THE ACCLAIMED comedy-drama, Big Bobby, Little Bobby, written by Camille Lucy Ross and Kelly Shatter, who also directs, is coming to the Town Hall Theatre. The play, performed by Ross, enjoyed sell-out runs and rave reviews at the Dublin Fringe, First Fortnight Festival and Brighton Fringe; won the First Fortnight award; and received Best Performer and Little Gem Nominations at Dublin Fringe.
After a lifetime sharing a bed with Mammy, Bobby is finally taking charge and moving out, but saying goodbye is not easy, especially with Little Bobby’s voice filling Bobby’s head with self loathing, filthy urges, and, just occasionally, a push in the right direction.
Camille Lucy Ross is an award-winning writer and performer whose credits include roles in Republic of Telly, Bridget & Eamon and Callan’s Kicks (in which she plays Fionnuala Kenny, among others ) as well as stage appearances with Rough Magic and The Gate. And comedy is something she always had leanings towards.
“I was the class clown and I always knew I could make people laugh," she tells me. "When I went to study acting I always felt an ease with comedy. What I really like is dark, twisted humour about dysfunctional relationships and that is really truthful as well. I think comedy is about truth.”
In summer 2015, Camille enrolled at LA's iO West Improv school, where alumni include Amy Poehler and Tina Fey, and her study there strongly influenced the writing of Big Bobby, Little Bobby. “It introduced me to long-form improve,” she explains. “Short-form improv is what you’d see on TV, it has gags and one-liners whereas long-form lets you tell longer stories with more in-depth characters and more truthful scenes that aren’t just for laughs. I really liked it as a way of playing and performing, but it also teaches you a lot about writing, like how to structure things and how to find and follow what’s interesting for an audience. Kelly Shatter did that course as well and we used a lot of what we learned there in writing Big Bobby, Little Bobby.”
She outlines the genesis of Big Bobby, Little Bobby; “I had the voice of Little Bobby in my head for a while; it’s a male voice, like an impish child or little demon. I noticed when I tried out the voice in workshops it got a strong reaction from people, they’d either be disturbed or laugh and that made me want to do it more. Then I combined that with the idea of inner critics, which is something Kelly and myself often talked about; that we all have these critical voices in our heads, and how do we deal with them, and somehow find our own voice. We thought that would be an interesting thing to explore in a play. Little Bobby was the jumping off point but the play has six or seven characters, all of which I play.”
I enquire about Little Bobby’s voice being male whereas Big Bobby is female. “It’s significant but I’m not overstating anything about gender,” Camille replies. “The other thing that inspired the show was that I had a real fascination with people with dissociative or multiple personality. It can be a coping mechanism, an extreme one obviously. For some people who have been traumatised it is a way of disconnecting from what is going on in their lives, and a lot of females with this disorder would manifest male personality traits.
"I thought that was interesting in terms of them being able to explore another part of themselves; sometimes becoming male was a way to feel safe or that they could defend themselves or sometimes they would become young boys so they could be more perverse. So taking on a different gender can allow us to be a different way. I do think all of us have male and female aspects.”
Big Bobby, Little Bobby is at the Town Hall on Wednesday February 1 at 8pm. Tickets are €18/€16 from 091 - 569777 and www.tht.ie