Mespil in the Dark Live offers a dark comedy insight into the theatre world

Mespil In The Dark Live Offers A Dark Comedy Insight Into The Theatre World
Robert O'Mahoney as forgotten actor Bill O'Malley in the dark comedy Mespil in the Dark Live at the Samuel Beckett Theatre from September 5th-10th, 2022.
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In Mespil in the Dark Live, the main character of this dark comedy, Bill O’Malley retells the tale of an old forgotten actor. "He hitched a lift to an engagement on a canal boat which carried as freight a quantity of manure. At each lock the bargee announced his cargo to the lock-keeper, 'Load of shit and an actor,' and was let past. Come the fifth lock, the actor tapped his pilot on the shoulder and said, 'I say old chap, could we have a word about the billing?'"

Mespil in the Dark Live is a dark comedy about the hell of making theatre, and the end of a certain type of Bohemia.


The show started life as a series of six short films based around the bohemian actors and writers living in the Mespil flats in Dublin. The idea came from Pan Pan Theatre Company.

According to Eugene O'Brien, who wrote the screenplay, the stage show Mespil in the Dark Live sets out to explore what theatre can do that film cannot. "The show will scrap all naturalistic conventions. It will not try to imitate film or attempt to directly translate the films to the stage," he says.

"It is about the tyranny of the director and the tragedy of being forgotten, of being left behind. Of leaving a void. What will fill it?"

O'Brien says there is no plan to build an apartment block set. A bare stage will be constructed in the Samuel Beckett theatre and the audience will surround it on three sides. The setting is the imagination of the audience. The focus is on real theatrical aesthetic. The nervous system of a theatre audience is not as passive as when watching TV or Film. Live theatre activates different layers of creativity in the audience.


"We are presenting four of the characters from the screen version, but in an entirely different way. The show is a performance text, in collaboration with all in the company, led by Gavin Quinn and co-director Grace Morgan. Design by Aedín Cosgrove, Clare Howe is the stage manager. It is a great team.

"Like all Pan Pan work it sets out to be highly playful with the medium to create a mood, atmosphere and a creative space in the rehearsal room. Each day throws up new possibilities for ideas and scenes to develop. It’s an exciting place where you have to have full confidence in the creative process.

The show centres on Bill O’Malley, an older actor, who has summoned three other actors from the Mespil flats to put on a play which he has written. It's a dark comedy about an actor tyrant and his family who tour the country. "We watch the painful process of rehearsing the play. We hear stories of lives spent in the theatre. A pantomime horse makes an appearance as well as many other surprises," says O'Brien.

"Unlike film, in theatre you can feel the energy of the actors, see the sweat, and our actors have absolutely thrown themselves headfirst into the process."


Newcomer Ahmed Karim Tamu, is a pharmacist and hip-hop artist who worked with Gavin Quinn previously on a Dublin Youth Theatre production Sleepwalkers. Andrew Bennett is a frequent collaborator with Pan Pan and star of much heralded Irish language film An Cailín Ciúin.

Pauline Hutton from Derry, started her career at a young age in the nineties by landing a gig in Glenroe, she since acted in many stage productions from the Abbey to Prime Cut to the Donmar Warehouse in London as well as TV and film.

Actor Robert O’Mahoney is the centre of this show. "He has been away from the stage for some years," says O'Brien. "He has a deep resonant voice and the ability to bring great clarity and intention to the text."

"He was six when he saw Lawrence Olivier, his hero in the film version of Richard III. After that Bob went on to drama school and then Bristol rep where he acted with people like Pete Postlethwaite and Daniel day Lewis. He went on to appear at the Royal Shakespeare Company and the West End before settling in Dublin in 1990. Bob drives the show. He is the heart of it. It is a performance worth experiencing."


O'Brien describes Mespil in the Dark Live as a very accessible demonstration of what it is to try and create a play, as well as the reality of living a life as a theatrical artist. "It is a show for anybody who has ever loved - or hated - theatre. It is about the hell of theatre and repetition of rehearsal. The theatre trap."

Pan Pan Theatre presents the world premiere of MESPIL IN THE DARK LIVE at the Samuel Beckett Theatre from September 5th-10th, 2022.

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