Skip to main content

Rachel O'Riodan - Perth Theatre's 2012/13 Season


There’s a window built into the roof of Perth Theatre’s brightly lit 
bar that won't open. This bothers Rachel O’Riordan, and has done so 
ever since the Irish-born creative director for theatre at Horsecross 
Arts first arrived in Perth to breathe fresh life into one of 
Scotland’s most important rep institutions a year ago. For all the 
energy that goes on in the building, it seems, that window retains its 
somewhat stifling presence.

While there's little to be done about that window until the theatre's 
planned renovation takes place over the next three years, it hasn't 
prevented O'Riordan from turning the place as it currently exists 
upside down in an artistic sense at least. In her first season, 
O'Riordan's back to back productions of Shakespeare's Twelfth Night, 
Frank McGuinness' hostage drama, Someone Who'll Watch Over Me and Ron 
Hutchinson's Hollywood romp, Moonlight and Magnolias, stacked up to 
make an impressive calling card. While on the surface these were tried 
and tested works, each production, in very different ways, mined 
elements of comedy and tragedy in a stylistically distinctive 
twenty-first century manner.

O'Riordan also hooked up with A Play, A Pie and A Pint to present a new 
lunchtime play in the bar, Cold Turkey, by Perth 
writer, Ben Tagoe, and brought the National Theatre of Scotland's 
production of Men Should Weep to Perth as part of the theatre's 
visiting programme.

The announcement of O'Riordan's second season, exclusively revealed in 
the Herald today alongside plans for Perth Theatre's future, shows off 
even more of the directors ambitions for Perth as a major producing 
house. This year O'Riordan will direct all four in-house productions, 
including Christmas show, Mother Goose. The other three will feature 
work by contemporary writers, including a major coup in co-production 
with the Lyric Theatre, Belfast.

Opening the season will be The Odd Couple, Neil Simon's New York comedy 
about two very different room-mates. It will finish with April in 
Paris, John Godber's look at an elderly northern English couple who win 
a French holiday. With Aberdeen Touring Arts' new staging of Robin 
Jenkins' novel, The Cone Gatherers, touring to Perth in the Autumn 
prior to Mother Goose, 2013 will begin in earnest with The Seafarers, 
by author of The Weir, Conor McPherson. First seen in 2006 at the 
National Theatre in London, McPherson's quasi-supernatural yarn set 
around a game of poker went on to become a hit on Broadway. O'Riordan's 
new production will not only be the play's Scots premiere, but its 
transfer to the Lyric will mark its first appearance in Northern 
Ireland as well.

“The main objective with this new season is to put on exquisite writing 
by great playwrights,” O'Riordan enthuses. “They're all so different, 
but The Seafarer is my baby. I've wanted to direct it for years. It's 
an extraordinary play about alcoholism, the Devil and redemption, and 
it's the most extraordinarily moving and intelligent piece of writing 
about the human condition I've read for years.

“By the same token,” O'Riordan continues, “Neil Simon is a very 
different but equally exquisite playwright. If you look at Frasier or 
Friends, they're all in a direct line from Simon's work. But in light 
of recent discussions on blogs about female casting, we're doing the 
female version. This allows six strong female actors to really get 
their teeth into comic roles in a way that they don't always get to do 
so.”

By her own admission, April in Paris wasn't on O'Riordan's wish-list of 
plays to do. When she read it, however, she discovered that “it really 
taps into this idea that we're all supposed to be socially mobile, yet 
all this couple discover once they get back from Paris is that it'll 
never happen again. In a time of recession, it's an important play that 
exposes that lie in a warm and human way that's full of heart.”

If all bodes well, there will also be another co-production with A 
Play, A Pie and A Pint featuring a brand new work by Frank McGuinness. 
In the longer term, O'Riordan is in development to produce a major 
site-specific piece set to take place at Perth railway station, which 
was one of the main assembly points for soldiers during the second 
world war. She also has her sights set on a large-scale community 
production, and once the new Perth Theatre building opens in 2015, 
O'Riordan aims to bring in young writers and directors to develop work 
in the new studio space.

“I feel incredibly positive,” she says. “We are lucky that we have an 
audience that is educated, literate and committed. My challenge is to 
keep on refreshing that. Doing a play in the bar was an unknown 
quantity, especially as it was a comedy about heroin addiction, but it 
went down a storm and sold out. So there is an audience here who are 
willing to take a risk more than they're sometimes given credit for. I 
think once the audience trust me enough to realise that everything I'm 
doing is for them, then that allows them to feel like they can take a 
punt now and then. Having said that, there is no point in doing what we 
do to nobody. It would be foolish and arrogant to programme something 
nobody wanted to see just because I fancied directing it.”

O'Riordan's desire to connect with her audience goes further.

“I  want people to feel something,” she says. “I don't mean that 
metaphorically. I really want people to come out of that theatre 
affected in some way. I really want the work we do to reach out 
emotionally.”

Beyond the plans she's already set down, O'Riordan is exploring further 
collaborations, and is in preliminary talks with Dundee Rep, the Royal 
Lyceum in Edinburgh, and an as yet un-named company in New York.

“I go looking for partnerships,” she says, “but it takes two, and 
people can say no. But everyone knows these are tricky times 
financially, so no-one can afford to stay in any kind of ivory tower 
anymore. I'm continually surprised by the resilience and the spirit of 
the theatre scene here in Scotland. There's so much going on here, and 
its very collegiate in terms of people supporting each other.”

In terms of Perth itself, O'Riordan has got off to a flying start, and, 
on paper, at least, her plans for the future promise much for the 
audience she so clearly respects. Despite the fickle nature of 
ambitious theatre directors, she also sounds like she's in it for the 
long haul.

“We have work to do here,” O'Riordan says, “but that work has started, 
and achieving what we did in that first season was quite exciting. I'm 
immersed in my role now, which took a while. It's interesting how long 
it takes to fully inhabit a role. If the first season seemed like 
rehearsals and previews, then this new season feels like I'm in a run. 
It's nice not to be the new girl anymore, ” she says, eyeing up the 
window that may yet be forced open.

Tickets for Perth Theatre’s new season go on sale to the public on July 
24th. Season ticket subscribers can book their preferred seats now.
www.horsecross.co.uk

The Herald, July 17th 2012

ends

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Ceildh

Tron Theatre, Glasgow Three stars
One kiss is all it takes for everyone to understand each other in Catriona Lexy Campbell and Mairi Sine Campbell’s new play. Linguistically that is, as ancient and modern are brought to rollickingly intimate life by the Gaelic-based Theatre Gu Leor (Theatre Galore) company in the Tron’s Vic Bar en route to an extensive cross-Scotland tour. The set-up is the sort of ghastly tartan-draped corporate function whose perma-grinning hostess Lisa makes bogus claims of preserving culture while blatantly intent on flogging it off to the highest bidder. Think McWetherspoon by way of Trumpageddon.
With the audience ushered into a cabaret table arrangement by Lisa’s step-daughter Eilidh and serenaded by Eddie’s oh-so-couthy accordion playing, the dirt from Harris is unearthed along with a bottle of David Beckham-branded whisky. This causes the corporate shindig to be disrupted on an epic scale by seventeenth century poet Mairi Ruadh. Which is when both the kissing an…

The Duke

Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh Four stars
Shon Dale-Jones seems like a very nice chap. You can tell from the way he welcomes each member of the audience into the theatre, shaking them by the hand to a soundtrack of energising 1960s feel-good soul. Such a personable approach helps create a warm and intimate atmosphere, so when he sits at a desk with only a laptop, a volume control and us for company, you can’t help but be charmed from the start of this hour-long foray, both into his own fantastical mind as well as the discursive set of first-world contradictions it lets loose into the world.
It begins with a Royal Worcester porcelain figure of the Duke of Wellington on horseback, which Dale-Jones’ dad bought in 1974 for £750. This would make it worth more than £8,000 in today’s money if his mum hadn’t broken it while dusting. This is just one more thing for Dale-Jones to think about as he attempts to apply a script doctor’s ruthless critique onto a film script he’s been working on for a deca…

This House

Festival Theatre, Edinburgh Four stars
Five years is a long time in politics just as it is in the theatre. When James Graham’s epic reimagining of one of the most pivotal eras in late twentieth century British democracy first appeared in 2012, its depiction of the aftermath of the 1974 hung parliament in Westminster chimed with a then current coalition. Half a decade and a couple of referendums on, Graham’s dramatic whizz through to 1979’s successful vote of no confidence in the Labour government now looks like a warning.
Jeremy Herrin and Jonathan O’Boyle’s touring revival of a production first seen at the National Theatre begins with both sides of the House marching en masse in their grey suits and twin-sets down the aisles of the auditorium before cutting a well-choreographed rug in formation. As the Labour and Tory whips mark out their territory away from the chamber, this proves to be one of the few moments of unity in a breathless yarn that picks at the old-school gentleman’s agree…