About the Show
Love In The Wild is a play written by Lisa Walsh, performed by Anto Seery and directed by Peter Sheridan.
Ger Duffy is a dreamer. He mostly dreams about Grainne McManus. There is a hole in his heart from the day she disappeared out of his life. That was five years ago, when they were lovers and addicts together. One day, Grainne's Da turns up at Ger's hall door in Ballymun. Ger assumes that she's dead; that she has become another statistic to heroin. But the news is different and lights the flame of hope in Ger's heart. Love in The Wild is an emotional roller-coaster of a play that will make you laugh and will leave you, finally, in tears.
“Lisa Walsh has put human faces, emotions and dreams into the stories that lie behind the headlines” – Joe Duffy, RTE. (Read full note below)
The thing about a one person show is that you can tell very quickly if it is going to work. There is just no place to hide when it's one voice, one individual, and you are being invited on a journey and asked to share it with a stranger. If you are not hooked early on, it's unlikely that you will stay the course. On the other hand, if it works, then it can prove to be a journey that satisfies like no other entertainment in the theatre.
The first one person show I saw was Michael Mac Liammoir in The Importance of Being Oscar at the Gate Theatre in the late '60s. My father sent me to see it and I was simply transported to an unknown, exotic and thrilling new place. I will never forget the moment at the end of the show when MacLiammoir took the green carnation from its button hole, held it momentarily towards the audience and then dropped it. It landed on the stage floor and all of the lights went out, apart from one. A single spot. Illuminating the green carnation. Then blackout.I became a believer at the altar of the one person show; many disappointing experiences followed, pale as they were in comparison to MacLiammoir. But there were outstanding ones also. Roc Brynner, son of Yul Brynner from the Magnificent Seven, set Dublin alight with his portrayal of Thomas De Quincey in Confessions of an Opium Eater. Likewise I will never forget Alan Williams in his 'out of mind' feast that was The Cockroach That Ate Cincinnati. Buoyed by these experiences, I turned my own hand to writing one and emerged with Mother of All the Behans. The role of Kathleen Behan was created by the incomparable Rosaleen Linehan.
So what is it that makes a good one person show? I think it is fundamentally about honesty. You have to come clean when you have nowhere left to hide. Caricature and artifice don't sustain for very long. You have to let the audience in and show them how vulnerable you are. You have to trust that real strength is in the admission of weakness. There is a bond that exists between audience and performer and if you can go to the dark, hidden space, they will become the support that helps you find redemption when failure beckons. That sounds simple- but it's very hard to achieve.
In the character of Ger Duffy, I believe that Lisa Walsh has created someone who confounds the stereotype of the addict. As the play emerged over the past two years, she made me, at every hand's turn, examine my own prejudices. I was surprised by Ger's relationship with his mother and the mutual love and respect they had for one another. I was equally surprised by the fact that he had a computer and spent lots of time on it. His interactions with his 'two little nieces' , whom I'm sure find him a terrific and entertaining uncle were unexpected, too.
It is the fact that Ger functions so well that knocked me for six. Addicts didn't inhabit those spaces in my view of them. I had Ger defined by his addiction; but he is so much more than that. It took the bravery and insight of Lisa Walsh's play to bring that home to me. I hope that your own prejudices are challenged by Ger Duffy and his interaction with the world.
Peter Sheridan, February 2018.
RUNNING TO STAND STILL - (Program Note)
"I see seven towers, but only see one way out, " wrote Bono, from his bedroom in Cedarwood Road, as he gazed across the field to the newly-built Ballymun - Ireland's first, and last, exercise in high-rise living. Running To Stand Still describes a heroin-addicted couple living in these flats.
Ten years earlier, I was running Summer Projects in Ballymun. The summers of 1976 and 1977 were glorious: warm and never-ending; Ballymun was alive with community activists, young mothers and fathers organising arts and crafts, dances, trips to nearby Portmarnock - there was a dream-like quality to those summers. The only shadow cast over us in those two years was the untimely death of Elvis in August 1977 - but that event was at once so momentous and so removed, it only served to remind us that we were living in truly memorable times. The novelty of the flats, with their underfloor heating - brilliant for drying the washing, the central rubbish chutes, meaning there was no need for a bin in the apartment, and the beautiful views over the capital, had still not worn off. But all this was to change utterly when the drugs epidemic hit Dublin.
Lisa Walsh was born into that changing Ballymun, and she has put human faces, emotions, hopes, fears and dreams into one of the many stories that lay buried behind the headlines. The "Fifteen Storeys" have generated many more stories - mostly hopeful, but many grim. But there is a hero in the midst of heroin.
When our hero - for there are heroes and heroines all over Ballymun - gets some news, he automatically presumes it is grim and dark. After all, that's what it usually is ,so why would you think otherwise? It's almost as if working-class people are programmed to expect the worst. Our prospects were never good anyway: limited education, poor health and lack of job opportunities seemed to be preordained. All we needed was a lucky break, an inspirational teacher, a caring social worker, a guiding cleric, or a local sports star to follow. For others, that break came through a parent, relative or neighbour who saw there was more than one way out of the seven towers.
Others discovered the power of music, literature and poetry, a glimpse of what life has to offer on the other side. It is the redemptive power of the human condition than can triumph, that we will always hope. But it can be born of bitter experience, bad luck, bad choices, fragile foundations and supports. Living in Ballymun, Lisa Walsh witnessed many of these experiences.
She grasped the transformative power of education and qualified as a social worker. So, while we learn in academia that water is two parts hydrogen, one part oxygen, Lisa Walsh, social worker, playwright, knows this - but also that true knowledge of water is thirst.
Joe Duffy, Broadcaster and Author.