The Tribune spoke to Director Meadhbh Barry and Assistant Director Lig Kennedy about their upcoming adaption of Philip Ridley’s provocative satire ‘Radiant Vermin’. The show will run from the 4th to the 8th of February.
Having just come from a rehearsal, the pair seems eager to talk about their show. Giddy, even, but Lig reckons that could just be the extreme tiredness.
Meadhbh spent time during last summer on the hunt for the right script. The story had to pique her interest, but also the production had to achievable with the resources that would be available to them in UCD, ‘I wanted to find something that I wouldn’t have to compromise on.’ Lig seconded that saying, ‘Obviously Dramsoc is an amateur theatre for students, so we can’t blow their whole budget on it.’ Radiant Vermin fit these criteria perfectly, ‘It’s a small cast, an interesting set, it’s very doable with the facilities that Dramsoc has.’
Meadhbh tries to sum up the plot without giving too much away, ‘What I say to people who I don’t want to give away the ending to is: Its this young couple who are living in this poor neighbourhood, and she’s about to have her first child, and they get offered this opportunity to move out of the neighbourhood into this new house and basically its kind of like about the choices that they have to make and what they have to do in that new house is very kind of… interesting.’
‘It’s essentially the couple reenacting the story of what happened… they’re speaking to the audience, they’re very much breaking the fourth wall, at times they actually interact with the audience.’
‘It explores that idea of what are you willing to do for your family, what are you willing to do to get what you want, It’s all underpinned by this young couple who are very in love and that carries through the entire play, even when you’re like ‘oh my god, what’s going on here’, you can still see that love between them.’ Lig chimes in knowingly, ‘People do crazy things for love.’
So it’s a black comedy, a juxtaposition of bright colours and casual insanity, ‘I want people to laugh and be shocked at themselves for laughing.’ Lig agrees, ‘Its a fun, colourful, spin into madness.’
‘Part of it is about challenging people to think, because you get very caught up in the narrative that the characters are giving you and its very easy to buy into the way that feels about what’s going on – I deliberately tried to put in some moments where they snap out of that to bring the audience back to being like, ‘What the hell is happening’ – rather than just sympathising with the characters, I really want there to be moments when the audience see a more objective viewpoint of what’s going on.’
Having never worked on lighting or sound production before, Meadhbh thinks the real challenge was in learning how to translate her version to the crew; the producer, the set designer. It was about figuring out ‘what do I wanna do and how do I say that.’
Another unexpectedly difficult part of the production process was casting. Meadhbh deliberately chose a script with a small cast – just three characters, ‘For me it was because I wanted to be confident in my cast.’ Lig makes an interesting point, ‘It’s an odd trend in Dramsoc, you’ll see that the in semester 2 shows the casts shrink quite a lot.’ What they hadn’t expected was that the people auditioning would be so good that they would have trouble cutting the cast down to just three, ‘It was tough in a way that I hadn’t really thought about when I was picking a script with a small cast, but it has meant that the cast that we have are phenomenal.’
As for the set? A white deconstructed house to contrast the brightly coloured costumes and lighting. ‘I wanted it to be a blank slate for that story to play out on, a lot of the place setting is done with the lighting, a lot of it is left up to the audience’s imagination, it’s very simple.’
‘There are sometimes when we will have actual props, but for a lot of it, the props are mimed.’ ‘There’s this one scene where Ryan one of the actors, is essentially interacting with someone who is not there, its a very psychical scene and he has to mime the entire thing. Its something that would be hard enough to choreograph two people doing on stage, but the fact that you have to choreograph just one person.’ Seems like a fascinating exercise in psychical acting, but it’s considerably more challenging to convince the audience that one person is fighting another person who is not there. ‘I want the sense of a person being there to be obvious to the audience, but how do you make that come across when it’s just one person?’
With a sparse set and small cast, the focus will be on the actors to establish this world of apparent lunacy using mostly their own emotion and physicality. It’s a daunting, but also incredibly exciting, prospect.
Finally, how has Lig found the experience being Meadhbh’s right-hand woman? ‘Absolutely brilliant,’ she answers without hesitation. ‘From the first meeting we had, it became really clear to me that we had the same vision for the show, we had the same passion and drive to put on the best show that we could so it’s been really amazing… I’m very tired.’
Meadhbh posets that the true function of the roles within Dramsoc productions are very malleable based on the experience of those involved, and using this to tell Lig, ‘Honestly I think it’s more like you’re Co-Director in this, I couldn’t do this without you.’ ‘We have a very tightknit team of super reliable people that want to put the show on really brilliantly and that’s all you need.’
The question of what they’ll do three weeks from now when it’s all over is met with panicked laughter, ‘I hadn’t even thought about that.’
By Muireann O’Shea – CoEditor