Interview with Anna Sheils-McNamee – My Dad’s Blind
We had the chance to put some questions to Anna Sheils-McNamee about My Dad’s Blind. Anna is the writer and lead actor in the play, which won Best Production at last year’s Dublin Fringe Festival. It returns to the Peacock later this month as part of the Young Curators Festival at the Abbey. You can see the results below.
Dates: 30 – 31 July On the Peacock Stage
Growing up, when did you realise your Dad was different from others?
Well, Hide and Seek usually went on for about 8 hours, because he’s BLIND…only joking! Probably when everyone stared at us as I guided him to my primary school when I was 7. That was weird because I didn’t realize that it was unusual to guide your Dad around, then you start to notice that no other kids are doing it. I also remember my sister got a fright when she got in a car with her friend’s Dad and when he started driving she burst out crying because she thought all Dads were blind.
When did you come up with the idea to adapt parts of your own life for the stage?
I was at this weird junction in my life, I had just come back from travelling and needed a sense of purpose to my days. A lot of my friends had written these amazing shows, inspired by them I decided to give it a go myself. Dad being blind was the most interesting thing I had to write about, I think people are usually interested in hearing stories about things they may not have access to. I definitely didn’t want to write a sad story about how hard disability is because that’s just not the truth, humans are built to adapt. I wanted to write about the awkward and hilarious parts of growing up with a blind Dad and an epileptic guide dog that’s just had a stroke.
Are there many things that you had to alter from reality?
Most of the show is inspired by my Dad, my family and our life when we were much younger living in London, but it’s definitely been altered massively. I’m nothing like the character I play, at least I hope not as she is a pain in the hole. I originally recorded my Dad talking about his experiences of being blind and you hear those recordings throughout the show. I wanted those to be included as it was important to me that the audience know the show is based on truth, but also because I’m obsessed with reality TV and have always wanted to create something similar for the stage. However, there are some mad things that happen in the show that are not based on truth at all but drawn from my own dark sick sense of humour.
This was originally part of the Fringe Festival last year. Have you changed anything since that production?
Our original Dad was played by the amazingly talented David O’Meara, however because of scheduling conflicts we have had to re-cast. Steve Blount is our new Dad! I’m delighted as I’m a massive Game of Thrones fan which Steve was brilliant in. He’s also just a sound man and I can’t wait to have all the chats with him when we go on tour.
This is produced in association with Pan Pan Theatre Company. Can you explain their involvement?
We are so fortunate to have their experience as a resource as we’re touring Ireland this time round, they’ve been touring Ireland and the world for 20 years. They were our original producing partners and they educated us in how to manage budgets, manage press and all of this stuff you learn on the hop when making a new show. They also helped design our set when we had to re-design the week before we premiered. They tell me to stop being so lazy when I’m farting around on Instagram, when I should be working on the show. As an emerging artist their support is invaluable!
Will this be your first time to perform at the Abbey (Peacock stage)? Have you any nerves about it?
It’s not my first time but I’m definitely more excited than nervous. Saying that I will absolutely shit myself on the first night before I go on. It’s amazing that they’ve offered us this opportunity as I’m a brand new writer. I think that’s the whole point of the Abbey Young Curators Festival. I know they’re keen to target younger audiences by choosing fresh work and offering cheaper ticket prices, which is great news for students that have no money.
NATIONAL TOUR DATES –
30th and 31st July – Abbey Theatre on the Peacock Stage as part of the Young Curators Festival
3rd – 7th September – Civic Theatre, Tallaght, Dublin 24*
11th September – Town Hall Theatre, Galway *
12th September – VISUAL, Carlow
18th September – Ballina Arts Centre, Co Mayo*
19th September – Wexford Arts Centre*
20th September – Ramor, Virginia, Co Cavan*
24th September – glór, Ennis, Co Clare*
26th September – Watergate, Kilkenny*
28th September – An Grainan, Letterkenny, Co Donegal*