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Shadow of Springsteen hangs over Beyond The Brooklyn Sky

Beyond the Brooklyn Sky director Peter Sheridan: a play 'so alive it is on fire'.Picture: Ashley Loftus

Beyond the Brooklyn Sky director Peter Sheridan: a play 'so alive it is on fire'.Picture: Ashley Loftus

  • by Alan Owens
 

WHEN we last spoke to Peter Sheridan, he was on his way to Limerick with the George Best musical Dancing Shoes.

That entertaining and poignant production helped Sheridan, veteran theatre director and film maker, to reconnect with one of his “first loves”, namely soccer.

Instead, the play Beyond the Brooklyn Sky, written by Michael Hilliard Mulcahy and produced by Red Kettle Theatre Company, has reconnected Sheridan to “the other great love of my life, which was music”.

The play centres around a group of friends who emigrated to the United States in the late 1980s and return to Ireland in the latter day. When they reunite, issues remain unresolved and “all hell breaks loose”, laughs Peter.

“We find out the truth about what really happened in America. The failed dreams and all that sort of stuff, so it is really explosive, really good,” explains Peter, whose film credits include The Borstal Boy.

Set in the last number of years, it is defintely not to be taken “in the spirit of the Gathering, there is a bit more edge to it than that”, Peter says with a smile.

“It is just truth,” he says of the secret behind the play’s success, which was huge critical and commercial success at the 2012 Dublin Theatre Festival.

“I have often said to writers, the simple thing is, can you put up a couple of characters that are believable and that I find interesting? If you can do that, and make me care about them, then you have a drama, then you are 95% of the way there. And Michael Hilliard Mulcahy really can create characters.

“They are the kind of characters that when they walk on stage, you know that they have been somewhere else, you don’t just feel like they walked onto a stage, you feel like they were down in the bar, tanking up for the conflict,” he adds.

Sheridan became involved with the playwright nearly four years ago when Hilliard Mulcahy sent him some work. He noticed the fledgling scribe as a “serious talent”, who he has been working with since.

It is important for the director to find something “in the DNA of a play, you can’t invent that stuff” for him to be interested in getting involved in its production. In this circumstance, it was the music that drew him in.

“The characters, when they go to America in ‘88, discover Bruce Springsteen, and he plays a very important role in this play,” he explains. “There is a lot about music and the impact of music on your life at that point and it really reconnected me to all of that world.

“Springsteen, funnily enough, as a performer never meant much to me, like anybody I would be aware of him, but it would have been the Beatles and the Stones for me. A generation later it is Springsteen and I can understand the importance and influence he had on Irish people going to America. He certainly speaks to these characters, big time.”

The staging of the play is simple, allowing the strength of the characters to breathe, yet Sheridan bristles at this simplistic notion.

“It is never simple. You have to create a universe that is believable, that takes the audience in and that makes them want to be there with you for two hours,” he says.

“I have to say that 90% of the time I go to the theatre I am bored within a half an hour. It is not often that a show takes me in and whacks me over the head and kicks me in the stomach at the same time, but this does.

“I defy anybody to come out of this show and say ‘I was bored’ - you couldn’t be bored, this is so alive it is on fire.”

Beyond the Brooklyn Sky is in the Lime Tree Theatre this Friday and Saturday, November 1-2 at 8pm. Tickets from Lime Tree online and 061-774774.

 

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