THE OLD saying, ‘’Tis an ill wind that doesn’t blow some good’, has not been without some merit during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The quietning and slowing down of life has allowed people time - to pause, to re-think, to focus, and above all to realise creative goals they would not otherwise have had time to do. Gemma Trimble is one such person.
Gemma is well known to Galway audiences as the stage manager of the hugely popular The Dirty Circus burlesque and cabaret nights at the Róisín Dubh, as as the one of the performers at that show in her guise as The Temptress.
Yet there are many more strings to this lady’s bow. She is a web designer, a dance instructor, and an events organiser, while lockdown has given her the chance to realise a number of artistic ambitions - as a novelist and a playwright.
Lockdown has seen Gemma publish her debut novel, a work of erotic fiction, Open and Closed, and its sequel, Open and Closed - Part 2, and she has also completed a stage play, I Think I’ll Quit My Job, due for production in June.
“I was always on the road with work and with different shows, so there was never enough time to sit and do these things,” Gemma tells me during our Monday afternoon Zoom interview. “I think it was into the second week of lockdown and I’d had enough of sitting around in pajamas and watching Netflix. I had all this time, and no one was going to come knocking on my door, well, because no one was allowed, and I thought, I’m half way through the novel, I’ll get it done.”
Open and Closed
Gemma had begun Open and Closed prior to the pandemic, but lockdown gave her the time and space to concentrate on it fully.
“I had all these funny stories I’d collected over the years, and I wanted to put them down on paper. I eat books morning, noon, and night, especially bad erotica and romance novels, and I thought, ‘I’m going to write my own erotic novel!' I just kept typing away, afterwards there was a lot of editing to be done, but by May it was available as a paperback and digitally, it had good sales and good feedback from friends and fellow performers, so I was happy with that.”
'Over the years I’ve actually heard people say, "I wouldn’t mind working in a strip club", but the point of the play is that this is not something you would want to do'
Gemma admits the book is very racy. “You need to be into erotica to read it,” she says, and not without a hint of warning. The novel follows Frankie, a dancer who is about to bring her new show into a major theatre, when she crosses paths with someone from her past. He happens to be an ex-boyfriend, but an ex from when she was in an open relationship with another man. Complications and “a cat and mouse game of keeping away from former partners and family members” ensues.
Such was the reaction to her debut that Gemma penned Open and Closed - Part 2, “a prequel, Star Wars style,” she quips. The novel explores how the open relationship began and is set in the days when Frankie was an aspiring performer, loading songs onto YouTube.
I Think I’ll Quit My Job
“Imagine The Commitments set in an underground strip club.” This is how Gemma describes her new play, I Think I’ll Quit My Job, written with fellow actor Shauna Hession.
Following the novels, and given Gemma’s third level degree in technical theatre, and her own career as a performer, a play was a logical step.
“It’s a tragi-comedy about two strippers,” she says. “It’s set in Dublin, and my character is very ‘Howaya?’, very northside, and Shona’s is very ‘Oh Hoi!’, posh southside.
'I stand in solidarity with the people of the arts sector in this country. We have not been supported in any way by the Government'
“Over the years I’ve actually heard people say, ‘I wouldn’t mind working in a strip club’, but the point of the play is that this is not something you would want to do. I’ve some experience of strip clubs, and I’ve known people who have worked in strip clubs, and it’s actually a very hard job.”
Rehearsing while obeying Covid-19 guidelines has been challenging, with many of the rehearsals taking place over Zoom. Even the occasional face to face rehearsals sees Gemma and Shauna staying two metres apart and wearing masks. “It’s been hard,” says Gemma, “but we believe in this play, it’s very funny, and I don’t think I’ll let anything stop it.”
The show will be recorded in March, followed by a 12 week lead in for publicity, and I Think I’ll Quit My Job is set for streaming in June. “You’ll be able to watch from your own home,” says Gemma.
2021 and beyond
Looking to the rest of 2021 and beyond, Gemma is looking to take her dance competitions, Hell on Heels and Floorplay, online, while Rhythm Retreat, “a Comic Con for dance” will have to wait until we are in a post-Covid situation.
“The loss of money my company has suffered is harsh,” she says. “However, I stand in solidarity with the people of the arts sector in this country. We have not been supported in any way by the Government and still fight for reinforcements.”
Nonetheless, I Think I’ll Quit My Job has given Gemma something to look forward to, and she has opened up a small studio in the Ossory Business Park in Dublin. The studio features an office space and costume area for private lessons online (and one-to-ones when restrictions permit ), as well as providing a space for professional performers to rehearse and prep for shows.
“There have been days during lockdown that have been hard, some days do really get to me,” she says, “but I love being creative, I love working. Keeping working and staying busy means I don’t have a minute to think about it.”
Find out more about Gemma, and order Open and Closed and Open and Closed - Part 2 at www.sideshowdramas.ie