Strangers (1997)

‘Strangers’ by Ken Bourke (Kildare tour summer) (WP)

Kildare County Council Arts Office commissioned playwright Ken Bourke to write a play with us in mind in 1997. After weeks of collaboration, involving workshops, improv sessions and discussions, Ken brought Strangers to the group – a one act play for no less than fifteen people. It was based on several ideas which were thrown up during the sessions, but principally concerned the effects of a person’s death on the lives of those who are left behind. At the time of composition I remember there was a comet passing through our night skies for what seemed like weeks. It was huge and slow, and was the subject of much media attention at the time. Some of this spilled over into our devising and improvising, filling the space with questions about our significance in the face of death and eternity; the idea of a remote visitor/watcher, and the concrete fact of our interconnectedness as a race despite living thousands of miles apart in different cultures.

In the play, Ken explores these ideas idea by taking us through several character groups, each linked by one person from the preceding group, and each in some way effected by Eugene (the dead one). As we travel through these groups the links to Eugene become more remote and the groups’ own story begins to take centre stage. Each group has to deal with a crisis which is only resolved, ultimately, by some connection to Eugene.

Strangers was performed for the local community in a school hall. Half an hour before the play the audience were invited to watch and/or partake in some workshop games which explored some of the issues in the play. We tried to orchestrate it so that the play seemed to emerge from these workshops games and exercises, beginning with a song, candles, a funeral scene, the first lines of dialogue. The piece played on the floor amidst the audience for an hour.

Directed by Peter Hussey.

Cast included: Darren Donohue, Hugh Mc Ginley, Kate Pierce, Susan Anderson, Anne Marie Ó Sullivan, Mary Doyle, Andrew Buchanan, David Ó Sullivan, Emer Jackson, Moll Fullam, Bernadette Cullen, Barry Mulrennan, Kevin Sullivan, Claire Noons, Mary Clinton and Lisa English.