“Collaboration, Character-Driven Plays & 90s Pop Culture” A Chat with David Mackett, James Wallis & Julia Nish-Lapidus on DUBLIN CAROL by Conor McPherson, November 14-26
Interview by Hallie Seline.
We had the pleasure of connecting with David Mackett, James Wallis and Julia Nish-Lapidus to discuss their latest collaboration on Conor McPherson’s Dublin Carol presented by Fly on the Wall Theatre. We spoke about what drew them to explore McPherson’s plays, working with director Rod Ceballos, and riffing off the play’s setting in the 90s, we do a little 90s Rapid Fire Question session on bands, trends, and catchphrases, because… how could you not?!
HS: Tell me a bit about the show and what it’s like working on it.
James Wallis: Dublin Carol is set in the back room of a funeral home in Dublin on Christmas Eve. John is running the funeral home because his boss, the mortician Noel, is in the hospital; John’s showing the ropes to young Mark, Noel’s nephew (played by moi!), on a day when his estranged daughter tells him that his ex-wife is dying from cancer. The play deals with John confronting his past, present, and future – the choices he is making and those he will make. John is a realist but also full of fantasy. McPherson is a master at understanding the grief underneath the common man. John is broken and tries to confront his former demons but he’s also unwilling to see his complacency and hypocrisy in his life. It’s been a great pleasure to work on such a deeply sad play, and amazing to work on a play about intimate conversations and emotions. Since the majority of the work I do is Shakespeare, the sparse, yet detailed text is a joyful challenge.
HS: Tell me about working with director Rod Ceballos on this.
JW: I’ve known Rod for years but never worked for him. He’s a diligent director, always thinking about what is being said and done in the moment. He’s challenging to his actors: What’s going on right now? What do you need out of this moment?
It’s been a great lesson to watch him and David Mackett working together. They’ve spent a lot of time working together and it shows. Their professionalism and creativity is evident. They work carefully and with constant focus on John’s inner world.
Rod has a great deal of experience to offer an actor, and it’s been a great pleasure to learn and work with him. Plus, he’s a good guy. The room is full of friends working on a play with passion and hard work. That’s all I care about.
HS: David, what is it about Conor McPherson’s work that draws you to it and excites you?
David Mackett: I was first introduced to McPherson’s work when I was approached to do a site-specific production of The Weir, produced by MackenzieRo as part of the 2004 Toronto Fringe. What immediately struck me about his plays is how character-driven they are – McPherson has said in interviews that not much happens in his plays (i.e. there’s not a lot of “action”, as it were), but as the play progresses, you are gradually drawn into the inner lives of the characters you are observing – their feelings of grief, loneliness, and regret. And that’s what really excites me about his work – exploring the inner emotional lives of these characters through what is said, and perhaps more importantly, what is not said. In each of the McPherson plays I’ve worked on, something happens that forces the characters to re-examine their lives – the choices they’ve made – often leaving them with a suspicion that they’ve let life pass them by. I think that’s what we all wonder about: whether we are, in fact, seizing every opportunity that comes our way, and living our own lives to the fullest.
HS: If your audience could listen to one song/band/album before coming to see the show, what would it be?
DM: Dante’s Prayer by Loreena McKennitt
HS: I heard this show is set in the 90s, which I am ALWAYS into. Let’s do some…
90s Rapid Fire Questions
JW & DM: Julia Nish-Lapidus is a huge 90s pop culture fan/enthusiast, so we leave it to her to handle this rapid fire round:
Favourite 90s band:
Julia Nish-Lapidus: All Saints! Deborah Cox! Mariah! Jimmy Ray?
Favourite 90s fashion:
JNL: Platform shoes. I even had platform flip-flops, which were not comfortable. Though I always wanted to dress like Angela from My So-Called Life, and she would never wear those.
Favourite 90s movie:
JNL: Clueless… Empire Records.
Favourite 90s trend:
JNL: Inflatable housewares. I had a chair, an ottoman, a garbage can, and a Kleenex box holder.
What would be your 90s sitcom catchphrase?
JNL: Hop to it!
If you could give your 90s self one piece of advice, what would it be?
JNL: Stop pretending you’re too cool to like boy bands. We all know you went to an O-Town concert.
Describe the show in 5-10 words.
David: Dublin. Christmas Eve. A visit. A man’s own ghosts. Whiskey. A chance.
James: An intimate Christmas sorrowful story time
Julia: Loss, loneliness, regret, and a chance at redemption.
Written by Conor McPherson
Presented by Fly on the Wall Theatre
Directed by Fly on the Wall’s Co-Artistic Producer, Rod Ceballos
Featuring: David Mackett, James Wallis and Julia Nish-Lapidus
Production Design by Patrick Brennan
Stage Manager: Cora Matheson
Dublin undertaker, John Plunkett, is a man haunted by his past – a past he would sooner forget. It’s the morning of Christmas Eve and he’s back in his office with his new assistant, after overseeing an early morning funeral. Then an unexpected visit from his estranged daughter throws his daily routine into turmoil. It’s a visit that forces him to confront the ghosts of his past…but one that offers him a final opportunity to make things right.
180 Shaw Street, Toronto
November 14 – 26, 2017
Preview (Tuesday, November 14): $15
Tuesday – Saturday: $25
Sunday Matinee: $20