Looking for some feminist drama in the Dublin Area? Jumping the Gun Theatre Company’s latest offering “Just Us Four”, by Cork based feminist playwright Emma Houlihan is set to take the stage in The New Theatre, Temple Bar next week as part of the 10 Days in Dublin Festival. “Just Us Four” is a piece of new writing which explores the coming of age of two close cousins Rosie and Siobhan O’Connor.
Written and directed by UCC MA student Emma Houlihan, the show which has an all-female cast, and is supported by an almost entirely female crew seeks to address the issues of gang mentality, sexual violence against women and close female friendships on stage.
I chatted with Emma about feminism and writing.
Q- How does your own feminism inform your writing style?
A- I am really big into feminism and popular culture. So I was so excited when I came across the Bechdel Test! But here I had this play where the women talk of nothing BUT men. I was in the process of re-writing Just Us Four (the play had been put on about two years ago) when I realized a serious shift in focus had to happen. Originally it was all about the cousins Rosie and Siobhan, getting involved with things they were far too middle-class to deal with. Now it had to be about Rosie and Siobhan; their relationship and their lives.
If the story of Just Us Four was a Hollywood block buster, Rosie and Siobhan would probably never share screen time with each other. In this play all they have is each other. Even if there is a scene in which their ex-boyfriends, Chris and Pete, are needed he is portrayed by one of my amazing actresses (Sinead O’Brien and Martha Jordan). Constantly being pushed into the role of “talking about men” Rosie and Siobhan no longer know how to talk about anything else. Both of them have suffered a great deal being with Chris and Pete, but if it doesn’t follow the established script of what girls-in-gang-movies talk about they can’t say it.
Q- How important is it to have an all-female cast and almost all female crew?
A- Jordan and O’Brien, play about three characters each other than Rosie and Siobhan. All of these characters are men. That was very important to me, the men show up in flashback scenes so from a narrative point of view it means that everything we see comes from the minds of Rosie and Siobhan. From a practical and tangible (and heterosexual) point of view it is very interesting to watch a woman berate, belittle and abuse another woman on stage. It is also wonderful to work with the actresses on their male persona. Most actresses (and maybe a few actors too) have a “go to” male performance, but asking them to push beyond that, and ask them to embody a different man at the same time is very insightful. Yes you have pushed back your shoulders and lowered your voice, but now we need a sneaky man, or a more effeminate man, and suddenly your “go-tos” are tapped out and you need to really start observing exactly what makes a male performance.
As for an almost all female crew, that is extremely important to me. The first technical manager I ever came across was a woman, Kath Geraghty, she was incredible and really pushed the girls in my class to be more hands on. Unfortunately when I went out in to the world I understood she was a rarity. As Jumping the Gun moves on I hope that we can really encourage more women to come and play on the technical side of things.
Q- What do you hope people take from watching this play?
A- There is a story that I am going to steal from Sinead O’Brien about a frog. One day a frog is put into a large pot of boiling hot water and she jumps out know that it was too hot for her and that she is in danger. The next day our little frog is put into mild water and she settles down to get comfortable for a while. Unbeknownst to her, the heat under the pot gets a little warmer. She swims around and doesn’t notice. Little by little the pot gets warmer and warmer, and by the time the little frog notices there is something wrong the water is already boiling, and she becomes some French appetizer. That is the story. It is also the story of most abusive relationships that women come into contact with. The violence is always there, just bubbling below the surface and you can’t quite put your finger on to what it is, until it is too late. I hope to make the audience feel that danger, that slow boil, and to not brush these silly middle class girls off as being silly middle class girls. I hope they feel the claustrophobic pressure and the very real violence of non-sensational abuse.
Just Us Four is running nightly at 8pm in The New Theatre, Temple Bar from the 5th to the 9th of July. Tickets are €8, two for €15 or €6 concessions. Under 16′s admitted at parent’s discretion.
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