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Sophie Motley: ‘I’m interested in the idea that populism shouldn’t be a dirty word’

Theatre: The artistic director of the Everyman tells Katy Hayes about a season of readings of Cork-oriented plays being made available on demand

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Sophie Motley, the artistic director of the Everyman in Cork

Sophie Motley, the artistic director of the Everyman in Cork

Sophie Motley, the artistic director of the Everyman in Cork

Made in Cork/Play It By Ear www.everymancork.com March 1 – 31

Sophie Motley was appointed as artistic director of the Everyman in Cork in November. She has just finished a four-year stint as artistic director of Pentabus, the UK touring theatre company based in Shropshire, where she has been honing her management skills, as well as continuing to direct.

In Pentabus she has learnt about “charity finance, how to run a business, and yes, I have had to consider what to do when the toilets are broken”.

Motley grew up in England. Her Irish extended family meant Kilkenny holidays as a child and the decision to study at Trinity College Dublin was an easy one. She graduated with a BA in drama and English in 2006 and immediately went on to the Rough Magic Seeds apprenticeship. Her career includes stints as assistant director and staff director with national institutions including the Abbey Theatre and English National Opera.

The key thing that excites Motley about Cork artistic expression is its innate connection to music. “There are a huge variety of music genres bleeding through the city, including contemporary music theatre and opera,” she says.

She believes Cork people have a “festival-ly way of expressing themselves”. This is due to the energy of local festivals, including Cork Midsummer.

“I’m interested in the idea that populism shouldn’t be a dirty word,” she says. “Regional programming in the UK would mean scheduling Alan Ayckbourn as your popular offering, whereas at the Everyman that might mean Martin McDonagh.

“Cork is the second city, but funding is only just starting to look at supporting work from outside the capital,” she says. A huge problem is recognition, she says, adding: “You don’t necessarily get the reviews you need for work to have a future life”.

Made in Cork/Play It By Ear is a season of readings of Cork-oriented plays originally presented during the Everyman winter season just past, now being made available on demand for the month of March.

The nine plays include: Ger FitzGibbon’s The Four Faced Liar which gives voice to the four faces of Shandon Steeple, and Marion, a comedy by Katie Holly about a young woman journeying through the trials and tribulations of living in Cork.

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Motley is pleased to revive these readings which have only had a single outing. “It’s a particularly tough time for artists,” she says, “and if the Everyman is the national theatre of Cork, then we have a huge responsibility to our local artists.”


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