Luke Brings Director to Tears:
Director Diarmuid de Faoite had to rush through the final scene of Luke – the latest work by Mairéad Folan of No Ropes theatre company – as he was in tears. The poignant play takes place at the Town Hall Theatre from March 31st to April 2nd . Essentially it will take you on a journey of love, hilarity and adventure while asking some important questions of society.
“I was tearing up,” says Diarmuid about the play. “It’s a huge credit to Mairéad. Basically, she has managed to create a story where we, as an audience, fall in love with an inanimate object. We become hugely invested in her the relationship with Luke – a walking frame that has been part of her world for over 30 years. As a result, we realise it’s not just physical. The connection is emotional and psychological. At the end of the day, I was in bits for the final scene.”
Performer and Playwright:
For the first time, No Ropes artistic director, Mairéad Folan is both playwright and performer. She charts her relationship with Luke in this heart-warming comic tale. Together, they navigate the challenges of school and socialising; the perils of dating and romance. Above all, the story of Luke is not just a Galway story. It is national and international. Effectively, it is more than the theme of disability; it is about that sense of connection, belonging and relationships. “The audience comes to recognise it as their story,” explains Mairéad.
“At the end of the day, it’s a human story. We each have our personal challenging cobblestones to deal with. We constantly question is it even possible to leave our own imprint on the world.
“Effectively, it’s these weighty life questions that this play and Luke embrace. As a result, this makes him such a fascinating character to meet.”
The Challenges of Galway Theatre:
What started as a one-woman show has grown and evolved. She is now joined on stage by Barry Hopkins as the voice of Luke. As rehearsals continue, the writer has morphed into the actor. Fortunately, Mairéad admits she is not precious about the words on the page. In light of this, she is happy to change dialogue as the play develops.
“There is that separation between the actor part and the writer part,” she explains. “I have changed so many lines of my own and I am not precious about my writing. I make things as challenging as possible for myself. Funnily, I’ve no idea why! But someone has to do it. It is nice that the writer has been put to bed now. In light of this, I can concentrate on performing.
Her multifaceted role as writer and actor also opened a discussion about the unique skillset of Galway theatre creatives. Essentially, they are often required to multitask and take on multiple roles in a production.
“As a small company, there are no extra funds to hire lots of people,” she says. “You have to be able to do everything or at least have a good sense of the different roles.”
By chatting with both Diarmuid and Mairéad together, you can clearly see the bond between them. In essence, the level of professional respect and admiration they have for one another is immediately evident. Historically, they have known each other since 2005. A uniting factor is that they share the skillset and pride that comes with being bilingual actors. Mairéad worked with Diarmuid at An Taibhearc in Galway city centre as a stage manager. By the time Project 06 rolled around, he encouraged her to create her own show. And she did just that.
“We are both Irish speakers and we have that connection,” says Diarmuid. “Her energy is tremendous. It’s like she has Duracell batteries! When you come to see her perform in Luke, you can’t but pick up on her great energy. Equally, Barry adds the colour to the show. There is one scene where Mairéad wants to go nightclubbing. But we discover that access to the venue is tricky. It unfolds that she might have to enter where they bring in the beer barrels!
In essence, when Luke and Mairéad are hungover together, we buy into that. That’s the magic of theatre. In reality, the ultimate hero in this story is Mairéad.”
The Life of Luke:
Luke is Máiréad’s story. He teaches her to walk, to dance. We learn about dating apps and the questions thrown at her as to whether ‘you can have sex with that yoke.’ Through her comedic voice, the play explores this unique relationship and how they have grown together over time. Luke is her protector, scratching cars parked in disabled spots, helping her gain entry to nightclubs, swiping at ankles of uncouth suiters. We also learn about disability – but in a more subliminal way.
The Team Behind the Show:
Mairéad is grateful to the Town Hall Theatre for providing the rehearsal space and platform to bring Luke to life. She is also thankful to the team who have become an intricate part of this play and to her own father who created the set for the show. As opening night approaches, both Diarmuid and Mairéad say they are “in good shape” and in a “healthy position production wise.”
Gary McMahon, Galway City Arts Officer says “Mairéad Folan is an inspired and inspiring theatre-maker. Luke, under Diarmuid de Faoite’s direction, is much anticipated and this production will definitely challenge perceptions – and hopefully change minds! Galway City Council through its Arts Office is proud to have been able to support the development of Luke by NoRopes Theatre Company over recent years.”
The development of Luke was supported by Arts Council ‘s Connect Scheme managed by Arts and Disability Ireland, Galway City Council, Galway County Council, Nuns Island Theatre, Galway, Town Hall Theatre, Galway, Dónal Gallagher and Asylum Productions.