My research question is comprised of three elements: two plays and a thesis. The critical and creative elements of my research are linked by an interrogation into the way that various Irish playwrights use stage time, with particular focus on ‘real-time’ dramas which observe the Aristotlean unties of time, place, and action, as set down in the Poetics. The plays I will examine in depth are Conversations on a Homecoming by Tom Murphy (1985), The Weir by Conor McPherson (1997), Quietly by Owen McCafferty (2012), and Krapp’s Last Tape by Samuel Beckett (1958). I will also undertake a close reading of the Poetics, and examine how our understanding of tragedy has altered since the time of Aristotle’s teaching. Does the use of stage time change an audience’s understanding of the story being told, and if so, how does that change the story itself? Is it true to say that the closer we are to ‘real-time’ action, the more intense is our experience? This is my doctoral question. In the creative part of my research project I will extend my practice as a playwright by writing two connected plays that investigate these properties of stage time in formally divergent ways. The first of these, Abattoir Song, takes place in a boxer’s changing room on the night of a world title fight. It takes place before, during, and after the fight, but never leaves the confines of that location. Dramaturgically, this presents several formal challenges in how the action and narrative is choreographed, as the unities are strictly observed, and nothing that is not immediately germane to the action has been included. The second drama, Black Lights, looks at the events filtered through the boxer’s post-fight experience, after he suffers brain trauma sustained in that fight. This distressing and discombobulating experience alters the boxer’s perception of time - as he relives the same moment again and again with wearying freshness - something I will strive to mirror in the dramatic structure.
In the summer of 2017 I devised and delivered an eight week playwriting course at the Seamus Heaney Centre, in conjunction with the Irish Writers Centre in Dublin. From Page to Stage was a comprehensive course designed for playwrights with some experience of having their plays performed, but little understanding of the process of getting a play to production. It comprised of a series of practical workshops for emerging playwrights, focused on making the playwright’s work production ready, with an emphasis on practical dramaturgy. It broke down the process into manageable weekly units: creating present tense action with active dialogue; structure; using theatrical metaphor (location as metaphor, visual metaphor, etc.); the considerations of different uses of stage time (open/closed time); and building different types of tension between and within characters (societal/interpersonal/internal). As the course progressed the emphasis shifted towards practical considerations such as how to approach redrafting, and working with directors in the rehearsal room.
In 2011 I was a writer in residence at LAByrinth’s summer intensive in New York, where I taught, alongside Caitriona McLaughlin, a transatlantic group of Irish, English, and American actors scene analysis and dramaturgy, in a group facilitated by Stephen Adly Guigis and Philip Seymour Hoffman. Also, during summer 2011, again in New York, I workshopped new plays for the MCC Youth Theatre, working with twenty actors and two playwrights, providing dramaturgical support. In 2011 I created, alongside Caitriona McLaughlin, the BTec module for Technical Acting (Acting On Screen) at Peckham Theatre, working with screen actors David Harewood and Johnny Harris. This module is now part of the professional training programme Peckham Theatre continues to offer annually.
I am a playwright and drama facilitator, with 15 years professional experience, and have been produced in the West End, Off-Broadway, Dublin, Derry, and Edinburgh, and am currently under commission to the Abbey Theatre. Following a BA in Film at the Surrey Institute of Art & Design I freelanced professionally for ten years as a sound recordist, cameraman and editor. My plays include: Bunny’s Vendetta (The Glassworks, Derry); Irish Blood, English Heart (Trafalgar Studios, London); Tabloid Caligula (Arcola, London/E59E, NY - Brits Off-Broadway season); A Road In Winter (Soho Theatre/Dublin Fringe/Union, London/Flatlake Festival, Ireland); The Flats (Chelsea Theatre); This Just In (Old Red Lion); The Derelicts (BAC); Charlatan (5065 Lift/Pleasance Courtyard, Edinburgh). I am represented by Nick Quinn at The Agency.
Tabloid Caligula Oberon Books, 2005 https://www.oberonbooks.com/tabloid-caligula.html
Irish Blood, English Heart Oberon Books, 2012 https://www.oberonbooks.com/irish-blood-english-heart.html
PRIZES, AWARDS, & COMMISSIONS
2002 - The Westminster Prize for A Road in Winter
2003 - Shortlisted for Soho Theatre’s Verity Bargate Prize for The Flats
2008 - Sara Sugarman bursary to attend RADA’s professional playwriting workshop
2009 - Peggy Ramsay Award
2012 - Blue Eagle commission for UK City of Culture in Derry, 2013: Bunny’s Vendetta
2012 - 18 month Abbey Theatre attachment through their professional New Playwrights Programme
2014 - Abbey Theatre commission: Many Mansions
2016 - AHRC Studentship, funded through Northern Bridge