IT IS all systems go at the Mick Lally Theatre this week as Thereisbear! gear up for No Show, Peter Shine’s zestful showband-themed drama which starts previewing at the theatre from tomorrow and opens on Tuesday November 25.
No Show is set in 1970, during a showband competition, and focuses on two contrasting competitors - young-gun wannabe Tommy Clarke and seasoned veteran Máire Walsh, desperately grabbing her last shot at the big time.
As the competition heats up, and back-stage rivalry mounts, lies, deception and sabotage all come into play in the quest for glory. The play is pacy, incident-packed, rich in character and humour, and with an authentic feel for the jobbing musician’s life on the road.
“I was thinking about showband performers and wondering why people view them askance,” writer Peter Shine tells me. “Phil Lynott once said showbands ruined some of the best Irish musicians, but to me they seemed like tireless fellas who would work full-time jobs, have families, and yet travel the length and breadth of the country to play. I just wanted to give them a chance in a story that showed the hard-working effort they put in.”
The script is livened by anecdotes Shine gleaned from personal interviews with real-life showband musicians. “A lot of the stories in the play are inspired by things that really did happen to bands,” he says. “They’re funny to hear now but if you were there at the time they were quite serious. Máire is like a stand-in for all those people who nearly made it in the showband scene, people who are very good at what they do, but for one reason or another just didn’t hit the big time.”
Shine has both acted and directed for Thereisbear! before, but this is his first time writing for the company. “I have written before - when I was in Athlone - but No Show is the first time I’ve spent a whole year writing just one thing. It teaches you a lot about yourself and about what this kind of job is like, about the craft of it.”
In No Show, Shine mines black comedy from the willingness of contestants to stoop to dastardly deeds in their determination to succeed.
“That section is less inspired by the showband era and more by my own experience of working in theatre actually,” he reveals. “When you’re involved in an artistic endeavour there will always be an element of competition. People can get low or ratty and the best way to explore that was to have the story set around a competition where skulduggery would be at its highest.
“It’s a narrative device to show things about the characters we wouldn’t otherwise get. It’s still a story about showbands but I’m writing about them to understand what I do in terms of theatre. It’s not a lucrative business and can be a hard game when you’re starting out, but we keep trying every day, putting on play after play. There are a lot of parallels with the Tommy and Máire situation.”
How is the play is staged? “The set looks like a small cross-section of a stage and dance floor,” Shine explains. “The two actors, Paul McCarrick and Grace Kiely, come forward and start to tell you their story and because they are pretty much in tandem, they cut in on top of each other and sometimes their stories happen simultaneously.
“It’s interesting having the two stories happen side by side because you get different points of view. There is also a live four-piece band; guitar, bass, keyboards, and drums. They fill out the sound and the play’s world musically. They’re always present and stand in for all the bands in the story.”
No Show takes place as the inaugural production of Druid’s new FUEL residency programme designed to support the work of emerging artists in the west of Ireland. The programme revolves around a six-week residency in the Mick Lally Theatre, culminating in a production.
“The FUEL idea came up about a year ago,” Shine explains. “Druid were looking for emerging artists and we pitched for it and, after an interview, were approved and then they left us alone to work on it over the year. Since we’ve been here in the Mick Lally Theatre, Craig Flaherty and the rest of the Druid team have been very helpful, they are always there to give advice on everything from PR to lighting hire or whatever.”
No Show previews at the Mick Lally Theatre on tomorrow, Saturday, and Monday, then runs from Tuesday November 25 to Saturday 29 at 8pm. Tickets are available from the Town Hall Theatre on 091 - 569777 or www.tht.ie