As her new play hits the Abbey Theatre stage, theatre director, producer, writer and activist Grace Dyas shares her inspirations and thoughts about Irish theatre.
Tell me about It was easy (in the end) – where did the idea come from and what challenges did you face getting it completed and to the Abbey stage?
One time when I was very depressed, I got into a conversation with a homeless man who told me an anecdote about factory workers in Cuba. He said that in Cuba, after the revolution, they had the position of a lector, a worker who would be paid to read to them while they worked in the cigar factories. This was a special position, and each factory would form a committee and hold auditions for their own lector. He said that’s why you have Hamlet cigars. I don’t know if that part is true. That’s where I got the idea.
What do you think will surprise or excite audiences most?
Barry O’Connor playing Hamlet, Breffni Holahan’s Chinese character “BH” who tries to bring down Foxconn, Gemma Collins and Neil Keery arguing about who plays Ophelia, Eoin Winning’s acting debut, the amazing art and costumes by Molly O’Cathain, and music and dancing by Frank Sweeney and Ruairí Ó’Donnabháin – and of course, Lloyd Cooney; Tony May Junior and Eva-Jane Gaffney playing within the play – incredibly impressive performances full of integrity and heart. The whole three-and-a-half hours is worth it to see John Cronin’s pre-interval speech and after the interval, there’s a bit of comedy from new talent Shane Daniel Byrne, and Pom Boyd and Neil Keery will move you and help you to imagine an alternative – in this beautiful world created by Doireann Coady… No really – it’s possible!
What did you learn from this project that was unexpected?
Too much to say now – ask me in another ten years.
What are you hoping audiences will take from this production?
I hope they will be able to imagine an alternative.
What else is in the pipeline for you in 2019? What other projects are you working on at the moment?
I have been commissioned by Rua Red to do a performance work on Mary Magdalene.
Is support for productions written and/or directed by women growing in Irish theatre, and what changes would you like to see more of?
I would like to see women have a right to bear witness to their own experience of the world, and for them and their writing to be trusted and respected. I think we have a long way to go. I’m delighted to have been commissioned by the Abbey to write this play for the main stage.
Where do you go for inspiration?
Inis Oirr and my imagination.
When you were working on It was easy (in the end) where and how did you find it easiest/most inspiring to write?
I wrote from 5am-8am Monday to Friday during the rehearsals – I felt more inspired artistically than I ever have in my life! I think it freaked people out a bit. I was just trying to work hard and get Leo Varadkar to like me! He’s a leader for people who get up early in the morning.
Is there a project you’d love to work on or person you would love to work with?
I love working with the people on stage in It was Easy, so I’d like to work with them again. I have wanted to do something with Ian Lloyd Anderson for ages. Myself and Stephen Rea have been talking about a project. I think Seána Kerslake is an incredible actor, and I’d love to make a film with her.
What would you like to see more of in Irish theatre?
Accountability, trust, respect. Less gossip. More cop on. More maturity. More dissent, more letters, more exposure, redress and healing.
What other performances or projects are you admiring or hoping to catch in the coming months?
Anything by Sophie Meehan.
If time and money were no object, what would you really love to do?
Start a treatment centre for addicts in recovery that worked exclusively through drama.
How do you like to spend your downtime?
Staring at the sea.
This summer, what will you be…
READING? Alone of All Her Sex by Marina Warner.
LISTENING TO? My heart.
SEEING? The sea.
ADMIRING? My husband, Martin Sharry, his artistry and integrity.
An Abbey Theatre and THEATREclub co-production, It was easy (in the end) runs at the Abbey Theatre until May 4. Tickets, from €13 including booking fee, are on sale now from the box office. With a cast of 13 humans and one frog, It was easy (in the end) imagines what would happen if art could end capitalism... and then tries it, https://www.abbeytheatre.ie.