ONE OF the most talked-about plays at last year’s ABSOLUT Fringe Festival in Dublin was Stefanie Preissner’s Solpadeine Is My Boyfriend which got rave reviews, was nominated for two Fringe Awards, and marked its author as one Ireland’s brightest young theatrical talents.
Solpadeine Is My Boyfriend, which comes to the Town Hall Theatre on Monday January 21 at 8pm, is about Ireland’s generation of twenty-somethings who were promised financial stability and job security but now find themselves preparing to emigrate or signing on at the social welfare office.
They feel entitled not to experience depression, economic or personal, while over-the-counter medication allows them to numb both. The play has been described as a “brave, suprisingly moving production” (Irish Theatre Magazine ) and “a dark, delightful, intelligent comedy” (examiner.com ).
Solpadeine Is My Boyfriend is written and performed by Preissner and follows her well-received 2011 debut, Our Father. Born in Munich, Preissner grew up in Mallow, County Cork, she studied drama in UCC before going on to the Gaiety School of Acting in Dublin.
“When I finished my training at the Gaiety, I wasn’t getting much work and as the phone wasn’t ringing I decided I would start writing,” she tells me over an afternoon phone call. “I’ve just been really lucky the way my work has been received which has allowed me to continue working in that way.”
Preissner expands on Solpadeine’s main protagonist and its themes.
“This girl moves to Dublin from Cork and feels a little guilty about leaving Cork because her friends are still there and she misses their group nights out and their time together,” she says. “She meets this guy who has a degree in engineering and throughout the play he’s getting increasingly frustrated about the fact he can’t get work.
“Everytime he logs onto Facebook after coming back from the dole office he sees pictures of his friends in idyllic settings in Australia having fun. He’s wondering ‘Why should I stay here when there are places that want me and want engineers?’
“He leaves and the girl is left talking about this sense of entitlement her generation has to not be in a country that is suffering from depression after they’ve been told they could do whatever degree they want and get whatever job they want.
“There are two sides of the coin. I think the country is kind of divided on this. Some people say ‘Just get out, you have things to do and a life to live, don’t stay here,’ and others say ‘If everyone leaves then it’s worse for those who have to stay, because a few people can’t support an entire State.’
“The play explores both of those sides but the girl is on the side of the people who stay, they’re the ‘fight people’ and not ‘the flight people’.”
Does Preissner belong to the ‘flight’ or ‘fight’ camp?
“Having written the play I think now I have to stay here, I’ve made my bed and have to lie in it!” she laughs. “I have family commitments anyhow which would make it difficult to leave. I live in Dublin and Dublin believes in me as an artist and I’ve had a lot of support. I don’t think I’d be strong enough to leave and go to a country where I didn’t know anyone and try and make my way there; I’ve already done that moving from Mallow to Dublin.”
A striking feature of Solpadeine Is My Boyfriend is that it’s written in verse.
“My other play is in verse as well, it’s kind of what I do,” Preissner explains. “This one is about 70 per cent in verse and the remainder, in a kind off-the-cuff way, looks at the science behind dissolving and why things dissolve, taking solpadeine as an example but obviously speaking about countries and economic values as well. It also looks at the fight or flight response and the science behind all these things.”
Having chosen to stay, Preissner’s nascent writing career already looks to be burgeoning.
“I’m working on two plays at the moment and working on some songs for Rebecca Storm,” she reveals. “I’m writing one play with an older actress in mind so I won’t be performing that. These are all steps I am taking away from the comfort zone of writing for myself. I enjoy writing much more at the moment than acting, I have a lot to say at the moment. When you’re in your twenties you have all these brave opinions so I’m going to try and write all them down before writer’s block kicks in and then maybe I’ll go back to the acting!”
Tickets are available from the Town Hall on 091 - 569777 and www.tht.ie