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In the name of the father
Christian O’Reilly is only too happy to acknowledge the creative input of the director and cast in staging of his play The Good Father.
Joe Jackson, 12 Feb 2003
Some playwrights probably secretly resent actors and directors. Or, at best, regard them as a necessary evil! Especially those playwrights who are too precious about their work and won’t accept that theatre is a collaborative art form in which plays can be brought to their highest level possible as part of that process. Happily, Christian O’ Reilly is not such a playwright and blesses the day the Druid theatre company showed an interest in his play The Good Father, which begins a tour of the country at Dublin’s Project Arts Centre on February 10.
“First of all the fact of Druid staging it and Garry Hynes directing it wasn’t something I expected to happen and it quite overwhelmed me,” O’Reilly says. “Then, when it was staged at last year’s Galway Arts Festival, it really got a tremendous response. But a great part of the success of the play really is down to the production, lighting, design, the director and the actors. Garry, for example, is hugely involving and demanding, brilliant!”
By involved, O’Reilly means that in contrast to those directors who keep writers at bay during the rehearsal process, Hynes “welcomed” an input from the playwright.
“The script needed a good bit of work,” he explains, “and I did a lot of rewriting. But I did find rehearsals very demanding, very tough. And it really tested my limits. Yet it also got the very best out of me. And all of us working together really did make the thing work in the best way it possibly could have.
“Certainly having actors of the calibre of Derbhle Crotty and Aiden Kelly do the work is a huge plus. They do take on the characters to such a degree that it’s hard to see anybody else playing the roles. They not only got the roles right, as I envisioned it, they embellished and improved it.”
When he describes the input from Crotty and Kelly in particular Christian is making the strongest possible argument for the actor as a creative rather than simply interpretative artist, isn’t he?
“There is the performance itself in which you see the way in which they bring a character to life,” he responds.”
“That, in itself, is a thing to be admired and praised. But in rehearsal I also saw how creative they were. They were extremely challenging of the script in that they wanted to believe every line and they wouldn’t accept things that didn’t work. That meant there was a conflict of interests in them because, obviously, they needed their lines ready for opening night but if there was work to be done on it they kept pushing it and pushing it.”
The play has a theme we can all easily identify with: at a New Year’s Eve party, a man and woman meet for the first time, end up going upstairs “for a shag”, then have to live with the consequences.
“It’s a love story,” Christians explains.” I’ve always been intrigued with the subject of unrequited love, having experienced it a number of times over the years! So this man and woman, from very different backgrounds, do meet and realise that everyone else is showing photos of babies. And they both feel lonely for different reasons, partly because they are both in their early 30s and things haven’t worked out like they’d want them to. But after a one-night stand, she becomes pregnant and he denies it at first. Ultimately, though, he accepts responsibility.”
But is the play autobiographical? Did Christian O’Reilly finally accept responsibility for his child!
“No it’s not autobiographical,” he says laughing. “But one may emerge in time!”