Interview : Lynne Parker, Artistic Director of Rough Magic

A Midsummer's Night Dream and Portrait of The Artist As A Young Man reimagined for 2018

Co-founder of Rough Magic and Artistic Director since 1984, Lynne Parker talks about the company's two exciting new shows this September and about Rough Magic's SEEDS programme which supports new playwrights in this Q&A for Déshabillé.

Q. Rough Magic have two very different shows,  A Midsummers Night Dream (Shakespeare) and A Portrait of an Artist as Young Man (Joyce) - how did the company come to choose these plays?

By happy accident of timing and because the way the Arts Council now funds touring, we were able to realise a long-held ambition; to form a new creative ensemble across two major new productions that take us across Ireland.  One was to be an open-air Shakespeare and the other needed to be a new work that would still attract large audiences on tour around the country. Our cast would be made up of young actors, so A Midsummer Night's Dream is a perfect vehicle for that kind of ensemble. Portrait is in a new version by our founder member Arthur Riordan; so with these productions we are combining established and emerging artists - Portrait will be directed by Ronan Phelan, our young Associate Director. And we celebrate two great architects of the English language, which has been such a hallmark of our work from the start.

Lynne with Arthur O Riordan (Co-founder of Rough Magic, actor and playwright) and Ronan Phelan (SEEDS Curator and Associate Director)

Q. And you're bringing Midsummer to the stage at Kilkenny Arts Festival... to an outdoor venue in 2018 and the show also tackles current issues such as climate change?

Shakespeare has this way of speaking directly to concerns of the moment. The great central speech of Titania describes the upheaval and catastrophic effect of the political impasse between herself and Oberon, who are themselves elemental forces. So yes, we're looking at how mankind has misused the natural elements of electricity and magnetism, forces that we still don't fully understand. On a more pragmatic level, the climate will have a very direct effect on the production, as it will be entirely exposed to those natural elements! But the play is really concerned with the absurdities of the human condition. The process of falling in love, for example.

The Ensemble Cast

Q. You have a fantastic career with Rough Magic, what have been some of your highlights?

That first summer in Players Theatre TCD was exhilarating. Also when we took Declan Hughes' play Digging For Fire to London, our first time out of Ireland, connecting with our peers in British theatre; Stewart Parker's Pentecost in 1995, which transferred to the Donmar the following year, and more recently the big productions like Don Carlos, The Taming of the Shrew and the incomparable Improbable Frequency, Arthur Riordan's extraordinary musical fantasia.

Q. For aspiring playwrights and artists, how does the SEEDS programme work?

Once selected, though application and interview, the five participants spend two years with us, working on our shows, based in our office, seeing every aspect of the company's process. We send them on research trips and international placements and at the end of the two years they showcase their work in a full production. But each programme and each participant is different - it really is a bespoke programme.

Q. And lastly where do you see the future of Irish theatre?

I can only say where I would like to see it; a truly national experience across society, a theatre that rises to meet the real lives of people in this country and brings what my uncle Stewart Parker called "the solace and rigour and passionate rejoinder of great drama" to a country that is still, despite recent events, somewhat uncreated. As Joyce might put it.

Rough Magic premiere two new shows this year, Shakepeare’s 
A Midsummer Night’s Dream which runs at the Castle Yard at Kilkenny Arts Festival (Sep 10 – 18) & Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man which opens at Pavilion Theatre at Dublin Theatre Festival (Sep 26 – Oct 7) (**also tours nationwide until Nov 3

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