hit the jackpot with Jed being onboard.

In terms of ticket sales, do you dream of a wet week in Dublin? How difficult is it to sell tickets for the theatre during a heat wave?

Eden is a brilliant play, the writing speaks for itself and the two characters are complex and wonderful to read about and watch – sure what else would ye be doing of an evening!

How about the best of both worlds, people enjoy the good weather and then for some respite and entertainment, we see those sunburned faces peer out from the audience to watch Billy and Breda tell their story.

It being a one act play the audience can be safely ensconced in a beer garden, enjoying the last hour of sunshine and discussing the wonderful piece of theatre they’ve just enjoyed!


Writen by Eugene O’Brien
Directed by Jed Murray

Breda – Carolyn Bracken
Billy – Michael O’Kelly

Categories: Header, interview, Theatre

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