American-born, Dublin-based theatre director Aoife Spillane-Hinks talks about her new play, Spotless, and the differences between Irish and American theatre.
Tell me about Spotless…
Gary Duggan, the playwright, approached me about Spotless two years ago. I love the grit, ambition, and cinematic quality of Gary’s plays, and I had a great time directing the world premiere of his play Run / Don’t Run in 2015. There’s a lot to surprise and excite audiences in this play: it’s a sharp and witty thriller, set just outside the Phoenix Park, all about the moral grey areas into which love and lust can lead us. This is the kind of play where you’ll be on the edge of your seat, watching for the next twist. Ciara O’Callaghan and Emma Willis play Genevieve and Jen, two complicated women drawn into relationships with the same mysterious young man. And Ciara and Emma both also play the man at the centre of the love triangle.
What did you learn from this project?
I’ve learned how impossible it is to judge anyone’s personal life from the outside.
What are you hoping audiences will take from this play?
I hope audiences will take the arguments from the play into the bar with them after the show.
What else is in the pipeline for 2019?
I’ve got an exciting new project in development with my company, Then This Theatre, all about sex, power, and God. I’ll also be heading back to the US later this year to direct a well-known Irish play.
You’re from New Haven, but have been living in Ireland for many years now – is Ireland home to you now, and what’s it been like for you viewing the US from abroad these last few years?
Ireland is home, but I’m very connected to my friends, family, and colleagues in the US. I am troubled to see the relentless efforts to normalise extremism, wilful ignorance, and greed in America. But I am heartened and exhilarated by the resourcefulness and imagination of all sorts of Americans who are determined to make this moment into a transformational one.
How has working in Irish theatre compared to working in the US?
One of the most striking things about working with Irish actors is how immediate their connection tends to be with the rhythm and imagery of language. With an Irish actor, you can travel down any number of possibilities with a single line. American actors bring an incredible energy to their performances. As an audience member, sometimes it feels like the actors are physically trying to lift you into the scene with them, so great is their commitment to the work onstage. I also love the structure that Actors Equity (the American actors’ union) imposes on the working conditions of American performers – from pay scales to workplace safety to coffee breaks. In Ireland, we desperately need better representation and protection for theatre professionals.
Where do you go for inspiration?
While I see as much theatre as I can, some of my greatest inspiration comes from experiencing other artforms, especially live music and visual art. Two recent mind-blowing encounters were Sharon Van Etten’s gig at Vicar Street, and an exhibition of photographer Lebohang Kganye’s work in Amsterdam.
Is there someone you’d love to work with?
I’d work on anything with David Byrne or Sharon Horgan.
What would you like to see more of in Irish theatre?
I want to see Irish theatre professionals have decent incomes so that they can live more sustainable lives and afford to live where they work. And I want to see more meaningful investment in new play development: excellent plays require time, focused work, and proper resources.
What other projects are you admiring or hoping to catch in the coming months?
The Thing About December, a stage adaptation of Donal Ryan’s acclaimed novel, presented by Decadent Theatre Company in Galway this June; Citysong, a new play at the Abbey Theatre May 25 to June 8, directed by Caitriona McLoughlin (one of my favourite directors); and Max Richter’s Sleep (an “eight-hour minimalist opus”) at Carlow Arts Festival in June.
If time and money were no object…
I’d take every class I took in university over again. There’s so much I wasn’t ready to take in the first time.
How do you like to spend your downtime?
Hanging out with my husband and our cats, watching old episodes of Portlandia or SNL.
Spotless runs in various theatres until May 9, riseproductions.ie.
Portrait by Jasmin Bell