Photo Credit: Kate Ferris
Introducing. . .
Gina has been busy this year creating theatre in Dublin, Edinburgh, New York, and across Europe as an actor, director, and deviser. We're proud to produce the work of such a a collaborative theatremaker and storyteller.
Having attended a series of convents Gina went on to study Fine Art. As soon as she graduated she moved to Dublin and became an actor - by fluke – she had applied for a job as a designer with a theatre company who then invited her to audition. She subsequently got involved in writing and performing comedy for stage and TV. She performed in a number of plays with Rough Magic Theatre who then commissioned her to write a play and went on to win the Stewart Parker New Playwright Award for her first play Danti-Dan. More plays for stage and radio followed, the most recent being The Crumb Trail for Pan Pan Theatre with whom she has performed extensively. Despite being a reluctant writer she’s also published some short stories. Recently she has begun to direct for the theatre and her most recent production, How to Keep an Alien, won best production at 2014 Dublin Fringe Festival.
Gina took a moment out of her busy touring schedule to answer some of our questions about her process and the inception of Tea Set.
How did you get involved with theatre?
I studied Fine Art and was interested in theatre but there was very little of interest happening in Cork then. I moved to Dublin and applied for a design job with a theatre in education company who invited me to audition. I hadn’t a clue but willingly surrendered to what has essentially been an improvised life.
Who or what has been the biggest influence on your work thus far?
Things change. I moved away from Fine Art because of the solitary nature of the work. Genuine collaboration and having the balls the make brave, intelligent, new work is what interests me most. I’ve been working on and off with Pan Pan for almost ten years now and that’s shaped and sharpened me. Though we are all freelancers we are like a floating ensemble who share a language that morphs from show to show.
You’re an accomplished actress as well as a playwright. Which came first for you?
I began to write short stories and mortifying poetry at art school. Then I started to act and got involved with a group of people doing comedy and began to write and perform sketches and monologues for stage, TV and radio and that all fed into writing my first play. More recently I’ve begun to work as a dramaturg and director which seems an obvious progression. It’s all part of the same sensibility.Theatre maker is probably a more accurate description of what I am. Or theatre practitioner, but that sounds lumpy and humourless to me.
Tell us about what inspired you to write Tea Set.
I was commissioned by Fishamble Theatre Company who were having a festival of short plays about the millennium. There was a lot of hysteria about making it memorable and baby-sitters costing a fortune and all that crap. My instinct is to retreat from those Hallmark type of manufactured occasions of enforced happiness. I was thinking about people’s fear of being alone and the discomfort of other peoples sadness. Honestly, I don’t remember what came first. Like most ideas, you have scrappy notions like atoms and they somehow form a nucleus.
Do you have a favourite place to write?
Somewhere with a good view and access to somewhere to swim. Preferably 27 degrees. (Take us with you, please!)
What about writing do you enjoy the most?
I don’t really enjoy writing. I find it hugely difficult to get down to it. Though thinking about writing and what to write occupies a large part of the front of my brain. I’m less interested in writing what I’ll call a conventional play - where you hand over a completed script - now, I’m more interested in collaborating and developing a piece of work with actors/dancers/ designers, though shrinking funding makes this type of work increasingly difficult.
How would you like to see mental health care and care of the elderly progress ideally?
I live in a country where women do not have autonomy over their own bodies and have campaigned for most of my adult life for women to have access to abortion in Ireland. Similarly, I firmly believe people should have the choice to die with dignity. Our bodies, our choices.
Mrs A and her young sitter make an unexpected bond and trusted connection- is this cross generational interaction lacking today?
I can only speak for myself. Working in theatre there is less of a generational divorce than there might be in other worlds of work. We make those bonds all of the time, professionally and socially. Many of my close friends are way younger than me. The technology of hyper-connectedness is the real game changer. We’ve very quickly moved from I’m not worth it to I’m so worth it - the generation of the self. I am of the last generation to remember a time before the internet. It’s almost unthinkable already. But any young person with an iota of curiosity will realise that some older people know shit and vice versa. And some definitely don’t.
What’s next up for you?
This year has been gloriously busy performing and touring with Dead Centre’s LIPPY and Pan Pan’s Americanitis: The Seagull and Other Birds. I also directed Sonya Kelly’s show How To Keep an Alien for Rough Magic. Next I’ll be playing Helena in A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Abbey Theatre. Gavin Quinn of Pan Pan is directing, and it’s set in an old folks home. A perfect start to the new year.