Playwright Stephen Jones write for Culture about his latest play, the acclaimed Northern Lights, which he has adapted for Drama On One on RTÉ Radio 1, in a production that reunites him with his From Eden star Seana Kerslake - listen to Northern Lights below.
I wrote Northern Lights for the stage originally and it was produced by my own company ‘Awake & Sing’ in association with Theatre Upstairs.
Like my previous play From Eden, it’s the story of two strangers who meet and become a small beacon of light for one another in the darkness that is their lives and especially their recent pasts.
Listen to Northern Lights by Stephen Jones, via Drama On One:
While From Eden dealt with characters who were very much going through immediate problems in the present, ‘Northern Lights’ is the story of two characters who are trying to come to terms with tragedies that have happened to them, tragedies that they have been unable to move on from. When we meet them they are both stuck in a strange limbo.
The play is really about grief. Both characters are in different stages of it and they feel like nobody can really understand what it’s like for them. They both feel powerless and alone.
Listen to From Eden by Stephen Jones, via RTÉ Drama On One:
I like exploring the idea that sometimes it’s strangers who can make the best outlet for talking about your problems. I remember going through a rough period in my life last year myself. Despite having wonderful family and friends who I am very open with, it was walking the Camino de Santiago, developing friendships along the way, talking openly and honestly to strangers who I became very close helped me tremendously to let go of negative baggage I had been carrying with me. It allowed me to be vulnerable which isn’t easy. Sometimes out of concern family and friends want to help too much and we can go into our defensive shell. Lloyd and Áine very much feel that way in the play.
When dealing with heavy issues (as the play does) I think it’s important to be funny and to be real as well as handling the darker moments with extreme sensitivity and care. I think Lloyd and Áine are funny characters but it’s always a bit nerve-wracking to go from stage to radio as the physical comedy isn’t there. Radio allows an audience to pay closer attention to the words and makes it more intimate which I think really suits the piece.
I like exploring the idea that sometimes it’s strangers who can make the best outlet for talking about your problems.
A few years ago I went to Iceland and was hoping to see the Northern Lights. Even though it was January, the five nights I was there were too cloudy and unfortunately I didn’t get to see them. The Northern Lights of the title becomes about regret and what could have been. To Lloyd, they represent a place of possible catharsis for Áine and that may be true - but life is not always as simple as that.
In the Hollywood movie version, Áine would be in Iceland at the end, letting go of her past and everything would be suddenly okay. I try to write stories about characters who will still have lives after I write the words ‘The End’ and that way an audience (as well as myself) can really wonder if they went on to be okay again at some point. I don’t think it’s a pessimistic outlook though because in real life it can be a simple gesture, it’s one little bit of hope that could make the difference in a person’s life.
We don’t need the perfect ending… we just need to go on.
Listen to more from the RTÉ Drama On One archives here.