Loving Rehearsals

This could be one of those blog posts where the two-word title tells you absolutely everything that you need to know, and the rest is just filler. I hope not. I’ll try my best to prevent it. But, really, it’s all there. 

I love these rehearsals we are currently in the middle of. End of.

But of course, that can’t just be ‘end of’. That’s not a blog post, that’s a telegram.

In a little over two week’s time, my newest play takes to the stage at The Linenhall Arts Centre here in Castlebar. We’ve been through the wars with it a little bit. Deferred by Omicron, cast brushed with the same virus. As a result, we’ve been living with, and working on, the play for quite a bit longer than we normally would. There have been breaks and hiatuses galore but still we sail on towards our goal – an opening on March 9th.

And you know this already, because it’s all there in the title, but I have loved the entire process - every minute of it. The Linenhall Arts Centre have been a dream to work with, as they always and ever have been. Help and encouragement has never been found wanting and Sean in the theatre is a beacon of positivity and technical input. While writing, many congratulations to Bernie on her wonderful news x.

My ‘loving’ of the rehearsal process is at least a two-fold thing. Maybe more. But let’s do two for starters.

Firstly, it’s such a huge compliment to speculatively write a play for the most talented people you know and then slip it in an envelope in their letterbox or Facebook-message them the script in a lowercase-titled PDF. Let me break that sentence ‘cos it’s getting unwieldly. It’s such a huge compliment to have them unanimously come back at speed and say, “Yes, let’s do it.” There is an element of kindness in this, for they are indeed kind people, but there is a warming vote of confidence too. No matter how much they like me as a person, it’s far too much of an ask to go up on a stage with a meritless piece, spending months learning and rehearsing, all without reckonable reward, all for the sheer love of the game. So, there’s an affirmation of friendship and support but there’s that other thing too. Just maybe, the play is not so bad and maybe we’ll do okay.

Secondly… well, it’s the process, isn’t it? The four actors who have committed to stand up and give this little play in a fortnight’s time are all hugely experienced. They have all spent more time treading the boards in front of audiences than… than… I don’t know what. Not hot dinners, I’ve had an absolute shedload of hot dinners. Let's just say they all know their stuff and that’s why this particular process of rehearsal is so wonderfully rich. They don’t just turn up and do lines and move around. They engage deeply with the characters and the reasons why they end up doing what they do. As a result, the play morphs subtly over time. Parts that don’t work slough away and new flesh grows on the barer bones (sounds gross, doesn’t it?). I think everyone in rehearsal with a new play has to be open to that. It is only when it is played-out in a room that one can start to see how it should really be.

I love this process. I find it tremendously exciting but also amazing funny and nerve-wracking in almost equal measure.

I suppose, if you ask anyone, I am directing this play as well as having written it. But, to my mind, I’m not really. We are a small collective and we work together with a common aim of trying to do the very best darned thing that we can.

Sometimes, when there is so much to do and such a long way to go, a person might wonder why they didn’t just stay on the couch and watch the next boxset. But this is living. This is our life. We have to step up and try to make something outside of our day’s work and our evening dinner. If it works (and I’m pretty sure now that it will) it will be a lovely glittering little moment to remember. If it doesn’t then we are once again like Jack Nicholson in Cuckoo’s Nest when he tried, and failed, to lift the shower block. We tried, dammit, at least we tried.

Thirdly. Yes, I figured there would be a third thing, and a fourth and a fifth but I’ll stop here. I’ll stop at three. 

It’s the people, isn’t it? It’s just the wonderful cast.

This is a first for me. I never wrote a longish play with specific players in mind for each of the four parts. I did it here and how blessed and lucky am I to have the exact four actors agree to play the exact parts I intended for them. And I didn’t write for them by accident. I love them, of course, and respect them, obviously, but there’s a little calculation too. I want the very best I can possibly get for my little play. I want to give it the best start in life. So, I chose the best to write for. The best to ask to do it. And they said yes. Oh lucky me.

In order of appearance, they are Vivienne Lee, Donna Ruane, Ronan Egan and Eamon Smith.

I have known them all for years and have sat and loved Vivienne and Ronan in the numerous musical and theatre productions they have excelled in. They are both consummate actors and the roles I wrote for them reflect, at least to some extent, the things I have watched them do so well up there on stage.

Donna and Eamon and me have done many things together. I have written a total of seven short plays for them for the Claremorris Fringe since its inception year (when we won) and they have even persuaded me to get up on stage myself in four separate productions. Never again though. As Dirty Harry used to say, “A man’s got to know his limitations”. Donna and me have done more together than I can even recount, she had directed all my teens plays and made them infinitely better along the way. 

And so, the days fall away and showtime rolls into view. The little deal that we all made together, quite a few months ago, will soon be consummated.

There remains one key unknown element to the deal. Yes, my Castlebar and Mayo friends, it’s you. Will you come out and see our little play? Share a laugh and a smile? For that is all we will ask of you. We continue to live in strange times. In normal times I know you would come, as you have come before, because you are brilliant and supportive. If you can come this time too, despite all the oddity and the continuous learning we are all doing about our new situation, well that would be just great.

It's not about money or turning a profit. There is none of that in a little endeavour like this. We just want to show you what we have been doing for these last few months and hopefully bring you for a spin on this tiny carnival ride we have built together.

Whatever happens, it’s been a blast.

An absolute blast.

You can book tickets here:  https://thelinenhall.ticketsolve.com/shows/873630326 or on 094 90 23733 during office hours.


It’s early Sunday morning and there’s a helicopter circling the house. It’s getting ready to land at the hospital over the way.

It’s not for me. I’m bad… but not that bad.

Leaf through the virtual pages of the darned blog, all the way back to 2008, and you will find little or no mention of me being sick. There is a highly technical reason for this – I’m a jammy git. Although my childhood and early teens had some minor bits and pieces, the adult part of my 58 years have been amazingly sickness-free. I got Chickenpox back in ’97 and I… nope that’s it. I’m fairly sure that the remainder of the latter third of my life might not run so smoothly but it’s good to acknowledge that I’ve been lucky thus far.

This week, my luck ran out a little… but only a very little. As I said, the helicopter is not for me, and I sent wishes of recovery and wellness to whoever it is for.

This week, I caught a ‘thing’. I’m not sure what to call it but we’ll get to that in a short minute. The first hint of anything being off came at about lunchtime last Monday when I noticed I had a headache. “Damn”, I thought, “This thing I’m trying to do must be really annoying me, it’s given me a sore brain.” I struggled through with it until about five, when I noticed that it had got considerably worse. I procured some pills. They didn’t have any of the blue box ones, so I got some green box ones, which allegedly work faster, and a bottle of still water. That steadied things though I fell asleep during University Challenge, which is never a positive sign.

By Tuesday morning, it had all kicked off. High temperature, headache, backache, front ache, side ache, cough. “I know what this is,” I said, “I keep up with the news.” So, I removed myself from Society and booked a PCR test.

Two years into the Pandemic and this was my very first PCR test. Oh, I’ve done my share of Antigens, but I’d never had any cause to roll up and get professionally ‘done’ so to speak. I won’t write my way through the process because you will all know as much about it (and more) than I do. I will just say three things about it. 1) It was an incredibly smooth, friendly and efficient set up, carried out by people who were working very hard to make it right. 2) As I waited in my car, the man in the car next to me took off his mask and rolled down his side window, clearly in the mood for a chat, even though he was only two feet away from me. I politely declined, as much for his safety as for mine. 3) I didn’t have COVID.

So, if I didn’t have COVID, what in blazes did I have? In my opinion, I have never in my life had Flu. My knowledge of Flu is that it is a serious thing and if you have it, you have no doubt you have it. I’ve had colds, like the next man, and sometimes people call them flu. But not me. If you’re on your feet and operational, it’s not Flu. But I had something, and it was no joke.

In the day it took for me to get my PCR result, I obviously stayed at home and eschewed all human contact. I tried to work but fell asleep, drooling, on my keyboard (join the queue, ladies). So, I repaired to the couch and fell asleep in front of a boxset instead.

I got my COVID clearance at about noon on Wednesday and so I went to work in the afternoon. I know, I know. Bed. Hot drinks. Sleep. My temp was still buzzing in the upper 38’s and I should have been back on the couch, at least.

But we’re made of two parts. Mind and Body. And my mind does not often give my body licence to lay down. Even the day before, prone on the couch, my mind was full of the things I needed to be doing. How behind I was going to be. By the time I was cleared of you-know-what, my mind could take it no longer. Even if I was only getting a little bit done, I was still chipping away at the block. It helped my head to get those little things done, even if the other half of me wasn’t doing so good.

I worked through the rest of the week. Not very efficiently, to be honest, but I defend the decision to do so. I arrived at the weekend with a feeling that I was not as behind as I would have been if I’d stayed in bed and was I any sicker for not having done so? I don’t think so.

Friday evening was a reprieve in all symptoms, so we went out to a thing we both wanted to see. It was outdoors and we saw friends there and had a laugh for an hour and heard some lovely music and then went home.

Yesterday was back to shitty again. I had some chores to do, and it was a shuffling grind to get through them. But I made it to the couch for the Rugby so that was all right.

Sunday morning and the helicopter’s just buzzed off again. I feel bleary and achy and tight in the chest. I’m not quite done with this puppy yet.

Ask me what I have. I think I have the Flu. This was too much to be called a cold and, yes, I walked around with it and got some things done but it was a grim struggle, and I only did it to shut my head up.

Call me a fool. I guess I am.

Just don’t tell me this was only a cold.