GERRY CONNEELY returns to the Town Hall studio on St Valentine’s week with a delightful musical play on the subject of romance, The Same Old Story. The show portrays Conor and Katie, two 20-year-olds in the first flush of new love and Frank and Maggie, an older couple, who are contemplating divorce.
“I had this idea a couple of years ago of writing a cabaret show when I found myself in the company of three performers who could act and sing," says Gerry. "I realised, on looking around that if I included myself in the ensemble, we could play a family or we could play two couples. I began to think about two couples with their symmetries and polarities. What about a musical play about love involving two couples at opposite ends of the relationship cycle and at different times in their lives?
"It turned out to be a great idea with massive possibilities for humour, all kinds of social and cultural tropes from gender politics and language, to ambition and orgasms; and of course some great songs and music. Structurally the show consists of a series of scenes set in a restaurant, each with its own musical signature and each focusing on one or other of the couples. The effect of this is that the two stories slowly seem to merge into a single tale that spans a generation. Each scene is like a section of a patchwork quilt where the overall pattern only becomes visible in the final denouement.”
Gerry describes the personalities of the two couples portrayed in the show and the state of their relationships; “The young couple, Conor and Katie, have just met and are in that first flush of new love. They’ve been together for about three days and they’re feeling all loved up and full of youthful exuberance and expectation. Over the course of the play we see time passing in their relationship, from their first weekend, we go on to see them after three years together and being on the cusp of marriage.
"The older couple, Frank and Maggie, stay in the same timeframe which sounds unusual but it works! They are successful professionals in their late fifties. Frank is secretary general in a government department and Maggie is a banker. They are contemplating divorce. So you have one couple full of optimism about love and marriage and the older couple who are more hard bitten, so the show as a whole ties the two strands together and shows that both situations are valid albeit different.”
There are several scenes where the couples’ stories impinge on each other, as Gerry reveals; “Conor works in the same department as Frank and he’s full of ambition and at one stage Frank asks him where’d like to be in thirty years’ time and Conor replies he’d like to be in Frank’s job. Frank asks is he willing to devote all his time and energy and enthusiasm into achieving that and Conor says he is, which raises the question of how much he can give to his family and shows there can be a price for ambition and success, and that price can be a broken marriage. The women have a scene together chatting in the ladies’ loo – as women do - and they have another heart to heart where Maggie explains to Kate why it is she wants a divorce.
"The young couple are like an earlier version of the older pair. Their two stories taken together add up to one complete story. The scenes go from one to the other and each scene is quite short but the net result is to see a relationship through its complete life cycle.”
The action of the play unfolds at two restaurant tables and is framed, as it were, within the silky musical accompaniment of Rocio Romero Grau, the Catalan chanteuse, who portrays the maître d and plays keyboard. Songs include delicious jazz-blues classics like 'Stormy Weather', 'The Nearness Of You' and 'I've Got You Under my Skin', and others. “I’ve always wanted to do a musical theatre show,” Gerry tells me “and I’ve got a really talented cast of singers for this. I don’t sing myself by the way!”
That Same Old Story is presented by Coneely’s Espresso Productions and features Colette Devaney, Gerry Conneely, Luke Morgan, Rocio Romero Grau, and Elizabeth Flaherty. It runs at the Town Hall studio from Tuesday February 14 to Saturday 18 at 8.30pm.
Tickets are €15/12 from 091 - 569777 and www.tht.ie