sick serif;”> The College Tribune caught up with UCD English Graduand Lisa Carroll on bringing her show Three Cities to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.
Describe Three Cities in 5 words?
Funny, touching, topical, engaging and fun.
What can the audience expect from the show?
Interesting characters, witty anecdotes, a lot of humorous stories and an insight into into these women’s worlds and from that an insight into our world -both politically and personally.
What has the process been like from getting the play from pen to stage?
It’s been a long road. It’s pretty much a year since I began writing it. I was sitting in JFK airport and I literally started typing on my laptop and it slowly snowballed. Dramsoc deadlines for slot submissions pushed me to finish drafts and getting given a slot pushed another draft. The rehearsal process then again workshopped it. It’s been a long and slow process but the Edinburgh drive which started in March kicked it up a gear as a lot of administration came into play, getting the press involved, getting funding, support and getting the name out there.
What has been the most challenging aspect of writing and acting in your own play?
Realizing sometimes that even if something in a script feels hard to say or unnatural it’s in there for a reason, and not encroaching on my role as a writer by being a fussy actor. It’s something we all struggle with because of the familiarity I have with the girls (Elise Brennan & Zoe Reynolds) in the play who ask “can we change this line, it doesn’t work for me?” …We have to treat it as if the playwright is not in the room and we’ve been given this script -we have to honor that. It takes a lot of discipline.
As a writer, what’s the process like? What inspires you to write?
Each play is different and there’s a different process. I was very interested in comedy-writing because I was on an improv team in the states and I was just leaving the states after a year when I began writing the play. I definitely wanted to see if I could write something that was funny and I have managed to get some laughs so I think I’ve done ok. It came from people I saw around me. Each one of the characters is definitely based on a real person, even if that’s distantly. A lot of the stories come from things I’ve picked up that I’ve found funny or interesting, little nuggets of people along the way. It’s a real mix; it’s an imaginary construction even though a lot of it is very real.
With arts funding being cut left, right and centre, how hard do you think it is to get a play off the ground these days? Does it provide you with more drive to succeed?
If you ever want something enough, you’re going to make sure that it happens. It’s not easy to get the money, but at the same time I honestly believe there’s nothing more important than the arts. Even at a time like this where there’s funding is being cut, something really important to stand by is that if a country is on it’s knees that’s when the most important work will emerge. That’s when more artists realize that they something have to say. It’s a strange inverse relationship in that the more there’s a stranglehold on anything like this, the more work blooms. It’s certainly not been easy, but I knew this play had a life outside of Dramsoc and I worked really hard to make sure that happened.
On that note, what do you think is the role of the playwright in contemporary Irish literature?
I think the playwright is incredibly important. The way theatre is going, towards devising experimental work, a lot of people might say that playwriting is outdated. But simply because – and this is something I’m seeking to master so I’m not speaking like someone who would say that “this is such a craft” and “It’s so hard” – it’s because not many people have this talent and it’s something I’m always actively seeking to get better at, that it is something special and when you see good playwriting there is no doubt or denying that it has a place when you can see something that can profoundly affect people or have such a cultural impact, you can’t get away from the fact that it certainly has a place.
Why Edinburgh Fringe, what was the attraction?
The Edinburgh Fringe is the largest open access arts festival in the world. It has a particular atmosphere which is specific only to Edinburgh. It’s a place where you see some of the best work that will stay with you for the rest of your life. It’s also a place where you’ll see some of the most tragically awful work that you have to question the foundations of why you entered the business and try to remember what it is you love about theatre. With all of that, it’s a make or break place. It’s a great celebration of all the arts. It’s a great place to get your work seen as it’s such an eclectic mix in that all types of work can be seen. It’s not curated; it doesn’t have that kind of look… I feel our show would be welcomed. It’s a place where people are looking for a good time. They like comedy. This is a play that has comedy. It’s the right type of show for Ed Fringe.
What do you think of the idea that theatre in Ed Fringe has become peripheral and that comedy is taking over, is it a reflection on quality?
I don’t think it’s anything to do with the quality of what you see at the Fringe. If you look at Fringe First shows, and that’s still a huge trend with the Scotsman, you get a lot of work premiered at the Fringe for that very reason. Enda Walsh’s success has made at the Fringe with some of his amazing plays such as The Walworth Farce. The way I see the comedy aspect is that people go up there to try and be stand up comedians, that’s not to say the comedy is better or it’s more of a place for comedy, if anything the larger amount means that there’s a larger proportion of comedy acts that aren’t good. The same goes for theatre with any type of act going up, there’s just simply more. Theatre acts are still going, theatre acts are still making a splash. People are still managing to create a foundation for their careers from playwriting, Ella Hickson being an example with her Fringe First reading show Eight in 2008. It is what you make of it. People try to make it the comedy thing saying ‘theatre is dying’ -I just don’t believe it.
If you flick through any Irish drama canon or Irish theatre festival program, it’s quite obvious that it seems to be a male industry. Do you think that women face more challenges than men in the theatre industry in Ireland?
I do. I read something interesting recently that said that women are not only marginalized by the fact that there is a continual system of marginalization and there are less parts for them in acting as plays are written by men for men, so that already engenders a difficulty. Then, because theatre has become so androcentric, there is a certain male framework in which women are expected to write otherwise their work isn’t viewed as ‘good’ and so women have to write essentially in a male form. While it’s liberating in a sense that there are more women writers emerging, they are always having to do that within the confines of something that is very much informed by a patriarchal structure. It’s a paradoxical situation, which is a shame, but to be fair if you can get more female writers out there -it’s happening in new programs like the Lir and I know of a new program coming to UCD- they’ll all slowly change, you can’t expect change to happen fast.
What do you want people to go home with after seeing Three Cities?
I want people to go home with the sense that it was them, and only them, who were spoken to by something in this play. It covers a lot of topics. It hits a lot of nerves. It has funny moments, outrageous moments and touching moments, but there is something for everyone in it. Whether it’s something you can giggle about afterwards, something you realize hit home for you. It’s that tiny nugget of gold you can carry home with you after seeing the show, that would be a goal achieved.
Previews for the show take place in The Exchange, Exchange Street, Temple Bar.
Thursday 9th August: 2pm Matinee, 8pm evening show.
Friday 10th August: 2pm Matinee, 9.30 late night show.
The show will run for approximately an hour.
Tickets are priced at €10 and are €8 Euro for students.
Interview by Cathal O’ Gara