Aaron Monaghan directs Livin’ Dred’s award winning play Trad which opens 5th April at Pavilion Theatre, Dun Laoghaire and goes on tour until 24th May. See www.livindred.ie for more details, dates & venues.
We had the chance to talk to Aaron about the play. You can see the results below. This is part two of the interview. You can see part one here.
I see from Irish Playography that the cast is for 3 male actors. Clare Barrett has a myriad of attributes but she is not male. What influenced you to cast her with Emmet Kirwan and Seamus O’Rourke and what was Mark Doherty’s reaction to your decision?
AM: Mark in fairness was really open to the casting. The one direction he gave me to the casting was get people who have ‘funny bones’.
That is it. It is a comedy – a tragi comedy- I don’t know another actor who knows ‘funny’ as much as Clare Barrett. In terms of casting her – the main story is about two men and the third actor plays an old woman and a priest – so while David Pierse played both roles in the original production – so if there is one actor he/she is going to be playing both genders. So there was no reason, in my way of thinking, that it could not be a woman. I thought about the history of Livin’ Dred especially with the Waking the Feminist movement in mind. It woke us up to our history of the plays which we had done. I am not going to apologise for the past but we do have to cast more women. So we definitely made a decision to have an all female design team. That is partly because I have worked with Suzie Cummins and Naomi Faughnan before and I love their work. That was a natural progression. We must make opportunities for both genders. It was a conscious decision.
In your comments to John Kelly on RTE’s Mystery Train you query the importance of making a great play ‘relevant’ to paraphrase they are always relevant. It is a matter of finding new things within them. With regard to those thoughts what would you say about Trad?
AM: I think this play is timeless. It is funny that it has been done outside of Ireland so much. It has loads of productions in Australia and in America and yet it has not been revived here. The more we rehearse this play, the more we read this play, the more we discover that Mark is doing some very clever things about what it means to be Irish. I am not putting a stamp on it. The last thing I ever want to do with a play is to make it ‘relevant’. That said having seen it fifteen years ago you cannot get away from the fact that this country has changed so much. So the only relevance that I am interested in is that while the play has remained the same is the reaction to certain lines or scenes. I am not touching that. I am certainly not trying to make it have an impact.
You are going to be touring the play to the Abbey, Cork ,Galway, Dun Laoghaire, Navan and Cavan. Cavan is your home base. How important is it to you in your artistic mission to tour to the other parts of Ireland with particular reference to Cavan?
AM: It is hugely important. It is Cavan first and foremost. That is where we are based. It is where I am from. It is where Livin’ Dred was born and still lives and our mission has not changed in the fifteen years. It is that we want to bring top quality touring theatre to the regions. At that point there was nothing coming to Cavan. Well there was very little. We had this theatre which was crying out for good product but virtually nothing was touring. Padraig McIntyre, my predecessor as artistic director, has done amazing work. He has brought the company all over Ireland including to Cork but to go now to Dublin is a huge step for us. The opportunity to do this play in the Abbey is something we just could not say ‘no’ to so we are really proud of that. I hope even with this tour it will have a life that will be singularly regional by the end of this year. Hopefully, Arts Council funding dependent of course.
There is of course Druid in Galway and Blue Raincoat Theatre Company in Sligo. There is strength in numbers.
AM: We were pivotal in setting up the Nomad network. We should be performing not only in Cavan but touring to our neighbouring counties of Louth, Leitrim, Longford, Meath and Roscommon. As our confidence grows we want to be standing should to shoulder with Druid. We model ourselves on Druid. But we want to rival it. We have taken such inspiration from it. Padraig still talks about Druid coming to do “Playboy’ in Shercock. He saw the play and it blew his socks off. He also then saw Marie Mullen walking across the car park. I am not denying that Druid has been a huge influence on me.