FREGOLI THEATRE Company gets 2015 off to a strong start next week at the Town Hall Theatre studio with the premiere of artistic director Maria Tivnan’s Mary, Mary, Mary.
The play is a delicately woven piece about three generations of Irish women which offers poetic and impressionistic glances into their lives and loves. “It’s been bubbling away with me for quite a while,” Maria tells me we discuss the play. “There is a picture hanging up at home of my grandmother and her sister who got married on the same day, that’s how the play started off.”
Maria wanted to write a play for three female voices. “I wanted to write it as a radio play initially, partly because I thought Fregoli should take a break from my writing!” she says, “but when I showed the script to some people they all said it wasn’t a radio play, it was for the stage so that’s what happened.”
The three Marys in the play are Mary Ellen, the grandmother, Mary Bernadette, her daughter, and Mary Jacqueline, known as MJ, the grand-daughter. Tivnan’s script, which she describes as being “crafted in fragments” makes sporadic use of rhyme and provides a compelling mosaic of her characters’ lives. “That’s a good way to describe it,” she acknowledges. “A lot of it wrote itself. I didn’t set out to write something that rhymed or was fragmented that’s just the way it came and it took shape as three stories. A lot of it is from my own background, it is a very west of Ireland voice and there are things from both my own grandmothers and my mother but then a lot of it is made up as well.”
Through the play’s bright shards and snatches of speech we observe the changing mores and values that affect its characters’ lives over the years. “Nowadays we think we are free and can do it all,” Tivnan observes. “Yet you wonder are we that different from the women of earlier generations who got married and had lots of children and that was it. I was thinking about that as I was approaching motherhood myself for the first time and writing the play. I wrote a lot of it last August and my daughter Molly was born in September.”
Mary, Mary, Mary is co-directed by Tivnan and Kate Murray. “Initially I didn’t want to direct it and actually it is a very difficult script to direct,” Maria reveals. “Myself and Kate took it on together because Kate said she needed my help because it’s like a jigsaw in a way. When I wrote it I had Tracey Bruen in mind for the part of Mary Ellen because I know her voice very well and we then hand-picked Eimear Kilmartin and Eilis McCarthy, both of whom are working with Fregoli for the first time.
“We started working in the middle of the play with the women’s three stories and then worked outwards to both the end and the beginning. We just worked very hard to make each scene make sense and handle the transitions from one scene to another in such a way as to hold people’s interest. The play is about women but is not just for women and I hope it will be enjoyed by lots of different people when we stage it.”
Fregoli was founded in 2007 and in its early years staged plays like Enda Walsh’s Bedbound and Jean Genet’s The Maids. More recently it has focused increasingly on new plays. Is this where Tivnan foresees the company’s work in the future?
“We’re not avoiding established scripts, it’s just these ideas for original scripts keep coming!” she replies. “We are doing Pleasure Ground in August on the Town Hall main stage and Jarlath Tivnan is writing that. After that however I would like to go back and do an established script.
“The process is longer and harder doing a new play, often when we start with a new play they are still not ready when we start rehearsals, they become ready during the rehearsal process. We are lucky to have had good groups of people working with us to make the plays take shape”
Mary, Mary, Mary is at the Town Hall studio from Tuesday February 24 to Friday 27 at 8.30pm. Tickets are €10/8 from the Town Hall on 091 - 569777 and www.tht.ie