EUGENE O’BRIEN’S award-winning play Eden is about to get a major new production from Decadent Theatre Company and will open at the Town Hall Theatre before embarking on a national tour.
Eden is the powerful story of an ordinary relationship on an extraordinary weekend. Billy and Breda are approaching their 10th wedding anniversary but their relationship has gone stale. Neither can remember the last time they slept together.
However Breda, buoyed by her recent weight-loss, intends to change that and has planned a night out with Billy, determined this will be the weekend that saves their marriage.
Unbeknownst to her, Billy’s thoughts are focused more on Imelda Egan, the alluring young beauty whom he yearns to seduce. As the fateful weekend approaches, Billy becomes ever more distant while Breda continues to cling desperately to the hope their anniversary weekend will save them.
First staged in 2001, Eden won Best New Play at that year’s Irish Times Theatre Awards and Best New Play at the Stewart Parker Awards. It also won the 2003 Rooney Prize for Literature. The play’s title derives from Edenderry, Eugene O’Brien’s homeplace, and he would revisit the milieu of smalltown Offaly life in his hit series for RTÉ television, Pure Mule. Eden itself was filmed in 2008, directed by Declan Recks who had also directed several episodes of Pure Mule.
Now Decadent Theatre Company is preparing to tour Eden to 19 venues this September, commencing with a week-long run at the Town Hall. The production is directed by Andrew Flynn and features a top-notch cast of Patrick Ryan (Trivia, Pure Mule ) and Lesley Conroy (Mattie, The Clinic ).
Patrick Ryan hails from Limerick and made his first professional appearance in 1999, in Island Theatre Company’s celebrated play Pigtown, by John Breen. He studied acting in the School of Drama, Trinity College Dublin, and since graduating from there has appeared in a number of theatre productions such as Wuthering Heights, The Possibilities, and Dracula.
Ryan also toured for a number of years with the incredibly popular Alone It Stands. His work in television includes appearances in The Whistleblower, Northanger Abbey, Pure Mule, and Game of Thrones and, more recently, he played the role of Tony in Trivia, Tom Hall’s comedy-drama series for RTÉ.
“That was great fun,” Ryan says of Trivia, speaking at the end of a day’s rehearsal with Eden. “Tom is a great director. He gave me a break there a couple of years ago with his film Sensation then he called me back in to work with him again on Trivia. He’s a nice person and he works really well with actors.
“I first got the acting bug when I was just nine or 10 and we did a show in primary school. I enjoyed acting very much when I was young though as I progressed through the school system there wasn’t very much in that line that I could do. I went to youth theatre for a while then I got to do Pigtown with Island and from there I went to Trinity and I came out from there and started picking up work.”
Eden is arguably Ryan’s meatiest stage role to date, given that he and Conroy are the only two actors onstage and that the play is monologue-driven. It’s his first time doing a play of this type and he describes how’s he’s finding it.
“It’s great in one sense, it was just myself and Andrew working together on the script today so you get that extra focus,” he says. “You have to be very specific in communicating the story. You’re kind of on your own, it’s just you and the audience when you’re performing.
“The story is also packed with other characters aside from Billy and Breda and you feel there are more than just the two people on stage because of the strength and depth of the writing and how accurately Eugene conjures those characters up with very small descriptions, he pinpoints people so well.
“And Andrew’s a brilliant director, it’s a pleasure working with him. He knows the small-town world of the play being from Nenagh himself. He draws great stuff out of you without you knowing it almost.”
Ryan offers his thoughts on the character of Billy.
“He’s a very decent man,” he says. “From our initial readings of the script and getting to know him as we delve into it, I think he’s somewhat shy, he’s a little bit apart from everyone else. He’s a simple soul.
“Most of the script is very much what is going on in their heads, Billy’s and Breda’s, and a lot of his living seems to be going on in his head. He’s fundamentally decent and he’s just had this one problem that has grown and grown inside him and he can’t really speak to anyone about it, and most heart-breaking of all he can’t talk to his wife about it.
“He finds himself on this particular track, he’s trying to overcome the situation he has found himself in which leads to a disastrous weekend for himself and his wife which will impact on his children as well. He’s also a very observant type of guy, he sees the world around him and he can see through it. There is a lot of humour in his story too. The play hasn’t been done in a while so it’s great it’s been done again and is touring.”
While Ryan is well-equipped to essay the role of Billy, Lesley Conroy is equally fitted to take on the role of Breda. Conroy indeed is no stranger to Eden, having played the character of Eilish Moore in Declan Reck’s screen version of the play, a performance which saw her nominated for an IFTA.
Originally from Cork, like Ryan, Lesley also studied acting in Trinity College Dublin. Other notable parts she has played since graduating from there include Regan in King Lear for Second Age and the leading role of Sharon in Pat Shortt’s Mattie on RTÉ.
Certainly Decadent seem to have assembled a winning team for what is a winning play.
Eden runs from Tuesday September 16 to Saturday 21 at 8pm nightly. There is a preview performance on Monday 15. Tickets are available from the Town Hall on 091 - 569777 and www.tht.ie