Category Archives: Home You Go Productions

Scene and Heard: Tender Mercies

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The yearly festival of the original raw writing Scene + Heard is in its full swing. Colette Cullen, the creator of YES and Blind Date, together with Home You Go Productions presents a brand new play – Tender Mercies.

In this poignantly darkish tale of life, love and loss we follow the story of Mary Fortune (played by Denise Quinn), a middle-aged hairdresser who happened not to be as fortunate as her last name might suggest. Tender Mercies invites us to an hour long ride during which we don’t only meet some of Miss Fortune’s most notorious costumers but also get a peek into Mary’s somewhat more personal affairs. A smoker and a hopeless wine drinker, she isn’t a cliché. She is a person who, just like anyone else, wants to love and be loved back.

In this wild and, at times, unbelievable mixture of dark comedy and bitter tragedy, Quinn blows the life into her character and creates an unforgettable one woman show. Her doubtlessly outstanding performance is hugely supported by the thoroughly written script. You cry, you laugh, you are left in an awe. The time flies as you are getting more and more involved into Mary’s entangled story. The twisted ending hits you unexpectedly and hard. I didn’t see that coming! – the whispers from the audience exclaim.

With quite a simplistic but elaborated set and decorations (designed by Carolyn Croke), Tender Mercies benefits from some very nice creative touches when it comes to both directing (also by Colette Cullen) and staging. No doubt though that apart from the solid script the strongest side of the play is Quinn’s absolutely breathtaking portrayal of Mary Fortune. Taking into account that this is still a kind of a raw material brought out to the audience basically for a trial, the play has an enormous potential. Especially, if staged in a somewhat smaller and more intimate space. And once all the little things are sharpened, Tender Mercies is going to be a must-see of the year.

Unfortunately, the show enjoyed quite a short two-day only run at the Smock Alley’s Main Space. But, for more information (and fingers crossed for its soon return) about Tender Mercies and its future, please, follow: http://www.homeyougoproductions.com/index.html 

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Filed under Colette Cullen, Home You Go Productions, Scene and Heard Festival, Smock Alley Theatre, Tender Mercies, Uncategorized

The Pearse Center: YES (IDGTF)

The second week of highly acclaimed International Dublin Gay Theatre Festival has officially opened its doors to another bunch of creative artists.

Home You Go Productions present a new play written and directed by Colette Cullen: Yes. 

For a story like YES the timing simply couldn’t have been better. It’s just days before the first anniversary since Irish people voted YES to Marriage Equality. And those who were involved in bringing equality to the people of Ireland, had it been by canvassing or simply by putting a tick next to the Yes box in the voting form, will be able to relate so deeply to this play and the meaning behind it; all the emotions of that sunny day in late May of 2015, when the results were announced, will be evoken as the four characters sit on stage waiting to hear the news. And even though you yourself, being somewhat a time-traveler from the future, already know what’s going to happen… the memories of waiting at the Dublin Castle, the sudden unease, the fear, the “what if” will unexplainably come rushing back.

Yes is a story of four different people united in one mission: to get as many people as possible to vote Yes. They all have their own reasons for why they decided to canvass. Gina (played by Denise Quinn) is a loving mother of two sons, one of whom is gay. Gina is canvassing for her gay son Mark and his right not even to marry who he loves, but to have the same rights as his straight brother. Peter (played by David Grant) is a veteran canvasser. A veteran gay, too. He has a dark story of his own; a story of love lost too soon to AIDS. Laura (played by Andrea Cleary) is a gay woman in her thirties who is in a long term relationship with her girlfriend Caroline. Being the black ship of the family, Laura is finally happy with her current love situation; Laura just wants equality for everyone even though the prospect of marrying scares the hell out of her. Josh (played by Andy Gallagher) is the youngest and the most carefree spirit of the group. He is from down the country and enjoying his new life in Dublin, his university and his new gay friends; he even joined the gay soc. Josh hasn’t yet come out to his somewhat old-fashioned family and is planning to do so on his big brother’s wedding day.

I’ve always had a doubt about playwrights directing their own work, but Yes is a great proof of why sometimes there is no better director than the playwright. At the end of the day, nobody understands the depth of the script better than the person who wrote it. Cullen’s characters are deeply touching with each single one of them being a beautifully fleshed out person. Moreover, the ensemble of four brilliant actors made wonderful justice to their respective characters; with Denise Quinn completely stealing the show at times. Her Gina was an absolute joy to watch.

The piece becomes complete with some  very interesting directing decisions. And, the opening scene is just one of them. Using a smart strategy, it draws the audience immediately into the action. This feeling continues all the way through until the very last second. Yes evokes a whole range of emotions: it’s funny, thought-provoking and hugely entertaining; it deals with truthful human stories that are deeply personal but not private for the audience to be uncomfortable.

The cozy Pearse Center is the perfect location for a play like YES. With an already welcoming script, the play allows its audience to feel inside the action rather than just be a mere viewer. Not for a second I felt like I was watching a put on show, it was more like eavesdropping on an real conversation from a referendum headquarter of one year ago.

Yes, written and directed by Colette Cullen, opens tomorrow and runs until May 14th. For more info or to book tickets: YES.

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Interview with Colette Cullen

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“YES – An Entertaining Thoughtful Drama.”

The first week of International Dublin Gay Theatre Festival is drawing to its end; and just as we say good-bye to the first bunch of theatre companies who brought their amazing work to Dublin, we welcome with open arms the second half of the cherry pie.

On her last day on rehearsals, I sit down to have a chat with Colette Cullen, the author and director of Yes, a brand new dramatic comedy about four people and their lives before and after the Marriage Referendum 2015. This year’s Dublin Gay Festival almost coincides with the first anniversary since Irish people voted YES to Marriage Equality.

Having participated in the IDGTF last year with her play Blind Date (which started out as a film), Colette isn’t new to the festival but a happy returner. YES is her second full length play for the IDGTF.

Having lived in London in the 90s, Colette attended a film school there, soon securing herself a job as part of a documentary team. Even though she had a deep interest in film and television, working with stories of real people made her feel uneasy and even intrusive. But soon Colette found a creative way out that allowed her not only to pursue her passion but also to keep telling stories. “I was quite interested in fiction”, says Colette “there I could take responsibility.” And soon the first film script was born. Nevertheless, she didn’t stop there, Colette also started directing both her own and other people’s work. Her credits to date include writing for one of Ireland’s longest running TV series – Fair City.

After years of living and working in London, Colette decided to return to Ireland. Here, in her home country, she enjoyed going to the theatre and seeing different productions; but coming from a middle-class working family, she just never thought that her own work could be good enough to stage in one of Ireland’s theaters. Colette also admits that she always thought it was much harder to break into theatre rather than into film.

But, Ireland is a fast-growing country with opportunities for everyone. Apart from the big mainstream theaters, there are a number of festivals and events that allow those theatre makers who are still establishing themselves to showcase their work: the Fringe Festival, Collaborations, Scene and Heard and even Dublin Gay Theatre Festival.

“I wanted to write stories, I wanted to work with actors, so I thought: why not?”, says Colette about her first feelings about breaking into Irish theatre scene. Moreover, Colette tells me that she has always enjoyed writing and editing, while shooting scenes has felt somewhat more technical.

In 2013 she made the decision to go back to college to do a MA in theatre directing. And even though a bit dubious about her decision at first, Colette absolutely loved the experience. “Even though it’s very academic, it makes you think about what you are doing, look at other playwrights and different directors”, says Colette “and that’s how I started directing”.

On that course, Colette met Laura Murphy with whom she developed her first play Beasts that was presented as part of Collaborations Festival in the Smock Alley Theatre last year. As part of the course, Colette also collaborated with Fishamble Theatre Company and worked as an AD on their productions of Spinning and Little Thing, Big Thing.

For a good director, it’s crucial to see as much diverse theatre as possible. “I like text-based work, but I also go to see a lot of dance and improvised work”, says Colette. “The psychology, the characters that would be me my approach.”, says she, at the same time admitting that she also enjoys working with different people and learning from them and their approaches, which sometimes can be radical from your own.

When it comes to theatre, Colette has always directed her own work and Yes isn’t an exemption. As a director, she enjoys spending time in the rehearsal room witnessing the process of a play turning from page to stage.

Bringing up a production has never been an easy task. On the last day of rehearsals I ask Colette to reflect on what has been the most challenging and the most enjoyable for her as a director and as a playwright during the whole process.

“I think casting is always difficult”, says Colette, “Sometimes it’s difficult to cast gay characters. I don’t care what the sexuality of my cast is, I just look for the best actors to work with. Another challenge is doing it with no money.” Colette tells me that all the plays she has done so far has been profit-share.”Everyone is working for free and it puts a lot of pressure on you. You end up doing a lot of publicity and production yourself.”

As for the most enjoyable: “Seeing your work coming alive”, says Colette with a smile. “I’m just thinking it’s such a privilege. You start with an idea. You have to do a lot of research and think about it. When you do work, it’s important how you represent people. When it’s something as big as this, you feel a kind of responsibility to the subject. You have to follow your instinct. You can’t think of what people are going to think about this and that. You just have to write it. Having a feeling about something and then seeing it coming alive on stage is really exciting; just knowing that it came out of your imagination.”

The idea for writing Yes came to Colette during the Marriage Referendum in May last year. Working on a play for the IDGTF at the time, she didn’t have as much time as she would have liked to to take part in the events surrounding the Vote Yes campaign. But Colette did have an opinion and her own vision of the situation that she wanted to explore regarding the referendum. “There was a lot of issues that the campaign brought up”, says Colette, who felt like some people were a bit condescending about voting yes while all that people who campaigned wanted was to live in an equal society.  Colette admits that she was scared to see the results. “I was scared of putting myself up there. I remember on the day of the results writing on Facebook something like: what a great feeling, I woke up this morning, I looked around and two thirds of my fellow citizens were standing with me“, she says as her eyes get watery, a year after she still feels emotional about it.

Four different characters – four different stories: a mother (played by Denise Quinn) campaigning for her gay son – explores the family issues and how parents always want to protect their children; an elder gay man (played by David Grant), who lost his partner to the AIDS in the 90s and through him we can witness the whole history of homosexuality in Ireland; a lesbian woman (played by Andrea Cleary) in a long term relationship, who is the odd one in her family on the path of discovering what life will be like after the referendum; a young gay man (played by Andy Gallagher) from down the country who hasn’t come out to his family yet.

“I wanted to look at different generations and what they learnt from each other”, says Colette. “The play is looking at how homophobia affected all the characters. It’s also about families. You can cry, you can laugh; it’s entertaining and it’s kinda happy-ending but what I’m hoping is that people will be thinking about it afterwards”, says Colette. “I don’t want people to come in and think that I’m beating them over the head. I want for the play to be entertaining; I want to celebrate the referendum but look behind it, too.”

“We want people who don’t normally come to see plays to come and see our shows”, says Colette. She tells me that it’s crucial for her to bring people into theatre; drama has to be accessible and inclusive for everyone. For some people it might be the first play they see but, hopefully, it won’t be their last one; maybe it will motivate them to go and see other productions that are out there.

So, I ask Colette what makes YES different from other plays presented at the festival. “It has quite a big cast of four”, she says “it’s entertaining but, at the same time, it’s a drama. It’s a drama with comical elements.” Colette regards the festival as a great opportunity for different artists to present their work.

YES, brought and produced by Home You Go Productions runs in The Pearse Center from May 9th till May 14th. For more info or to book tickets: YES.

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Filed under Colette Cullen, Dublin Gay Theatre Festival, Home You Go Productions, IDGTF, Interview with, YES