Interview with Gary Keegan – Brokentalkers – Woman Undone
Find out more about Brokentalkers here.
Gary Keegan of Brokentalkers talks about “Woman Undone”, a re-imagining of the extraordinary life of one of Ireland’s best loved singers Mary Coughlan. The work is created by award-winning Irish theatre company Brokentalkers and Mary Coughlan in collaboration with renowned Icelandic composer and music producer Valgeir Sigurdsson. Woman Undone will premiere at Project Arts Centre with performances 17-24 November (preview 16 November) and then at Mermaid Arts Centre Bray 29 November.
Project Arts Centre – Dates: 16 Nov – 24 Nov – Show Time: 7.30pm
Mermaid Arts Centre – Date 29th Nov
How did you meet Mary Coughlan? How did this collaboration come about?
Mary came to see our show The Circus Animals’ Desertion in 2016. She came up after the show that night and told us that she was working on a theatre piece based on her life story. A few weeks after that she got in touch to asked us to collaborate with her on what would eventually become Woman Undone
The other unusual name associated with this production is Icelandic composer and music producer Valgeir Sigurdsson. At what stage was he added to the mix?
Feidlim and I had been fans of Valgeir’s work for several years. We wanted to work with a contemporary composer who was not so familiar with Mary Coughlan’s life story and would approach the material more objectively. We also wanted a score that was unlike the music associated with Mary’s career. Woman Undone is co-produced by LOKAL Performing Arts Festival in Reykjavik, who set up a meeting in Reykjavik with Mary, Valgeir, Feidlim and me. We met Valgeir in his studio and talked about the project. He agreed there and then that he would write the score.
This production is based around Mary’s own life. How did you create the storyline for the production? Did you use your usual techniques of workshopping and discussions?
The story centres around Mary’s early life and Mary, Feidlim and I talked about the key moments to focus on from that time and the structure of the work is supported by 11 new songs, written by us with music by Valgeir. Most of the script and scene ideas were decided on long before we got into the rehearsal room. So in that way, it was quite different to previous processes.
Mary is very well known as a singer and is a regular on stage, but has she acted before?
Mary has certainly acted before, for example in Breakfast on Pluto. Woman Undone involves Mary being herself on stage articulating her story through music, text and image. We think that will be the most impactful performance she can give.
Who would be your ideal musician to work with on a project such as this? Living or dead!
Working with Mary, Valgeir and Mongoose is the ideal at this moment because the story is compelling to us and the collaboration we put in place is working extraordinarily well. Feidlim and I are the kind of artists that respond to the people and stories that cross out path through the natural course of life events, encounters, conversations and building a relationship. We don’t pursue this. We let things happen organically. We just trust it will continue to happen for us that way.