Wednesday, 24 February 2016

Sunday's Dramaturgy: My name is Eva O'Connor

Sunday's Child presents 
My Name is Saoirse

by Traverse 50 writer 
Eva O'Connor 

Directed by Hildegard Ryan
Written and performed by Eva O’Connor

Rural Ireland, 1987. Saoirse lives in a peach coloured bungalow with her Da and big brother Brendan. Her best friend is Siobhán, who has a glorious fountain of ginger hair, a whisper like a foghorn and an arse so big it distracts all the men at mass. 

Saoirse prefers running through fields to chasing after boys, but her best friend has other ideas. After a night out drinking with the lads, Saoirse discovers her pregnancy and is forced to set out on journey that will take her miles away from her home and the carefree adolescence she once knew.

My Name is Saoirse is an award-winning one woman show, set in 1980's rural Ireland, by Traverse 50 writer, Eva O’Connor.  The piece is a tender and moving coming of age story that follows Saoirse, an ordinary, extraordinary 15 year old growing up in conservative Catholic Ireland. 

Abortion remains illegal in Ireland to this day, forcing thousands of Irish women and girls with crisis pregnancies to travel to England every year. Although a prevalent part of Irish life, abortion is still a taboo subject rarely discussed - making Saoirse's story, sadly, as relevant as ever. Inspired by the writer and performer's personal experience, O’Connor's lyrical script explores the reality of life in Ireland for women both then and now.    

Argus Angel Award, Brighton Fringe 2015
First Fortnight Award, Dublin Fringe 2014
NSDF Commendation for Best New Writing, Edinburgh Fringe 2014

Best Performer, Dublin Fringe 2014
Best Writing Dublin Fringe, 2014
Stuart Parker Trust Award Longlist, 2015 

What was the inspiration for this performance?
I had an abortion myself. As an Irish woman, I was struck by how much shame and stigma that is associated with it. I was lucky, I was in Scotland at the time, and I received really good care during the procedure. I was actually treated by two Irish nurses and an Irish doctor. Irish women, helping Irish women. Abroad.  No such help exists at home.

I wanted to write a piece inspired by my experience, but removed enough that it wasn't autobiographical. My Name is Saoirse is set in the 80's, and although I did grow up in rural Ireland, my childhood was very different to hers thankfully.

How did you go about gathering the team for it?
The play is written and performed by myself, and directed by Hildegard Ryan who runs Sunday's Child theatre company with me. We live together in London, so we didn't have to go too far to gather the team.

How did you become interested in making performance?
I initially wanted to be a dancer, then became more interested in physical theatre.   I started to write my own stuff when I did'nt get cast in any of the student theatre stuff  at Uni. I went on to do a masters in Rose Bruford in Theatre Ensemble which focussed a lot on devising, which I loved, as I'm quite a physical performer. 

Ultimately though I'm a real believer in the power of a strong script as a starting point for making a show.

Was your process typical of the way that you make a performance? 
I write the script as a short story usually,  leave it, come back to it, and eventually develop a full length script  Hildegard, who runs Sunday's Child with me is a brilliant dramaturg, so we work together to make the script as solid as possible, and then I hand it over to her to dream up the directorial vision.

What do you hope that the audience will experience? 
With My Name is Saoirse I hope people experience compassion. And laugh a lot. Irish people tend to use humour to deal with what ever difficulties life presents. I think My Name is Saoirse reflects that. It's quite a serious subject matter, but it's very comedic.

Do you see your work within any particular
I don't really see myself  in any particular tradition. In Ireland the theatre tradition tends to be script focussed, which I suppose has had an influence on our company. My Name is Saoirse was inspired by the story telling tradition, but then again most theatre is!

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