ORION’S BELT is a group of three bright stars in the Orion constellation. It is also the name of a new Kinvara-based theatre company which makes its Galway bow in the Town Hall studio next week.
Orion’s Belt will perform the hit comedy, Baby With The Bathwater, by American author Christopher Durang, whom The New Yorker described as “one of the funniest dramatists alive”.
Like its astronomical counterpart, the theatre company is also the creation of three bright lights, in this case actors Niamh Linnane, Laney Farrelly-Hanlon, and director Helen Murray Scott.
“It all came about from a chance meeting with Niamh one day in the post office,” Farelly-Hanlon reveals. “She told me about this play she had ordered, Baby With The Bathwater. After she got it I read it and we decided we would like to do it, so we set up the company along with Helen and here we are.”
Baby With The Bathwater is a bitingly satiric black comedy about how difficult it is to be a parent and how equally challenging it is to grow up in a dysfunctional family.
Two parents, John and Helen, who are completely unprepared for parenthood, bring home their newborn baby. The two cannot seem to name the baby. John thinks the baby is a boy, but Helen says the doctors said they could decide later. When the baby cries, the two cannot quite decide what to do.
To their rescue comes Nanny – who enters their apartment as if by magic, and is full of abrupt shifts of mood, first cooing at the baby soothingly, then screaming at it. In subsequent scenes, John and Nanny have an affair, Helen takes baby and leaves, only to come back a moment later rain-soaked and unhappy.
By the time the baby is a toddler, Daisy has finally been named. Daisy has a penchant for running in front of buses and for lying, depressed, in piles of laundry. The audience hears an alarming essay Daisy has written in school, and the principal, the terrifying Miss Willoughby, is oblivious to the essay’s cry for help, and instead gleefully awards it an ‘A’ for style.
Years later, Daisy enters dressed as a girl, but obviously a young man. The audience follows his years of therapy, where he alternates between feelings of depression and anger, and is unable to complete his freshman essay on Gulliver’s Travels despite having been in college for five years.
In a scene reminiscent of the beginning of the play, Daisy (who has since chosen a new name ) and his young bride fondly regard their own baby, determined not to repeat their parents’ mistakes.
Baby With The Bathwater was first staged, to great acclaim, in the USA in 1983 but has never been done before in Ireland. Orion’s Belt chose it for their debut show, not only because it is a fine play, but to set down a marker for the kind of work they want to do in the future.
“Our ethos is to bring new theatre to the west,” says Farrelly-Hanlon. “We’re particularly keen to do plays by international writers, people like Sam Shepard, Harold Pinter, and Henrik Ibsen. Sam Shepard’s Buried Child is one that we’ve been looking at as a possibility for our next production.”
She shares her thoughts on Baby With The Bathwater: “It’s a dark comedy. While being satirical it also highlights serious issues in an emotionally truthful way. The play is written in an absurdist playful style and for all its dark topics it ultimately has a hopeful ending.”
Orion’s Belt cast features Niamh Linnane (Helen ), Willie Moriarty (John ), Tom Dunworth (Daisy ), and Farrelly-Hanlon, Anna O’Donnell, Joan Finnegan, Imelda Reynolds, Marie Heffron, and Catherine McGee.
Baby With The Bathwater is at the Town Hall studio on Friday February 3 and Saturday, 4 at 8.30pm nightly. Prior to its Galway run there is also one performance at Kilcornan, Clarinbridge, this Saturday at 8pm.
Tickets are available from the Town Hall on 091 - 569777 and www.tht.ie