BWW Interview: The Family Marc Atkinson of Irish Repertory's LITTLE GEM Directed and is Part Of
Little Gem is running at Irish Repertory Theatre until September 8 and BroadwayWorld had the chance to chat about the play with the show's director, Marc Atkinson Borrull.
Hilarious and poignant, Irish playwright Elaine Murphy's debut play Little Gem premiered at the Dublin Fringe Festival in 2008 where it won the Fishamble New Writing Award. It then transferred to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, where it won the Carol Tambor Best of Edinburgh Award. Little Gem made its acclaimed US premiere in January 2010 at The Flea Theater.
Learn more about Little Gem and Borrull below!
What's the show Little Gem about?
Little Gem is a play from 2008 by Elaine Murphy, a contemporary Irish playwright. The play is revolves around three women from different generations of the same family. It's about Kay the grandmother, Lorraine a mother and a teenage Amber, Lorraine's daughter and Kay's granddaughter. Although they love each other as families tend to do, they have a hard time communicating with one another and that lack of communication is compounded by many recent tragedies in their family. Lorraine's husband and Amber's father is an alcoholic and a junkie who Lorraine kicked out of the house when Amber was young, they have a pretty difficult life up until this point. When the play starts, we first meet Amber on the night of her Debs, which is the Irish equivalent of prom, a symbol of moving from teenager to adulthood. Amber has an on and off again boyfriend who manages to get her accidentally pregnant and when we meet these three women they're in the midst of learning this news and trying to work out what they're going to do with Amber's situation. It becomes about Amber's decision making process and what she's going to do.
What drew you to this piece and made you want to direct it?
I was really taken by Elaine's depiction of these three strong and complicated women from different generations. The writing is beautiful and authentic and deeply funny. It's warm and optimistic which is not my usual type of work, my work tends to look at the darker side of humanity. But in this particular moment it feels pretty appropriate to have something with optimism. Additionally I've been in the audience fairly regularly and I'm constantly struck by the reaction from women and men who respond to things in the play that they may not have heard on the stage before, like Kay, who is played by Marsha Mason, is pretty frank about her sex life.
How has it been directing this stellar cast that includes Oscar nominee Marsha Mason?
It's been lovely. I couldn't have asked for three more wonderful women to work with. They're all across the board intelligent, fiercely committed actors with a real sharp sense of what they want to say in the piece. Lauren [O'Leary] and I crossed over in our university days just briefly at Trinity College in Dublin, so it's nice to reconnect with her. Brenda [Meaney] was actually a few years above me as well at Trinity and we didn't really know each other, but it's been extraordinary to realize the amount of actors from Trinity working in New York. And Marsha, what can I say, she's absolutely exceptional. It's one of the highest privileges of my life to have gotten to work with her. I've learned so much from watching her work. She's dedicated with one of the strongest work ethics I've ever come across, but also with humbleness. It's pretty extraordinary. It's an absolute privilege working with all of them.
You have experience with Oscar nominees, working with Ruth Negga in Hamlet, which is transferring to St. Ann's Warehouse next year. What about the show are you excited for New York audiences to see?
I can't wait! Hamlet was a life changing experience for me. This production premiered originally at The Gate Theatre in Dublin. Hamlet directed by Yaël Farber who is one of my favorite directors working and the show is going to have a huge impact in New York. First of all, the opportunity to see an actor of Ruth's caliber take on the role of Hamlet which is Everest, right, and she rises to that challenge, it's a really special performance and it has shown me aspects of that character I haven't seen before. The production really speaks to this moment in time, speaks to our culture in a really direct way.
What is special about working with Irish Repertory Theatre versus other theatre companies?
It's really an amazing place. I'm constantly astonished by the real sense of family that theatre has built over the many years. I had seen shows there, but I didn't know the institution. Working there for the last few months I've realized there's an incredibly loyal audience who will come see both the big, canonical classics, but also will take a risk on something more contemporary like Little Gem because they trust the theatre's taste and they trust their programming which is really exciting and unique. Charlotte [Moore], the artistic director, and Ciarán [O'Reilly], the producing director, are incredibly supportive. They took a leap of faith by giving me, a young director, to direct on their mainstage, which in New York is not super common. They're also supportive, lovely people. Charlotte is at the box office every single night, handing out tickets to the audience, checking in with them, getting to know them and that really is both what live theatre should be about and show the culture of Irish Rep.
Tickets and information can be found at irishrep.org.