Mau­reen joins the cast of new play

Wicklow People (West Edition) - - NEWS -

WICKLOW ac­tress Mau­reen O’Connell is part of the cast of a new play which will have its world pre­mière later this month.

Set in 1800s fron­tier Amer­ica, The Gods of the Ozarks is writ­ten by play­wright Matthew Cole Kelly. It tells the story of a small­town com­mu­nity where Jonah Hahn is the only doc­tor for 300 miles around. But the re­li­gious ban on cut­ting up dead bod­ies holds back his med­i­cal un­der­stand­ing. When his wife Sally gets sick and peo­ple in town start dy­ing, Jonah’s es­capades have un­ex­pected con­se­quences for the com­mu­nity.

Speaking to the Wicklow Peo­ple, Mau­reen said: ‘Other peo­ple die in the vil­lage and Jonah digs up their bod­ies in se­cret to ex­am­ine them. But the vil­lagers dis­cover that th­ese bod­ies have gone miss­ing be­cause they are so re­li­gious, they say they must have been res­ur­rected. Th­ese peo­ple be­come gods of the Ozark and wor­shipped by the vil­lage.’

The Avoca na­tive explained that the play is a com­edy with el­e­ments of farce and flavours of Arthur Miller’s The Cru­cible and Monty Python’s Life of Brian. She is full of praise for the cast and for Matthew Cole Kelly’s writ­ing. She plays the role of Phoebe, the vil­lage pros­ti­tute, who dreams of be­com­ing a bur­lesque star. The RADA trained ac­tress ad­mit­ted that it is a de­mand­ing part.

‘Play­ing Phoebe is a nice chal­lenge be­cause in cer­tain scenes, I’m try­ing to be sexy and to do a bur­lesque dance in front of peo­ple, that’s quite a chal­lenge be­cause you’re ex­tremely vul­ner­a­ble.’

‘As an ac­tor and an artist, you’re al­ways look­ing for ways to chal­lenge yourself. I thought I haven’t re­ally done that yet so I’ll try that out and see if I can do it,’ Mau­reen said.

The play in­volves some in­ti­mate scenes for Mau­reen, and she high­lights that a safe space was created dur­ing re­hearsals by di­rec­tor Anna Nu­gent.

‘From my point of view, there were some in­ti­mate scenes be­cause I’m the pros­ti­tute. Anna was so good at that and very sen­si­tive and made sure I felt very safe in the re­hearsal room, she’s a phe­nom­e­nal ta­lent.’

A screen­writer, di­rec­tor and pro­ducer, Mau­reen’s no-bud­get fea­ture film, Spa Week­end, pre­mièred at the Fe­male Film­mak­ers Festival in Berlin ear­lier this year where it won the She is on Fire award. Mau­reen di­rected, co-wrote, pro­duced, edited and acted in the piece.

‘It’s a slacker com­edy with a fem­i­nist mes­sage. This ac­tress Jo comes back from Eng­land and she’s down and out. The rea­son why Jo is back is be­cause she was bul­lied by a the­atre di­rec­tor who she stood up to and be­cause of this, she was black­listed. She couldn’t get any au­di­tions and she lost her con­fi­dence. But she re­alises “I’m a film­maker and I could make a film about it”.’

Mau­reen explained that the plot does con­tain some au­to­bi­o­graph­i­cal el­e­ments.

‘It’s about em­pow­er­ing yourself. If some­one tries to take your power away, they can’t re­ally be­cause you can just use it.’

An up­com­ing project funded by Screen Ire­land and will see Mau­reen di­rect one of their short sto­ries for 2020.

‘It’s my first funded film so it’s cool be­cause they [Screen Ire­land] loved Spa Week­end and other shorts I’d made,’ said Mau­reen.

Although liv­ing in Dublin now, the Avoca na­tive is no stranger to Wicklow.

‘It’s re­ally my home. I love Dublin, but Wicklow is more my spir­i­tual home,’ Mau­reen added.

AboutFace’s pro­duc­tion of The Gods of the Ozarks is at the Stu­dio The­atre in the Civic, Tal­laght from Au­gust 20 to 24. Tick­ets cost €17/€15 for con­ces­sions. To book, visit www. civicthe­atre.ie.

Mau­reen O’Connell from Avoca.

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