Interview with William Dunleavy – Writer of B(l)oom
b(l)oom – New Theatre – 21st January – 24th January
Is this the first production of Tasteinyourmouth theatre company? What type of theatre do you aim to produce?
Yes, this is the debut production of tasteinyourmouth! I’ve created this production with Grace Morgan and Laoise Murray, my two co-founders of tasteinyourmouth, a collective of young theatre artists. Our aim is to deliver visceral live experiences that leave a taste in your mouth (that’s where we got the name). You may not necessarily like everything we do but we hope that a line, an image, a moment will stay with you long after the lights go dark. That’s very important to us.
We are inspired by a variety of artists and art forms and we are eager to create multi-disciplinary work that brings together theatre, dance, music and performance art. We each have our own particular influences, but we are all heavily influenced by contemporary postmodern practices (mostly originating in Central Europe) and the Irish avant-garde scene.
Will it be all new writing?
We will be focusing on completely original work for the foreseeable future. In the past, we have often worked with found texts and deconstructing existing works, so wild adaptations and reimaginings are likely down the line.
The company was formed by yourself along with Grace Morgan and Laoise Murray. How long have you known each other? How long have you known each other?
We’ve known each other for six years now. We were in the same class together in college and have been making work together since then. We have a writer/director/actor dynamic, although we all wear different hats at different times.
It is extremely difficult for new theatre companies to survive, with lack of funding etc. How has it been for you so far?
As a young, emerging theatre-maker you accept that you will rarely be paid and that, when you do, it will be nowhere near proportional to the amount of hours you have put into a project or even approach a living wage. That means that you need a job to support yourself, and we all balance our work in theatre with other jobs that keep us afloat financially. We are all fortunate enough to be from Dublin. This means that we can work slightly less hours at whatever job we have which gives us a bit more time to make theatre. Not everyone is as fortunate, and that is a major problem in the industry.
There are good days and bad days as an emerging theatre-maker. A lot of days are filled with endless filling of forms for grants, space and emerging artists initiatives. Then there is the hunt for rehearsal space which often leaves you rehearsing in disused rooms in pubs and halls that your uncle’s brother’s friend happens to be caretaker of because of budget restraints (and by budget restraints we mean the absolute absence of any budget). However, there are good days, when one of the ten forms you filled out leads to something, and you feel that you’re beginning to acquire some momentum, that you’re beginning to build a career. And of course, there is the work itself which continues to excite, engage and frustrate us – if it didn’t we wouldn’t be putting ourselves through the heartbreak.
The bottom line is that there are more people who want to be a part of theatre in Dublin than there are people who want to see it. Dublin does not have a culture of theatre-going, and what’s happening on the city’s stages rarely plays a part in the cultural zeitgeist. This is a long-term issue that everyone, from the top to the bottom, struggles with and one which this show is not about to solve. Our only hope is that within the small margins of Irish theatre we can someday make a semi-decent living. In the far future. Probably. As I write this I’m pretty sure I can hear rats in the wall of our rehearsal space. And people think theatre is glamorous.
Tell me about this play? It sounds like it’s based around the days in your life when everything goes wrong?
B(l)oom is about two women – one is attending her sister’s wedding at Powerscourt Hotel and the other is working at that wedding – and their involvement in an appalling natural disaster/supernatural attack on Dublin city. The exact nature of their involvement is unclear, whether they are accidental catalysts in this disaster or knowing agents of the destruction is never made explicit. They journey through the greater Dublin area from Powerscourt down the M11 through Donnybrook and into the city centre, ending on O’Connell bridge. In a way, I suppose, it’s like a really twisted girls’ road trip.
Have you been involved in rehearsals at all?
I’m actually living in New York right now, but I was home for three weeks over December and January so I was in rehearsals during that time. It was great for me to be there to see all the amazing work Grace and Laoise had done and to make any changes or edits they felt they needed to improve the show. Since leaving, I’ve been keeping up to date with everything by email and there have been a few extended Skype sessions to work out the final kinks.
Has the play changed much during that time?
The play has had a long development. It was written in the summer of 2018 and was first presented in a shorter version at The Pearse Centre in November 2018. That version was then performed at The Dolmen Theatre in Cabinteeley in March 2019. Following that production, we began discussing a run at The New Theatre and it was during that time that we decided to revisit the script and expand and revise it. Over the past nine months, with the help of Pamela McQueen, the dramaturg at The New Theatre, we have been reworking the script.
The script is essentially the same as it was to begin with, but many of the scenes we felt were really crucial to the piece were expanded upon and developed into ongoing motifs while other scenes which contained secondary themes or characters were cut. I feel that this revised version of the script is tighter and more focused (even though the production itself is actually a little longer) which hopefully will make it a more interesting and engaging experience for the audience.
Have you ever had a day where you wanted to just leave it all behind?
All. The. Time. I’m joking, of course, but there are definitely times when I think it would be easier to burn everything down and go and live under a rock somewhere. It doesn’t happen very often though; I don’t think anyone who works in theatre really enjoys their own company that much. Theatre is the opposite of misanthropy, really. But in a super goal-oriented, capitalist culture the appeal of stepping off the treadmill (and then smashing the treadmill to pieces) can become very strong.