Let’s wander into a parallel universe. The Great Vintage of 78’ is a distant memory for batty aristocrat Old Madeline, owner of what was once a great estate and Water Orchard. Madeline’s home is crumbling around her, and she is broke. But she is also a rotten old stick in the mud and refuses to take any advice from her equally despicable family members.
The Water Orchard, is the latest play by Collapsing Horse. It was written as a series of abstract ideas by writer Eoghan Quinn more than a year ago. He then came together with the ensemble, where they began to piece his ideas together to form a fuller picture that has become his ‘kaleidoscopic comedy’.
‘It was quite a different play, or a few ideas about a different play. We did a development period and there was this one aesthetic that came out of that… this faux aristocratic drama that was dark and weird, but it was still very much comedy’ explains Eoghan.
Dan Colley, director at Collapsing Horse continues, ‘Eoghan is one of those people who writes really instinctively. In my experience when you sit it all down you can start to see the themes… and how funny all of it is’.
[perfectpullquote align=”left” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]In conversation with the two men, it becomes clear quite quickly that their partnership is one of great hilarity and of striking a balance.[/perfectpullquote]
This appears to have worked out very well for them. ‘You just kind of get lucky, this thing between auteur and collaboration. Not devised, but not solely of the writer either’, says Eoghan. And how does Dan reign in something as abstract and ambitious as The Water Orchard? He explains why co-directing the play with Eoghan in this case made the most sense:
‘Eoghan is a really pictorial and event based writer, he’ll conceive of the event as a whole when he’s writing. Handing over the script to me to interpret entirely wouldn’t quite do it justice. But to let Eoghan direct on his own, is a little bit like leaving vampires in charge of blood banks. To take it seriously, you get something that’s abstract and out there, bit by bit you find a dramaturgical place for it and you can do that in collaboration’.
And why did a talking projector seem like a good fit when Eoghan started writing? ‘The show opens with Old Madeline disappearing into no-man’s land. She is being harassed by this talking projector. It is accusing her of keeping secrets and it won’t let her return home until she reveals them. ‘I was interested in projecting text on stage, it’s something I always enjoy. I’m interested in what it can achieve in terms of audience attention and rhythm’ says Eoghan.
As a comedy, Collapsing Horse is taking risks by projecting much of this story onto the wall for the audience to read. ‘Comedy is all about uniting the audience as one. They laugh together and that’s all very important. Making them read splits them up, that’s an interesting tension that we’re playing with’ says Dan.
I ask whether Old Madeline really is as horrible as she seems: ‘She’s a stick in the mud and has a certain way of doing things. It is entirely justified from her point of view’, explains Dan. ‘Everything is crumbling around her and the people she loves are trying to unplug that stick, she’s got good reason to stick to her guns, I think. I wouldn’t like her to be my mother, but I understand her.’
Her daughter, Noelle wants to turn the estate into a weekend getaway for married couples and a brunch garden, where the water orchard once was. ‘It’s a real generational divide. We’re trying to show a conflict rather than tell the audience how to feel. It’s the abstraction of a generational conflict’ explains Eoghan. ‘All the characters fall in between, you know. They’re good until the point where they’re not. They’re all sympathetic, it’s up to us as viewers to navigate that a bit.
What they’re most excited about? ‘The first thing is the very funny cast and ensemble. We’re also excited about this weird disembodied character that is split between voice and text, music and a puppet. There are a couple of surprises too and a little bit of spectacular reveal and magic. I don’t want to give too much away’ says Dan. And is there anything that they’re worried might go wrong? ‘Yeah. Loads. This is the stage where you’re like “I’m so excited this could be great but it’s also teetering on the edge of disaster”. I think that’s where we need to be, because if you weren’t there and you were like, “yeah we’re probably going to get away with this” then really, you’re not taking risks’.
The Water Orchard runs at The Project Arts Centre from 18 July 2017-29 July 2017 7.30pm
Featured Image – www.collapsinghorsetheatre.com