‘The agony and ecstasy’ of that thing called love

“It’s a night for anybody who has ever been in love. They will certainly see something that they have experienced themselves.”

“It’s a night for anybody who has ever been in love. They will certainly see something that they have experienced themselves.”

So says playwright, director and founder of new professional theatre company Pandora Theatre, Darren Donohue, in reference to the set of plays with which Pandora is making its debut in Cleere’s from September 7-10.

Pandora is the brainchild of Darren and fellow playwright and director Shawn Sturnick, and the performance, collectively titled ‘Out of the Box’, will feature works by both writers.

Darren’s one-act play Voices in the Rubble is, essentially, “40 years of marriage neatly compressed into 40 minutes”.

“It’s about the highs and lows, the agony and the ecstasy, all that happens when you tie – or chain – your life to somebody else’s,” says the dramatist, who has lived in Goresbridge for the past six years.

The couple in question are Avril and Tony, played by local actors Amy Dunne and David Thompson; and the cast also includes John Morton and Dublin-based actor Frank Conlon.

The comedic play is “an opportunity to look into a couple’s secret life, which we all have, with its own rules and regulations and its own language,” Darren explains.

“It is also taking a look at the adventures that take place when you have children. Being a parent myself, I can really enjoy the mayhem that ensues when the child arrives.”

That’s not to say the play is taken directly from his own experience, of course.

Absolutely not,” he laughs. “I am using my creative imagination card here, pulling it from the ether. Of course, all writers do mine their own lives for truth, but it could be the truth of looking at somebody else’s relationship and finding the absurdity in that and the comedy and tragedy.”

Voices in the Rubble is his 11th play, including four one-acts that have been staged, starting with Revelations, which premiered at the Dublin Fringe in 2003. He also teaches drama at Kilkenny CBS and in Goresbridge, Kilmoganny and Rathanna.

Shawn’s Prisoner Suite, meanwhile, consists of two monologues and a two-hander: Sunny Days performed by Dublin actress Melissa Nolan, Interview with Mr Hart performed by the playwright himself, and then Marry Me performed by both actors together.

The three works, Darren says, “are linked by the theme of love, whether it’s being a prisoner of love or being possessed by love, which is thematically linked to mine as well. Mine looks at the endurance, the marathon of love – how do you sustain it over a period of time? How do you keep the passion alive?”

The two writers came up with the idea for Pandora after meeting at the Abbey Theatre’s 18-month New Playwrights Programme. The Abbey receives over 400 unsolicited scripts a year, and Shawn and Darren were among the six of those writers chosen to take part in the programme. Both being clever people, Darren says, “it didn’t take us long to realise that we were both living in Kilkenny”.

Thanks to “great support” from the Kilkenny County Council Arts Office and Cleere’s, they are starting to make their plan a reality, and their aim is to bring ‘Out of the Box’ to Dublin afterwards. “You want to get as much out of it as you can. It’s a shame to run it for just four nights,” Darren says. “It’s like making a chandelier – you have to have a party so everybody can come and see it, and then you want to throw lots of parties.”

They are also planning to begin hosting workshops on writing, acting and directing in Kilkenny.

The goal is for it to be a sustainable theatre company, Darren says. “That would be the dream for Pandora. That’s what’s in the box.”

Pandora Theatre will present ‘Out of the Box’ in Cleere’s from September 7-10 at 8pm. Tickets are e10 and can be booked on 087 654087.