Dublin Fringe preview: Playwright Colm Keegan writes for Culture about his debut play, For Saoirse, which plays at axis: Ballymun from Sept. 19 – 22nd.
When I was three I broke my leg. Gravity took me from where I was in Ballymun, slammed me down and my shin-bone snapped in two.
Another time, walking through a storm to the shops with my mother while she screamed at me to hold on to my little brothers buggy, I was picked up by the wind and flung along Shangan Road. I was wearing a cute little disgustingly brown coloured snowsuit, (all the rage in the seventies) which didn’t help with the staying on the ground thing at all. It felt like I was picked up by the hand of God. I’ve gone back to these moments in my writing before, mostly the leg break, and I’ve broken a few characters up in the process.
Without noticing, while writing For Saoirse, I was doing it again. I had my main character Craner falling. Him hurtling towards the ground, me somehow fulfilling an unconscious desire to do to him what the ground had done to me, but instead of doing what I always did, I did something else.
Before I had to write the play I had to write a short treatment and I'd come up with a phrase about the Ballymun towers - "only 14 stories high but a million stories deep". The flats on Shangan where I lived as a kid were seven stories high and I knew there was a seven step structure often used to write Hollywood movies, so for the craic, I went about constructing a plot based on seven floors. It was no craic. Writing by numbers only gets you so far, it can get dangerously predictable or it can give you something to build on.
Never finding a place to land or rest, he is pulled all over the place, he is pulled in and out of love, he is pulled deep down into his past, he is pulled across Dublin and he is almost pulled apart.
Speaking of building - I was also at the time caught up in the ongoing housing emergency. All around me I was watching Dubliners in crisis, people who had built up whole lives on firm foundations suddenly left without any firm footing at all, it wasn't just a rug getting pulled out from under them, it was the idea that if they fell, they'd be caught. No safety net, no soft landing, out of security and into freefall.
So that's what I did to Craner. I broke the structure and I took the floor away.
When I did this to Craner he was already under pressure (like so many people in Ireland). He was getting ready to be a father with no secure home to speak of, and when I sent him into freefall, he didn't like it. He wanted to stay where he was, but like the wind-god who picked me up, I took him by the scruff and flung him headlong into his story.
Never finding a place to land or rest, he is pulled all over the place, he is pulled in and out of love, he is pulled deep down into his past, he is pulled across Dublin and he is almost pulled apart. Whether or not he keeps it together, I’d be giving too much away to say.
But I hope you’ll come to see his story, because in breaking apart what he stands for, as a young Dub, as a young man, not only will he show you what he is (and hopefully give you a couple of laughs along the way), he can also show us something of ourselves in these challenging times. He can show us all what we’re made of.