FIFTEEN PER cent of Irish people have had a threesome - that is according to Rough Magic’s new play Jezebel, which comes to the Town Hall Theatre on Monday February 17.
Indeed threesomes are exactly what the characters get up to in this romantic comedy by Mark Cantan, first staged by Rough Magic last year and which was subsequently awarded the prestigious Stewart Parker Trust New Playwriting Bursary.
Jezebel introduces us to high flying couple Alan (Peter Daly) and Robin (Margaret McAuliffe). They meet when impulsive Robin asks practical Alan if he would like to go out during a business meeting. Fast forward a few months and they are shacked up together but things are getting stale.
Cue the adventurous couple hatching a plan to take it in turns to come up with new ways to spice up their sex life. This leads them to trying a threesome, which is where ditsy, arty type, Jezebel (Valerie O’Connor) comes in. What ensues is a series of comical crossed wires and complications, and an alternative Valentine’s Day lesson of what not to do when your sex life needs saving.
Jezebel was commissioned from author Mark Cantan by Rough Magic and premiered at Project Arts Centre in December 2012. Cantan is a maths graduate from Trinity but since leaving university in 2000 he has made his way in the hurly burly of comedy writing rather than number crunching.
“Studying maths is the perfect qualification for a writer or at least that is what I keep telling my parents” he tells me during a break in rehearsals. “I have a degree in maths but I spent more time in the drama society at college so I didn’t come out with a very good degree. I was always more interested in writing and there isn’t that much maths left in my brain any more, though Alan in the play does use statistics a bit.”
Cantan may have left the world of abstruse equations behind, but he admits his schooling did feed into Jezebel.
“Maths helped me in figuring out Alan’s lines about statistics and also working out all the probabilities that happen to the characters and making them seem plausible,” he notes. “Also, when you are doing maths you’re often spinning things around in your head trying to find a solution, putting things in different orders, and I find that sort of logical approach helps me in writing comedy in general, in finding comic tools you can use to get from Point A to Point B in the script.”
Aside from graduating from Trinity, Canton is also a graduate of Rough Magic’s writer-nurturing SEEDS programme which is how he got the commission to write Jezebel.
“It was great working with Rough Magic,” he affirms. “I got involved with SEEDS and they took us round to see some shows in different places in Europe. Being part of SEEDS introduced me to the company and let me get to know the people and how the company works.
“It was a very different experience to when I staged my own show The Get Together, I couldn’t pay anyone so it was difficult to get people involved. Obviously Rough Magic have a bit more clout and reputation and they brought Jezebel to a good place.”
Having read the script of Jezebel (and, yes, it is very funny!) I mention to Mark that its fizzing comic banter is more reminiscent of a quality TV sitcom than a traditional play.
“I love those great TV sitcoms,” he declares. “There is an amount of farce in the play, characters are misleading each other and in ways it is like an episode of Fawlty Towers or Sienfeld or whatever, there are all those misdirections and miscommunications and I love that kind of stuff.
“I grew up loving sitcoms and that is certainly something I bring into my playwriting. The play could be set anywhere, it is not particularly Dublin or Irish. It is not a play about Ireland, it’s a play about people and people interacting.”
Tickets are available from the Town Hall on 091 - 569777 and www.tht.ie