Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Preview: Love or Money (C21 Theatre) with playwright Rosemary Jenkinson

C21 Theatre Company is back on stage in ten days time with Rosemary Jenkinson’s new satirical play Love or Money. It promises to be “a comedy about banks, bras and going bust”. The Belfast playwright told me about the plot:

“The new play is about Eilish who is a corporate lawyer. She goes online dating and meets a businessman called Connor. She has a very difficult relationship with her incredibly demanding boss and the play – Love or Money – pivots on the tension between these two sides of her life.”

Last year’s news was peppered with individuals and small companies pursuing banks in court: Taggart Brothers vs Ulster Bank as well as action taken by a businessman against the Clydesdale Bank.

A friend who is a corporate lawyer in the financial industry – “and very discreet” Rosemary avows – inspired the concept and the ethical issues behind the play. “How do you work for institutions who go up against individuals?” asks the playwright. “I’d have a sympathy for the normal human being who is being pursued.”

While businesses and lawyers aren’t the lightest of subjects, Rosemary assures audiences that they will find comedy in the relationships, as well as laugh out loud moments of visual humour, particularly with the unusual props from Connor’s “unconventional” business.

Some writers attend every performance of their work, passing notes and tweaking the script. Others leave it in the hands of the director. Rosemary plans to sit through the first couple of performances and perhaps then catch it one more time “when it has bedded in and the actors are much more comfortable”. She adds: “I like to see it a few times but absolutely not obsessively. You have to move on.”

Rosemary has been writing plays for more than a decade. Stitched Up (which also starred Roisin Gallagher) was produced by C21 Theatre last spring. It focussed on the crisis in the NHS. Before that Planet Belfast (Tinderbox) examined politics, conception and GM crops. Her first play to be produced on stage was The Bonefire back in 2006, a drama about Loyalist culture.

The playwright admits to having finished and unfinished plays littering her office. “Some things don’t work. You do ten pages and the tone isn’t right and you withdraw. No point flogging a dead horse.”

Is it satisfying to write something that isn’t produced?
“It’s upsetting, but while you’re writing you have optimism and confidence. You have to physiologically fool yourself that it’s going to be great and fill yourself with constant reassurance when writing the first draft of anything.”

Modern dramatists are of course constrained by budgets as well as their imaginations when writing plays. While Rosemary would enjoy the opportunity and scope to write for a larger cast she “loves small shows”.

“Chamber pieces with two or three pieces can have tremendous power. You’re never going to see that on TV or film. It means theatre has that uniqueness that an actor – by their own spellbinding qualities – can totally pull in an audience. While it’s a drawback, I also really like it because it allows your writing to fly on its own accord and not use the tricks of people coming in and out. It’s probably a better spotlight on your writing.”

Directed by Stephen Kelly and starring Michael Condron, Roisin Gallagher and Marty Maguire, Love or Money is now well into its rehearsals. You can catch performances in Belfast’s Lyric Theatre between Tuesday 23 and Saturday 27 February before it goes on tour through Ballymena (29 February), Newtownabbey (3 March), Cushendall (4), Limavady (5), Newry (8), Armagh (10), Downpatrick (11) and Lisburn (12).

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