Met this producer called Richie Ryan. Great man. Dead since. He came to one of my Plays in Dublin, liked it, met me after and said: ‘Let’s talk.’
I liked Richie because he wasn’t full of shit like most other people in the theatre world. He told it straight and you could make a deal with a handshake and that’d be the job done. Within months we’d organised a tour of Munster. First I brought my Play – Shortcut to Hallelujah – to St. John’s in Listowel. It was an 11 member cast plus stage manager and two vans full of props. (We had to build a whole bar.) One van I owned, the other was rented. Massive costs, major headaches, but well worth it. Sold plenty of books and the manager down there liked the show and booked us into Listowel Writer’s Week for the following May.
I also had this other two hander in my hard drive called Velvet Revolution. I’d been itching to do something with it for a while. Richie was also asking if I had anything more practical to tour that could bring the costs of accommodation and rented vans down. So I cast and produced Velvet Revolution and brought it on the road. Started in Listowel, went on to Kilmallock, Kenmare and Waterville. The two actors were Cathal Leonard (Lennie) and Kate McCarthy. They did a great job of captivating the audience on their own for 80 minutes and the production headaches were minimal. I sold the programs a the door (including book reviews at the back) and then introduced the show. Once introduced, it was a scramble to get back up and do the lighting and sound cues. We had a top class fella that used to do it for €15 an hour but once I learnt to do it myself then that was another cost saved.
It was when we brought Velvet Revolution to Dublin that the real breakthrough came. Everything was self produced now. Plays, books, everything. There was no money from the Arts Council so we depended solely on ticket sales. This meant a lot of indie marketing which amounted to handing out flyers on the street in Temple Bar. About mid-week I was starved and went for an All you can Eat Malaysian Buffet on Dame Street. I’d asked Lennie to keep up with the flyers while I was gone. When I came back, stuffed with all sorts of mad curries and Bhaji stuff, Lennie was talking to a lady by the door. Turned out she ran a book club in Dublin and also liked to go to the theatre. I told her about El Niño and she insisted on buying a copy and coming to the Play that night. Ticket sold, book sold, good result. She was also an incredibly nice person, had a rare genuine interest in new work, and was eager to see it supported and promoted. After the Play that night, she said she was very impressed. Loved the voice and themes and the talent of the actors. Was looking forward to the book she said.
I thought nothing of it until she called me the following Tuesday. I was walking over the Salmon Weir Bridge in Galway. Her elegant voice explained she’d read the book, and her son was a film producer in London, and there was a similarity in artistic taste. “Perhaps I should put you both in touch?’ She suggested.
Sound, says I, I’d only love to talk to him.
Novel – El Niño (in Paperback).
El Niño is the exciting debut novel from Mayo man, Mick Donnellan. Slick, stylish and always entertaining, the story is a rollercoaster of drama and tension that hasn’t been seen in Irish fiction for a very long time. Charlie is our protagonist, the pick pocket that steals El Nino’s wallet and then falls in love with her. She’s the wild femme fatale, beautiful; enigmatic and seductive. She rocks Charlie’s world with her smoky wiles and drinking ways and her tough girl ideals. This is Noir at its best. Dark and edgy with crisp fresh dialogue and a plot that engages the reader from the first line and keeps them up all night – right through to it’s powerful finish.