HOURGLASS THEATRE Company are in the Town Hall studio next week with the premiere production of Leda, Come Home, written and directed by company founder Ian Patterson.
Set in present-day Dublin, the play centres on a once-prosperous family now facing a future of debt and disgrace. As her son-in-law, Myles, crumbles after the collapse of his business, the elderly matriarch seeks to wrest control of the family’s affairs from her daughter Kay, Myles’ wife. The arrival from London of Kay’s estranged young sister Liv, a struggling actress, leads the women to finally confront long-suppressed family secrets.
Leda, Come Home is Patterson’s third play to be staged, following Red Handed last year and Zed’s Erroneous Zones in 2010.
“Last year I started writing a play about two sisters and that was the starting point for the two characters that became Kay and Liz,” he tells me, describing his new play’s beginnings. “Then I started adding other characters. The Celtic Tiger element of the story that’s there via Myles, I wanted to keep as a peripheral thing. Gosia, the Polish maid, seemed like a natural element for that kind of wealthy family.
“I had known a couple of Polish girls who were in similar situations as regards being exploited. As I worked on that element of the story I thought it would be interesting to have a domineering matriarch in the family who was also openly xenophobic.”
Gosia is one of the most sympathetic characters in the play, and while Kay is friendly with her, nevertheless the status of servant colours their relationship. As Gosia herself says in one revealing passage of dialogue:
“Nobody likes to be a servant. It don’t – it doesn’t matter how nice people are, you cannot ever really be happy if they are your master. They can be good with you or they can be bad with you, whatever they like. But the servant? She must always be the same. She must smile when they smile, cry when they cry, drink when they drink. She is just a reflection of them. And that kind of person can never really be a friend, no matter how much they want you to be.”
Patterson describes the character of Gosia as “good-hearted and conscientious”, saying “she does care for Kay in a lot of ways but at the same time she has a conflict within herself relating to her social status and economic situation.”
Interestingly, five of the play’s six characters are female, including Liz’s gay lover Toni. The strong female dynamic is further underlined by the fact that Myles is onstage for only one scene.
“In my original draft of the play the partner that Liz takes home to her family was male,” Patterson reveals. “Then I thought why not make it a same-sex relationship and see how that would influence the reaction of the mother who has old-fashioned values. It seemed an interesting way to for Liz to use somebody else to get up her mother’s nose.
“Toni is quite a sympathetic personality where others in the play can be dark or difficult to like in ways and I felt it would help if there were one or two ‘nice’ characters in the piece and Toni serves that purpose as well as Gosia. Kay does too, she has a moral centre though she doesn’t recognise her sister’s pain for a long time and it’s only when she can recognise it that they can each find some degree of closure.”
The mother is the villain of Leda, Come Home, with her manipulativeness and racist attitudes. “She’s a scheming matriarch,” Patterson observes. “She does at least provide an explanation for her actions toward the end of the play. She was compromised in her time and a lot of people of her generation were compromised by the social mores of a conservative society. You could say that some of the themes in the play represent a clash between the values of an older society and a more modern Ireland.
“Mary McHugh is playing the mother and she plays her in a surprisingly moving, sympathetic, way and it can be hard to feel sympathy for her because a lot of the time she is making mischief and operating in an atmosphere of subterfuge and intrigue until Liz arrives and clears the air in her own way.”
As well as Mary McHugh the cast also features Lynelle Colleran (Kay ), Sharon Prendeville (Liz ), Anna Fijalkowska (Gosia ), Eimir Creedon (Toni ), and Ian Patterson himself as Myles.
Leda, Come Home is at the Town Hall Studio from Wednesday November 5 to Saturday 8 at 8.30pm. Tickets are available from the Town Hall on 091 - 569777 and www.tht.ie