not a member? click here to sign up
The demolished man
Set in Dublin on the day that Ballymun flats were demolished, Danny and Chantelle (Still Here) is a modern love story for a modern Ireland, says playwright Philip McMahon.
Joe Jackson, 21 Feb 2007
Okay – this is the Valentine’s Day issue of Hot Press, so one could be forgiven for asking the author of a play called Danny And Chantelle (Still Here) – in which he also plays the lead male role – if it’s a love story, right?
Well at first Philip McMahon says “no, not really”. But the more he talks about the play the more obvious it becomes that this is, indeed, a love story.
“It could be called a love story about Dublin city,” McMahon responds. “It focuses on Danny and Chantelle but the backdrop is the night before the first tower block of flats in Ballymun are knocked down.”
Fleeing the collapsing towers, the pair “lose themselves in a crazy night in Dublin city”, says the playwright.
The play charts their hedonistic trawl through pubs on Camden Street and, from there, to the Pod nightclub, where they are separated in a fight and end up at different parties and then are reunited again at 7am on the boardwalk by the Liffey after a very heavy night.
Philip chooses that particular night and, even more specifically, the destruction of the flats at Ballymun in 2002 partly because he sees this as the “fragmentation of a community”.
McMahon knows what he’s talking about when it comes to Ballymun. “Although I was born in London after my family moved to London in 1979, they moved back to Finglas in the late ‘80s and my sister lives in Ballymun and it’s where my nephews are growing up.”
Getting back to the subject of the love story between these two characters, Philip, who is 27, says that “the etiquette of friends might be more transient among younger people now” and they might view as somewhat different the fact that, for example, “they don’t have sex with each other and do look after one another big time... It is here I suggest it clearly is a love story”.
“’Well they do have one of those weird relationships that is rarely mentioned or explored” he says. “And, yes, it is a love story, I guess because they both have a lot of failed attempts at love or sex in the story and at the end of the night they come back together.”