'When you have no money you get into things you can’t afford to get out of.' Playwright John O'Donovan writes for Culture about his first full-length play, If We Got Some More Cocaine I Could Show You How I Love You, which opens this week at Dublin's Project Arts Centre.
The world is small when you have no money.
Well, that’s not quite it. The world is the same size. It’s just further away.
The world is far away when you have no money. And it can be hard to figure out how you’re meant to make your way into it.
Every problem is a crisis and seems equally hard to solve. Thinking time, breathing room, space of your own can be very hard to find.
Like, you’re pulling along as best you can, constantly taking on water. If you could plug all the leaks, you’d be safe in the long term, but first you’ll have to bail out. And there’ll always be more to bail out.
The short term crisis trumps the long term malaise.
To grow up in the west of Ireland is to tell stories of people who used to be there and are no longer around.
If We Got Some More Cocaine I Could Show You How I Love You is a play about a very short-term crisis. Two lads get stuck on a roof. The Gardaí, and the danger of their families, are down below. They wanted to have fun, but they didn’t have enough money. So they robbed a little petrol station, but didn’t come away with much. So they rob one of their own houses, where they find a little cash and a bag of coke. It’s a short-term plan, and they haven’t stopped to think – "What happens if we can’t get out the way we got in?"
When you have no money you get into things you can’t afford to get out of.
If you ever find yourself lost, the best thing to do is find high ground, work out where you need to be and plot the route between there and here.
I grew up, mostly, in the west of Ireland. Family stuff meant we moved around a lot. We settled in Clarecastle, beside Ennis, when I was about seven or eight. I’m equal parts blow-in and inveterate native. I can talk the talk, but I always knew I’d walk the walk.
The walk is the walk away.
There was always the sense – being bookish, or growing up with a lack of male role models – that my future lay in education rather than trades. The implication: I wasn’t the sort of boy that became the kind of man to do "man’s work". And education meant moving out. Moving out young.
Education was free then, which was lucky.
I haven’t lived at home since I was seventeen. I haven’t lived in Ireland for the guts of a decade. I remain bookish. And now I’m a blow-in elsewhere.
To grow up in the west of Ireland is to tell stories of people who used to be there and are no longer around. But unlike the emigrants’ wakes of the past, now we come home every Christmas, every Easter, every summer. Not with the big wage packets of the ’60s and ’80s. But with accents. Clothes. Haircuts. We’re all as poor as each other nowadays, just some of us are poor abroad.
I can’t figure out which would annoy me more – to live at home and have to listen to someone going on about how savage it is in London or Dubai or Toronto, or live in Toronto or Dubai or London and have to listen to people from home whinging about how so-and-so has changed.
No one ever forgets where they came from.
I always knew I’d leave. It’s hard to stay. It’s hard to swing things in your favour to be able to stay.
Whenever anyone leaves, everyone agrees to play a funny game where we pretend it’s a tragedy that we had to leave and also it’s boring to have to stay.
Give up your polling card; give up social welfare entitlement; give up the right to say anything about home. (Fair enough – imagine if Irish-Americans got involved the way Londoners do?)
When you have no money, you have no time.
Someone smart said that comedy is tragedy plus time. So when you have no money, comedy is just tragedy.
If We Got Some More Cocaine… is a pretty funny play. Two young fellas get stuck on a roof. They take too many drugs. They shift the face off each other and nearly fall off. They throw sweets. They take more drugs and make jokes about the Gardaí. They make jokes about boys that left that are posher now and way more boring than they are. They make jokes about the English. They make jokes about the Irish. They make jokes about being up high and being able to see exactly where they would go if they could get down. That only now that they’re caught can they see the way they could’ve gone if they were free. It’s pretty funny.
If We Got Some More Cocaine… is a play about love. About how love is not a game of words, but action. But how it’s a game all the same. About how it’s made up of a million games. About how maybe a love forged in crisis is strongest and maybe that there’s a joy in believing in the short term.
Love is inherently comic – it always does the opposite of what you expect: vulnerability produces strong bonds; sacrificing yourself gives you back yourself twice; honesty and trust are the egg and the chicken.
Love is the joke that everyone can enjoy.
Writing the play, I thought a lot about love. About how it can happen out of the blue, about how it can change everything when it does. How it can give direction when you feel lost. How it can make you stronger, more generous – far, far more than you are on your own. That it’s the greatest transformative force. That it makes your past into just a thing that used to be. That it makes your trauma, your identity, your income only a few minor details.
I’m a big fan.
Love takes your present and your future and makes it into one optimistic, rolling now. Lifts you up onto the roof, says "we are all in the gutter, but sure, the stars are here as well."
When you have no money, love doesn’t care.
If We Got Some More Cocaine I Could Show You How I Love You is at Project Arts Centre, Dublin from 16th January - 3rd February - more details here.