Blue Teapot’s Sanctuary returns

Charlene Kelly and Kieran Coppinger as Sophie and Larry in Christian O'Reilly's Sanctuary.

Charlene Kelly and Kieran Coppinger as Sophie and Larry in Christian O'Reilly's Sanctuary.

GALWAY’S BLUE Teapot Theatre Company take to the stage of the Town Hall Theatre on Monday November 24 at 8pm with a welcome revival of their highly-acclaimed play, Sanctuary.

Written by Christian O’Reilly, Sanctuary explores the issue of sexual and romantic relationships between intellectually disabled people. ID people’s scope for exploring romantic relationships is greatly curtailed by the care systems in which they live – it is illegal, for instance, for an ID couple to have sex unless they are married. O’Reilly’s fine script illuminates the subject with great tact, sensitivity, and humour.

During a group outing to a cinema, Larry and Sophie (beautifully played by Kieran Coppinger and Charlene Kelly ) steal away and get a hotel room for the afternoon (booked for them by their carer ).

It is their first time to share real private moments together and they both try to steer their way through an emotional minefield of desire, uncertainty, awkwardness, love, and intimacy. Their journey together through this experience is warmly and affectingly portrayed and performed.

While Larry and Sophie are the central couple in the story, the remaining cast members all get their moments to shine, whether in the hilarious banter set in a cinema or the climactic scenes of the play which sees everyone re-united in the hotel room.

First staged at the 2012 Galway Theatre Festival, by the following year Sanctuary had hugely successful runs at both the Galway International Arts Festival and the Dublin Fringe Festival. The play was nominated for two Fringe Awards and also an Irish Times Theatre Award. It subsequently featured in the IFTA award winning RTÉ documentary Somebody To Love.

There might even be a further chapter in Sanctuary’s success story as Blue Teapot director Petal Pilley tells me over an afternoon chat.

“There is possibly going to be a movie of Sanctuary next year,” she reveals. “Zanzibar Films have optioned it and we should be hearing back in the next month from other possible backers like the Irish Film Board and RTÉ if it will go ahead.”

There has also been good news recently for Petal on a personal basis. In September she was awarded the prestigious Jim McNaughton/TileStyle €10,000 Artist’s Bursary which honours an individual artist. The bursary gives Petal the opportunity to evolve a project or body of work and is designed to develop an artist’s creative practice and help take an idea to realisation. She outlines how she intends to use it;

“I will use that for a project where I focus on three plays; King Lear, Dancing at Lughnasa, and Eclipsed which I would do with a mixed cast of people with and without disability. I want to explore the three pieces and look at aspects like the relationship between Lear and The Fool, and the character of Rose in Lughnasa. This will be an exploration of the three plays and will include an actor with intellectual disability in some of the key roles and how that might influence how the plays unfold and the dynamics of the cast.

“It will be done initially as a production that is presented with the three woven together and one of them may then go on to a full production. It won’t be exclusively a Blue Teapot project but I will probably be using actors from the company.”

Blue Teapot followed up the success of Sanctuary with another very strong showing in this year’s GIAF, ID. Pilley readily admits that the two plays have significantly boosted the company’s profile.

“Absolutely they have,” she declares. “To have a theatre production in a really big festival is key. Mainstream audiences in particular that would not have been exposed to the work of Blue Teapot, they see it in the programme and come and take a punt on it. It’s been a huge development for the dissemination of the work that we do.”

The imminent revival of Sanctuary is a fund-raiser to help raise funds to put back into the company for arts programming for next year.

“We are funded by the local arts offices and to date we haven’t been funded by the Arts Council,” Pilley explains. “We start our artistic year plan with a big fat zero in our bank account so we do a lot of fundraising. For both Sanctuary and ID we did crowd-funding through fundit campaigns and they would have been a huge part of the production budget.”

Alongside Kieran Coppinger and Charlene Kelly, the Sanctuary cast is Patrick Becker, Michael Hayes, Emer Macken, Valerie Egan, Frank Butcher, Paul Connolly and Robert Doherty. The director is Petal Pilley.

A very good play and a very good cause, Sanctuary is well worth going to see.

Tickets are available from the Town Hall on 091 - 569777 and www.tht.ie

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