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Like Teen Spirits

A new play by Thomas Kilroy, Christ Deliver Us!, is a version of Spring Awakening by Frank Wedekind, transposed to 50s Ireland. It's the story of a number of adolescents, a group of boys in a Christian Brothers school, who are beginning to discover their sexuality and are given no knowledge or support. It's also about them discovering their intellectual possibilities; as those get more and more thwarted, some of them are destroyed by the world in which they live.

It's full of the ghosts of things that still haunt us today, a look at the moment at the centre of the century, just after the war, when we'd been separated from the rest of Europe and isolated, left to our own devices. It looks at the way the Church and State were practically inseparable at the time, and the effect that those things had on people's lives, both ideologically and physically. It's terribly sad, but hopefully cathartic.

This is my first time working on a full production with a living playwright. It's brilliant, and I'm having a lovely time working with Tom Kilroy. He's an incredibly smart, generous man who loves the theatre. It's been easy. The play hasn't needed a huge amount of rewriting, and also, I've been attached to this project for about a year and half, so we talked a lot before we got into the rehearsal room.

There are 23 actors onstage at any given time; lots of them are young, and some of them are more senior actors who I would have admired for a very long time. Lots of talented people have taken on contained roles, which is exciting -- you don't get a lot of cameos in the theatre, but we have a lot of cameos in this. It's great to work on something that's intergenerational, there's such a strong sense of that as the play goes on.

As far as the Arts Council cuts go, at the moment I'm really involved in working on this, so in a way I'm doing relatively well. However, my company, Randolph SD, has been out of Arts Council funding for a second year now. I think it's all very distressing and alarming, but I also think that we knew it was coming. In a way, I haven't quite digested all that. Once this play is up and running, I can sit down with the people who I work with and think about what this all means, and about my relationship with the independent sector, which effectively is null and void in terms of State funding.

That said, though, up 'til a year and a half ago, I worked in a restaurant, and I made all my work by just working for eight months, and then putting stuff on. For me, the Celtic Tiger wasn't a period of economic abundance, so this current situation doesn't really seem all that different.

We always made work because we wanted to make work, and we never made much money out of it. I'm in a position now where my work is much more economically viable, but I don't in any way feel as if I'm going to retreat from my work as an independent artist. The fact that the money isn't there at the moment isn't going to make me back off. I don't have any idea how I'm going to make it happen, just yet, but I will.

Christ Deliver Us! runs in the Abbey Theatre 'til March 13th. See abbeytheatre.ie for more information


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