We had the chance to talk to Eoghan Quinn, writer and co-director of The Water Orchard, ahead of its opening this week. You can see the results below.
Collapsing Horse and Project Arts Centre present The Water Orchard – 18 July 2017-29 July 2017 7.30pm
How do you start writing a new play? What do you work on first; characters/ plot or something else?
I personally tend to arrive at elements like character and plot a little bit later in the process, which can make things difficult! I’d usually start with an overarching concept, a series of stage-images, or even just a vague idea of design elements, and then try to explore those, either in conversation or with actors in a development. For example, with The Water Orchard, we started out with ideas like “water-based gags,” “dark naturalistic drama”, or “projected text onstage”, and then I would start drawing up scenes that emerged from jamming around those.
Collapsing Horse are known for the use of puppets. Do you bear this in mind when writing, or is it something that happens afterwards?
I do, though there are moments or drafts of the script where I try to completely ignore the staging, for the sake of trying to find clarity on the story or feelings of characters, etc. I find it really useful to think about how things actually appear on a stage, and not worry about having a pristine play-text, but I reckon you have to keep a balance; it’s not good to lock in too many design decisions in the writing stage. There are always huge and exciting changes that come up in rehearsals and I guess you want to avoid being closed off to those. That said, if you know you’re definitely writing for a puppet, it can certainly impact on what you might make them say.
It’s fairly new to us, to be honest! Dan (Colley) and I have worked together on a few projects before, generally with a director – writer relationship. With this project I felt I wanted to be a part of bringing it through the design and directing phase, but I knew that I would be wholly incompetent to do so on my own! It made sense for Dan to come in and be the experienced guiding hand, and I think he became excited about the project quickly. In practice, we each sort of play to our strengths, provide each other with a sounding board, and fill in each other’s silences in rehearsals.
Tell me about the world in which this work is set? Is it the future, an alternate reality or what?
I think of it as an alternate reality, although some people might see it as a science fiction world, or even a sort of alternate-history universe. It’s a weird and dark and comic place, but it’s not quite fantasy; there’s nothing magical about it, and the characters are recognisable (if heightened) human beings. The most strange thing about it would be that water can be extremely valuable in this world, and treated with the reverence of fine wine. Within the overarching world of the play, we spend almost all of it inside one house, so our idea of what the world beyond those walls actually looks like is sort of gleaned through fragments and glances.
Why is there so little science fiction on stage? Are traditional sci-fi fans and theatre goers very different markets?
It’s a really interesting question, and one I really don’t have the answer to. It sometimes feels like SF has these robust canons in literature, film and TV, and sort of stepped right over the theatre. I’m sure there’s a lot more SF stage work out there than I’m aware of, but I’d always love to see more. It’s such a flexible and wide-ranging genre, and the element of unreality in SF is sort of always there in theatre to begin with… Plus, seeing really whopper SF stage designs would be niiiiice!
Do you read reviews of your own work? Do you take the comments on board or do you try to not let them affect you?
I’d be lying if I said I didn’t read reviews, although I try not to agonise or celebrate too much over them. Ultimately, despite it feeling a bit rough sometimes, I believe in the importance of good and thoughtful criticism, whether positive or negative. Not only do people in the arts depend on reviewers for professional legitimisation or ticket sales, but a good critic can and should also elucidate contexts for your work that you could never see, and that can make it more impactful for audiences. However, I’m getting better at not feeling like my work is made super worthwhile or not by reviews or audience reaction. At this stage I hope I have a good idea when a show goes up of exactly what I think of it, and how well it matched or didn’t match our ambitions. From there, a good or a bad review can just elevate or put a dampener on the vibe amongst the crew and the actors, but I don’t think it ever supersedes what you have come to feel about the show as a team.
Cast and Crew:
Writer / Director – Eoghan Quinn
CoDirector – Dan Colley
Dramaturg – Jack Gleeson
Lighting Designer – Sinead Wallace
Set Designer – Sarah Bacon
AV Designer – Jack Phelan
Sound design & Music – Kevin Gleeson & Cameron Macauley
Producer – Kate Ferris
Producer – Matt Smyth
Cast – Peter Corboy, John Doran, Rachel Gleeson, Breffni Holahan