Interview with Ultan Pringle – Writer of Marmalade Row
Cast: Marion O’Dwyer, Pat Nolan, Ultan Pringle Laoise Murray, Jilly McGrath, Sammy Copley and Zara Devlin
Can you tell me what inspired this work? How long have you been working on it?
Marmalade Row was born really out of the COVID-19 pandemic and that’s one way to get everyone to never tune in, ha! But something that I’d been thinking a lot about was how this past two years nearly, we’ve all been more introspective than ever, more stuck with ourselves than ever with all that that entails. And then when the five of us in Lemon Soap came together to make work I thought: why don’t we make something about residents in an estate who in some way have lost their sense of self and we can craft little moments where maybe they find it, or discover it or maybe lose a little more of it. And so Marmalade Row was born. And we did I think, I hope, deal with that in the show. It’s broken into five parts, five nuggets of stories where we see a husband and a wife dwell on a memory, a young man confront a dead woman in his bedroom, a trans man sing about creation and two lovers trying to find one another and a woman looking out the window trying to figure out desperately where we as a people came from. So they all deal with memory and loss and learning to live with yourself, I think. So you know, it’s all very relatable.
There is an impressive collection of actors involved in this project. Can you tell me how it all came together?
It’s a bit of a dream cast I think and one when we started this project we never ever would have dreamed of. When Julia, our director and I first discussed casting I said I had always imagined Marion O’Dwyer as Joan and had actually written the part with her voice in my head. We thought, after wondering were we were crazy to even think it, why don’t we just take a leap and offer Marion the role and see? Then to our shock and insane delight, Marion said yes and because of that we felt emboldened to go out and get the absolute best cast we could. Pat (Nolan) we had seen perform on stage in The New Theatre and loved and felt he’d bring such a wonderful warmth and foil as Joan’s somewhat put upon husband, Harry.
Zara Devlin plays Sadbh in part five of the show, a woman who looks up at the stars and dreams of how the world came to be and having seen Zara’s incredible work over the past few years we knew we had to ask her. Then Laoise Murray and Jilly McGrath, who had been in Trinity College with us, play two lovers in part four who try to flirt and find one another on their second date and they’re just insanely brilliant together in the piece that honestly I want a spin off. Sammy Copley then is a gifted, gifted, gifted singer and songwriter who I think could make anything lyrical sound like Leonard Cohen but queer and so having him on this project was a no-brainer.
What was really wonderful about this project and uncommon I think for a young company was how we got the chance to work with veteran actors like Marion and Pat and early career ones like Zara and Laoise and then emerging like Jilly, Sammy and I. There was such an exciting energy and depth to the work and blend of experiences that everyone brought to the project and we at Lemon Soap learned so very much by being able to work with each of them, I think.
Can you tell me about Lemon Soap theatre company? Is your aim to specialise in virtual performances or can we expect to see you on stage at some point?
Lemon Soap Productions came to be when the five of us – myself, Julia Appleby, Owen Clarke, HK Ní Shioradáin and Lisa Nally – came together to make work together. We’ve all made work in different combinations with one another over the years and really our working relationships were born out of DU Players in Trinity where we all made work together. Now that we’re all graduated and establishing ourselves as artists, we wanted to carve out a space for ourselves to explore the work we’d like to make. Work which is character led and queer and dynamic and modern with maybe a strange little slant to it. Thanks to the support of An Grianan Theatre and The New Theatre, we’ve been able to make Marmalade Row the beginning of our journey of weird little pieces of theatre.
We aim of course to make physical theatre work in the future – early next year hopefully! – but I think the pandemic has taught us that there is an appetite for some small forms of virtual or audio experiences. And there are incredible benefits too! For Lemon Soap to make a play on stage with a cast of seven actors might only be achievable in ten years time if we’re still around and the funding Gods are very, very kind to us, you know? But being an audio piece it’s much more financially viable for us. Plus it’s an accessible and fascinating form to work in. So to answer the question, I think a hybrid approach to theatre making is what we’d like to achieve here in Lemon Soap. Physical, audio, virtual and everything in between. I’d love to write and produce issues of a satirical newspaper set in a small fictional town someday too and that could be a fun little project. I haven’t mentioned that to the other four yet so maybe they’ll read this and get a shock (but if someone reads this and thinks that’s a fun idea hit me up!) but I think being open and adaptable and making work in the form which bests suits it is something we’re excited about here at Lemon Soap.
Is there anything else in the pipeline? What are you working on now?
The amazing Nancy Harris once told me she never talks about a play until it’s been fully announced and programmed in case fate intervenes but what I can say is that maybe there is a Shakespere adaptation on the way – hint: it’s set in Scotland and a lot of people die in it, god bless – and maybe there’s a play early next year about estranged siblings who reconnect and discuss Irish mythology in between their bickering and maybe there might be a Gay Sex and The City but set in Dublin podcast comedy series on the way. Oh and scratch nights! We’re excited about the idea of doing some Dublin scratch nights. The pipeline feels exceptionally full at the moment but you know who doesn’t love an ambitious full pipeline?
Marmalade Row – CREATIVES:
Directed by Julia Appleby
Written by Ultan Pringle
Original songs by Sammy Copley
Produced by Lisa Nally
Sound designed and composed by HK Ní Shioradáin
Production Design by Owen Clarke
Poster design by Allie Whelan
CAST – Marion O’Dwyer, Pat Nolan, Ultan Pringle Laoise Murray, Jilly McGrath, Sammy Copley and Zara Devlin