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Playwright Olivia Morahan: 'I've always been promoting other people and their talents. Now it's my time'

Olivia Morahan (45) is a playwright. She used to be a journalist, PR consultant and talent agent. She lives in Glasnevin with her husband, Fergal, and their three children - Ella (15), Amelie (12) and Lochlann (10)


Olivia Morahan

Olivia Morahan

Olivia Morahan

The alarm goes off at 7am and I get up. I really enjoy that moment in the morning by myself, with coffee and toast. I listen to Morning Ireland. I like to know what's going on.

We have three kids, and they are at ages where they don't bounce out of bed any more. They need a lot of calling, as they are very slow to rouse. I'm still very involved in the morning routine. Lochlann, the youngest, walks himself to school now. There is that level of separation and independence that has made life so much easier. My husband Fergal works for Airbnb, and he travels a lot. So I can be with the kids on my own for periods of time.

When the kids are in school, I have a morning walk, just to settle the mind. Ultimately, I'm a mother first, and I have three kids, and they are the centre. It all has to be organised for them, so I know where I'm going. And then the day can start. When I go for the walk, I'm not listening to anything, just stillness.

Then I will sit down and organise my things. We are in production meetings and rehearsals for an excerpt of my play, Wired, which will be on at Smock Alley Theatre on the 25th and 26th of this month, as part of the Scene + Heard Festival.

It's about two female aerial artists in the circus - an older and younger woman - and it's about the dynamic between them in the workplace. It's slapstick; the sort of stuff I like myself. Originally I wrote it for my sister Caroline, as I thought that it'd be fun to work with her, but she's just had a baby. It's funny how you can try to plan things, but then two great things happen at the same time.

I'm a writer. But I've come at it from so many angles. I've got a degree in marketing and a master's in film production. After that, I didn't want to go into film-making as I found it quite technical. I enjoyed the more creative side. I did a screenwriting class. I wrote a script, and the teacher held it up and said, 'Well, this is clearly a copy' - of another film that I'd never seen or heard of before. That made me think, 'Well, I'm not a writer', so I didn't pursue that route. When you get a knock, it can set you right back.

After the course, I was trying to think of something to do. My dad is a journalist, and my parents were always saying that I could write, but I didn't have enough faith in myself. Then I started writing as a freelance journalist for various magazines. By then, I wanted something more solid and regular. I met a woman at a fashion show who was looking to hire someone in PR. I had zero experience, but she took me on and was very encouraging.

After my first child, Ella, was born, I went out on my own. I set up my own PR and Talent Management agency and Caroline was my first client. Soon, there were quite a few from RTE and TV3 and various walks of life, and it was a busy time.

I was good at it, and I loved it. Then when my second child came along, it was very hard to juggle and to keep that level of involvement with my clients. They were almost like my children because I gave them so much attention. When my daughter got quite sick, it made me change perspective. It was a real bang-on-the-head moment. Like so many working mums, I blamed myself for not spotting it sooner. She is perfectly fine now, but at the time, it was a bad case of pneumonia, and it was spiralling. They kept her in hospital for two weeks and they thought it was cystic fibrosis. It was very stressful. I was ringing clients, crying down the phone, saying, 'I can't do this any more. I'm in Temple Street'. They were so kind.

That made me change direction. Shortly afterwards, I dropped my PR clients and then I just had the talent agency going. I was still working, but when my third child came along, I thought, 'Something has got to give'. I was making calls while shoving chocolate Buttons in the children's faces. I was snatching moments here and there, and the child-minding thing wasn't working. I felt that I needed a full-time nanny, but also, I wanted to be around my kids.

So at 36, I went into early retirement. Well, it was actually more of a pause, but it felt like a retirement without the party and the handshake. It felt like the wires were being snipped all around. Before, I had known everybody and could get into anything, but suddenly all that was removed and there were no emails or phone calls coming in. I used to love getting something for a client and that buzz when it landed. All of that stopped so quickly, but then my attention was on three small children.

I did a writing course and joined a writing group that met regularly. Years later, I did a ceramics course and it unleashed something in me. I didn't have a great portfolio, but I began to write this play, Wired. An excerpt of it will be on this month, and the aim is to put on the full play in the Dublin Fringe Festival in September.

I fit all my writing in when the kids are in school. When they come home, it is all about them - homework and after-school activities.

I feel like my 30s were a blur. I was full-on with my kids, but now that they're older, things are easier. I have been a journalist, film critic and talent agent. I have come at writing from so many different places. I've always been managing other people and their talents. Now, it is my time.




'Wired' by Olivia Morahan, February 25-26, 9.30pm, €10/€13 at Smock Alley (The show is part of a block. All blocks feature two separate works, both are included in the ticket price)

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