Cliona Kenny, director of SHINING CITY, the latest production by the Toronto Irish Players (T.I.P.) discusses Irish drama, ghosts, and the discomfort of change.
Q: In 50 words or less (approx), can you sum up what you believe the play is about?
A: The play centres around a man who has seen the ghost of his dead wife. Terrified and shaken he consults a therapist for help. As the stories of these two men unfold it is uncanny how they each mirror the other’s experience of love, commitment, sexuality, loss, and meaning. It is a ghost story, a love story, a coming out story; in short, a very amusing and poignant play about modern life.
Q. Directing a play is a tremendous amount of work, so I'm always curious to know: Why this play? Why now?
A: I love this play because it deals with change, and the havoc that change can cause in our lives. Some change is from within and some is imposed from without. Ireland has undergone huge changes in the past 20 years, so there is a great amount of re-adjustment going on. The characters in Shining City are re-adjusting to these changes. I think it speaks to me personally as I change and grow older and have to let go of some roles that no longer serve. Nobody really likes the discomfort of change!
Q: You've been involved in the T.I.P. for years, why do you think it's important to have Irish plays produced in Toronto?
A; The Irish love a good story and many people throughout the world have Irish roots. Going to a play is a very felt experience. You feel like you are “in” the play. So you can actually have the experience of what it means to be Irish: whatever that means to you. I like to think that as a race both in Ireland and throughout the world we can be defined by more than Saint Patricks Day.
Q: How does Irish theatre differ from theatre in other parts of the world? Is there anything about an Irish play that makes it distinctly Irish? (other than the setting of course).
A: I don’t think I have ever seen an Irish play where I didn’t laugh. Even the saddest, most heartbreaking scenarios are always balanced by the absurdity of life. No subject is too serious that the Irish can’t find the funny side. Shining City is no exception.
Q: What obstacles did you encounter while directing this play?
It is an unusual play for actors. The style of the writing is very un -prose like, much the way people often speak in Dublin. Conversation or dialogue is often not a direct way to meaning. For example they rarely answer any question directly. It’s ironic too because Sigmund Freud maintained that the Irish were impossible to analyze.
SHINING CITY plays at the Alumnae Theatre (70 Berkeley St.) from Nov. 3 - 19. Buy your tickets online here or by phone 416-440-2888 or in person at the theatre.