HOME is premiering in The New Theatre next week. Presented as a work in progress at last year’s Scene + Heard festival, Handy Baker Theatre Company are bringing a full production of this work to Irish audiences.
Dealing with the topical issue of abortion in Ireland, HOME places its audience in the unique position of become both judge and jury in this piece. Presented as a trial, the audience are the ones who will decide how to traverse the grey areas of Ireland’s abortion laws.
Ahead of HOME’s opening on the 23rd of January, Ciara Murphy spoke with playwright Megan O’ Malley about the project.
Can you tell us a little about your own background?
I am from Wexford, and growing up I was an active member of the local youth theatre. I decided to go straight into actor training after school and am a graduate of the Gaiety School of Acting’s Two Year Full Time Programme. I am currently doing my Masters in Theatre Practice in UCD.
The abortion debate in Ireland is very topical at the moment, what made you want to contribute artistically to the discourse?
Since the death of Savita Halappanavar in 2012 Irish abortion laws have been on my mind. Before this it was never something that I thought I would have to consider. I couldn’t understand how in the situation a foetus’s heartbeat had more rights than a woman. I want to contribute to the discussions taking place, being mindful that not everyone will see eye to eye.
You originally developed this piece as part of the Scene + Heard festival last year. Can you tell us a bit about how the piece has developed since February?
I have been working on this piece for over a year and it has changed drastically. Scene + Heard is a work-in-progress festival and it was an amazing opportunity to try out the idea. The characters have been developed as has the script overall. I have had time to do more research and try and make the experiences Anna goes through as truthful as possible. We are going from a two-day run on a minimalist set to a two-week run, and we have brought a wonderful crew on board to create the world of the play.
One of the unique attributes of Home is that you allow your audience to decide your main character’s verdict. Was it always important to you that the audience had a say?
Yes, absolutely. The topic of abortion is, even with all the campaigning, still an extremely difficult topic to bring up. I am very understanding of the opposing views and feel that everyone should have a say over their body but struggle to understand why anyone would force their own choice on another body. That’s why I want the audience to vote. The theatre is a powerful place, it is one of the rare places people go to choose to listen to someone’s story. There is an immediate connection in a theatre that creates empathy. When dealing with a difficult subject this environment is ideal for being heard, and until we are willing to listen and understand both sides nothing will change.
I’m noticing that you have achieved a good gender balance in your casting and that the majority of your creative team are women. In the aftermath of #WakingtheFeminists, how important do you feel it is for you as an emerging artist to promote women’s stories on the stage?
I believe it is extremely important. When creating new work, you have the choice to voice issues that you feel need to be heard and addressed. Women’s stories need to be told, as I have said there is something magical about a live performance. I want to start conversations and I feel theatre is the medium in which I can most successfully do this. #WakingTheFeminists published a study in which they looked at the shows produced by all major Irish Theatre Companies and Festivals from 2006 – 2015, they found that only 37% of all Directors and 28% of Authors were women over this period. The #WakingTheFeminist movement was extremely successful in bringing awareness of a huge issue within the industry and I feel it is our job as artists to create work that is reflective of all people.
HOME runs in The New Theatre from January 23rd 2018 for more information see www.thenewtheatre.com