Mike McGrath-Bryan speaks with playwright Derek O’Gorman about new work ‘On The Third Day’, premiering at Cork Arts Theatre this August.
A young man falls into the River Lee. His partner and best friend scour the riverbank and wait, riddled with worry for news. A boatman stands by, doing his best to impart hard-won local knowledge and assist the search. These are the underlying tensions in new play ‘On the Third Day’. The idea of a river-rescue search, and the feeling of foreboding for those bearing witness, proved to be fertile ground for writer Derek O’Gorman, giving him the opportunity to study the city’s quays as a community and as a location. “The river is an integral part of the fabric of Cork City life, and that always fascinated me. Working in the city centre, I would cross numerous bridges every day, and at times of tragedy the community spirit shown by volunteers also intrigued me. There was a time when boatmen worked along Union Quay in particular, and the how and why of their life stories interested me. I felt there was a story to be told.”
Over the course of the play, three protagonists form a bond over the search, joined later in the story by a pair of estranged parents, creating an ensemble cast and providing scope to examine the nature of relationships between both people and environments, and how they are tested in times of uncertainty. For O’Gorman, this is a central element of the show. “I wanted the play to explore relationships, relationships with the river, the city but also interpersonal and intergenerational relationships. I wanted to explore these in as natural a way as possible. I think there are elements of all the characters in all of us.” Director Philip Anthony McCarthy has taken charge of casting for this production of the play, imbuing the story with the experience of local veterans and the energy of new faces from the local theatre community. O’Gorman is effusive. “Philip has assembled an unbelievably talented cast, mixing established local actors with, young, exciting talent. Tony Walsh, Cian Hurley, Rebecca McCarthy, Veronica Henley, and David O’Donoghue all really bring a natural feel to the piece, and (help) draw the audience into this world.”
McCarthy himself is an award-winning local director, with an expanding body of work in live theatre and film, and O’Gorman’s admiration for his work led to him being offered the director’s chair. But professional respect is only part of it for O’Gorman. “Philip is an extremely talented director, whose work I have always admired.He has a tremendous creative vision for whatever he puts his mind to, be it theatre or film. He is a very natural director, and has a real feel for Cork in general, and this piece in particular. The creative process has been dynamic. I have worked with directors off-Broadway and the Abbey, and I would put Philip right up there. What I really admire is that Philip has a great humility about him, and in my opinion that sets real talent apart.”
You’re working with the Cork Arts Theatre, colloquially known as the Cat Club, to stage the play’s debut run – what have they been like to deal with, and what effect has the room’s atmosphere had on rehearsals and the subsequent result? “The Cat Club is an amazing venue, but first and foremost is run by a dedicated team, who are committed to providing excellent theatre while also developing writers, directors, actors, and crew. Artistic director Dolores Mannion works brilliantly at finding a balance to put the Cat Club at the forefront of both local and national theatre. I think the space at the Cat Club is really going to complement the play.”
Once the August run is over with, the play’s story almost demands being brought to site-specific productions, a possibility already being mulled over. “I would like to bring the play into the community, and perhaps reach non-traditional theatre audiences in non-traditional settings. I like that idea, so watch this space.”