The Millennium Forum recently announced the return of one of the most successful local plays in the theatre’s history when it brings a brand new production of Maire A Woman Of Derry on tour this Autumn. Written by Derry playwright, Brian Foster, Myra’s Story is a new adaptation of the smash hit play that tells the story of an alcoholic woman living rough on the streets – this time, the Dublin streets.
David McLaughlin, Chief Executive of the Millennium Forum is producing the new tour of Myra’s Story.
North West Culture Gal caught up with plawright Brian Foster just yesterday to talk about his new production and hear a little more of Máire, aka Myra. Brian told me, “It’s nearly 20 years ago from the original production of Máire/Myra. When Carmel McCafferty (who played Máire) retired, I knew we just couldn’t bring it back anymore. Carmel had played Máire for 12 years. I already had plans to move the play. Although written as a very local play, it could be relocated and take it anywhere.” And that’s exactly what he has done. Myra is now based on the streets of Dublin and set to entertain audiences everywhere.
Myra Mc Laughlin is a foul-mouthed, feisty, street drinker. She is also immensely funny and self-deprecating. Myra never wallows in self-pity as she gives us a hilarious, moving, and ultimately heartbreaking account of her fall from grace from fresh faced teenage bride living in ‘me da’s corpo house’ in Tallaght, to the pitiful condition we find her in today. You’ll split your sides laughing with Myra. You’ll break your heart crying with Myra. What you’ll never do … is forget her.
Having seen Máire many years ago on the Derry stage, I have certainly never forgotten her and am very excited to see this new production. With homelessness being such a contemporary issue, none moreso than on the Dublin streets, this is sure to be a huge success with audiences today and for many years to come.
One of the most notable immediate changes I noticed and asked Brian about was the spelling of Máire to Myra. Just why did you change this? “Quite simply because of the pronunciation. No-one was getting it right. In fact, almost everyone was getting it wrong and so the spelling alteration.”
Although there has always appeared to me more homeless men on the streets in past years, I wondered why Foster chose to make this originally about a female. He again doesn’t hesitate to explain. “At the time I wrote the original there were a few women on the Derry streets. I just thought it might be more interesting to tell the story from the woman’s point of view. And it really connected with audiences then, and is continuing to do so now.”
Foster adds about the new production: “I’ve kept about 80% of the original and brought in 20% new material to the play. These changes do in fact serve to make it a better all round play.”
Although Foster has plans to take this much farther afield to a much wider audience I wondered if having it on his local stage here in Derry was special for him? “It’s always special having a play of mine in front of a home crowd. I’ve had 14 productions now in The Millennium Forum. This is now a showcase and I plan to bring it to many places.”
Brian also told me that the new production has already been produced in Canada and the US. It was extremely well received there and also picked up a very prestigious award at New York’s United Solo Festival.
Having had Carmel play Máire for such a long time, just how difficult was it to find his new Myra for the Dublin setting? “In Dublin I auditioned a number of actors. Some of them well known faces from television. But couldn’t find anyone with that streetwise grit needed to carry off the role of Myra. Then Fionna walked into the audition room in Dublin’s Temple Bar, and within seconds I knew I had found my new Myra. Fionna Hewitt -Twamley just had that character and my instinct told me she was the right person. It takes a very gritty earthy person to play this role. Carmel was such, and now Fionna is too. And I’m over the moon that top Dublin director Michael Scott will direct.”
This play will have you laughing out loud and then drying your tears. It awakens every emotion possible and it resonates very much with a contemporary audience. To see it reproduced in this new version is something I’m very keen to see next month.
Brian Foster is passionate when talking about this new production. It’s clear that this is a story which he feels very strongly about. And it’s one he is currently putting into a book. Now that will be very worth a read.
But for now, the stage will be home to Myra and it is showing at An Grianan Theatre, Letterkenny -Friday 28th September – Saturday 29 September, and at Derry’s Millennium Forum from Thursday 4th October to Saturday 6th October. Booking for Derry can be made via www.millenniumforum.co.uk or by calling the Box Office on 02871264455.