Mother and baby home play to debut in Athlone this weekend
A playwright from Cork is set to debut her new play which is based in the midlands in the Dean Crowe Theatre this week.
Tzarini Meyler originally wrote ‘Finding Joseph’ as a ten-minute monologue during the pandemic before expanding the story into a full-length play for the stage.
The play is a one-man show with actor Eoghan Burke, who lives in Athlone, playing the character of Joseph, a child born into a mother and baby home in the midlands.
Speaking about the process of writing the play, Tzarini said that she couldn’t help being influenced by stories of people in Ireland who have been affected by mother and baby homes.
“It’s a sensitive topic that so many people have heard about in the last ten or fifteen years,” she said.
“I’ve been growing up hearing about family history and stories of cousins that I’ve never met because they were taken from their mothers and their mothers were put in laundries. It’s something that affects nearly everyone in Ireland in that everyone knows someone who was in an institution or treated poorly.”
Tzarini also did research by speaking with survivors to ensure that factual matters were correct, despite the play being fictional.
“Talking Tarot was an online piece I did during lockdown which was inspired by the tarot cards, because at the time everyone was thinking about where out futures were going because of the pandemic,” Tzarini said.
“I took these Irish legends and myths and explored them as people, and the character of Joseph came from the idea of the changeling and what that would be if it was a person in Irish history.
“That brought me to the mother and baby homes, and to someone born in a place where they don’t know who their parents are. I wanted to explore that further and we made it into a full-length show.”
By expanding the monologue into a full-length play, Tzarini was able to add more humour and explore escapism and surrealism more through the ‘memories’ that Eoghan plays.
“Eoghan is able to be really vulnerable and child-like to embody all these different people. It’s very much for the stage, and it wouldn’t really work as a film.”
“He’s an adult man but he’s wearing children’s clothes and he’s going back to his memories as a way of reclaiming his identity. I feel in rural areas there’s a stigma for men to talk about their emotions, and we wanted to put a face to the statistics that we always hear about. Who are these people and who are their families?”
Finding Joseph is also set in Westmeath, despite no exact location being mentioned in the play.
“I’m interested in a landlocked setting that is vast, so when this child looks out his window all he can see is this flat terrain. There’s a very different experience growing up in the midlands as opposed to west Cork where you have the Atlantic Ocean all around you. Your way of looking at your future would be very different.
“We wanted to premiere the show here because of it being Joseph’s birthplace. We don’t mention specific places, but it’s hinted that it’s the Castlepollard mother and baby home, and he refers to himself and his best friend as ‘Batman and Robin of the midlands’.”
The play is being brought to Athlone with Tzarini’s production company LipZinc Theatre, which aims to make theatre more accessible, in conjunction with Athlone Family Resource Centre.
“Lips refers to how you speak, so I want it to be very truthful to me and the other creators involved, and zinc is a vital nutrient, so I want the audience to feel like it’s vital and that they have to experience it,” she explained.
“We’re passionate about bringing work to smaller and rural areas. Dublin gets loads of work, so it’s important to bring it to other parts of the country.
“I grew up in the countryside myself and there was just nothing theatrical at all to get involved with. The Dean Crowe is obviously a traditional venue, but we’d love to bring theatre to other places like a warehouse, a street or a shop to make it more accessible.”
Finding Joseph is on in the Dean Crowe Theatre on Saturday, September 11, for one night only, and tickets are available at www.deancrowetheatre.com