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Róisín’s debut play is very close to home

CURTAIN UP: Local writer and actress Róisín Gallagher and Tinderbox artistic director Patrick J O’Reilly CURTAIN UP: Local writer and actress Róisín Gallagher and Tinderbox artistic director Patrick J O’Reilly
By Ciara Quinn

I’M with West Belfast actress and scribe Róisín Gallagher to ask her the unthinkable question – how on earth she managed to write and now perform a new play which deals with the fallout of her father’s passing?

Róisín describes her debut work – Natural Disaster – as “Deeply personal, my own journey through losing my dad to cancer much, much too soon.”

She continues: “Natural Disaster is my artistic response to how I felt from when he was diagnosed, how I felt when he passed away, how I coped with the aftermath of that and where I am now.”
The play will be performed as part of theatre company Tinderbox’s ‘Takeaway’ experience which runs at the MAC from March 15 to 16.

“I feel that Tinderbox and its artistic director, Patrick J O’Reilly, have a really innovative and empowering platform for artists to create work in the form of ‘takeaway’ theatre,” adds Róisín.

“I was lucky enough to have my idea selected so that Tinderbox would work with me, mentor me and basically give me what I needed to make this seed of an idea grow into an production.”

Speaking to me on her first day of rehearsal, the former St Genevieve’s High School student says the language of the play – like the title – is deliberately non-specific.

“It’s about really, on the surface, preparing for the inevitable. During the piece I never mention death, I never mention anything being lost, in fact I say very little. The piece is very movement-based, it’s an interpretation of grief, because I wouldn’t be able to stand up and talk about it. I wouldn’t want to and I don’t think anyone would be really interested in listening to that either – not really.”

Asked why she has chosen to take on something so raw and so close, Róisín tells me: “Well, it is something that keeps coming up in conversation. For me, it was a real compulsion to remember daddy, born out of a fear of forgetting him. I recorded him speaking when he was sick and those recordings have become the soundscape for this piece. His voice is very present in the piece.

“I could just do this for myself and not show it to anyone. I could just write it all down and put it under my bed and that would be a part of my grief process. People can be in the same space and share what is a very universal, inevitable thing for every single human being.

“I don’t think we as a society are really that great at dealing with grief.

“There was a time I wanted to make myself a little badge saying, ‘I’m grieving, please be patient with me.’ Hopefully this piece is a good way for people to share and create conversation – some people might not want to talk and that’s fine. I think that the bottom line is about putting trust and faith in the universe, in nature and the hope and comfort that this is a cycle and we live on. I want people to feel comforted and feel hopeful in some way and I want them to see what I clung on to. Ultimately I want to do daddy justice.”

• Natural Disaster is on at the MAC on March 15 and 16. Tickets for the play are priced at £12. To book, or for more information. telephone 02890 235053.

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