The Barber of Moville and Other Songs
We meet the creative trinity behind a comedy exploring perceptions of identity – problem is, they're all fragments of the same man's mind
On December 1 and 2, Ronan Carr is presenting his play The Barber of Moville and Other Songs at the Echo Echo Dance Studios in Derry~Londonderry.
Ronan is not only acting in the piece but he also directing himself. We wondered how this multi-tasking exercise in self-indulgence actually works in practice – so we sat in on rehearsals with Ronan the Actor and Ronan the Director to chat about the process.
Ronan speaks first.
Ronan: As a director, you always have an ideal cast in your head. And of course, the reality of scheduling conflicts is that you inevitably have to compromise.
Ronan: For me, as an actor, the audition process is daunting. For this show it was particularly tough. I had to go in front of myself five times. But last week, I got that phone call from me telling me that I cast myself in the part. I was at first shocked and then overjoyed.
Ronan: The rehearsal day begins with coffee at nine. I like to get here early.
Ronan: I’m predictably late.
Ronan: I discuss the previous day’s work – I give notes.
Ronan: I ignore them.
Ronan: And then it’s down to work.
Ronan: Simple as that.
It's bizarre observing a man divide himself in two like this. Ronan jumps from one chair to the other chair for each answer. Even his body language changes. The director Ronan is rigid, uptight in his seat while the actor Ronan is slouched and more relaxed in his skin. We ask him/them to tell us a little about the play.
Actress Anne Gallagher and Ronan Carr
Ronan: The thing that made me want to direct this play is the title – The Barber of Moville.
Ronan: Yeah, good title that.
Ronan: Do you mind I’m talking?
Ronan: Beyond the title, I suppose the play is ultimately about love and the sacrifices we make for love.
Ronan: That doesn’t tell them anything.. That could be describing any play.
Ronan: Okay. It’s also about the promises we make and how hard they are to keep.
Ronan: There you go again, generic meaningless PR claptrap.
Ronan: Why don’t you tell them what it’s about?
Ronan: Okay then it’s about love and the sacrifices..
Ronan: You’re just saying what I just said.
Ronan: No I said it.
Ronan: No I said it -
This argument between Ronan and himself over who said what goes on for another ten minutes. At one point it gets quite heated, resulting in Ronan pinning himself to the floor in a half-nelson. It's then when we notice another person at the back of the rehearsal room. It is the actress in the play, Anne Gallagher.
Anne, a native of Donegal is quietly weeping into her script. We grab a coffee from the craft table and offer her a cup.
Anne: Thanks. I don’t know how I let myself get roped into this. From day one it has been a nightmare, it really has. The constant arguments he has with himself, the shouting, the storming out, last week, Ronan didn’t talk to himself for five days.
Anne is playing the titular character, she is 'The Barber of Moville”. We ask her if she can tell us anything about the play.
Anne: It’s actually quite a good play about forgetting. It’s the story of a husband and wife as they prepare to shut up shop for a final trip to the opera. It explores identity, memory and what it means to love.
We tell her that sounds rather sweet.
Anne: It is, but there is a first act that has been added which is the most self-indulgent trip through Ronan’s career. It is his meditation on acting, art and monologue addiction, mused over through songs, skits and monologues.
A shout roars up from the scuffle on the floor.
Ronan: For God’s sake woman, don’t tell them anymore, you’ll ruin the surprise.
Anne moves sadly to the window for air.
Anne: I’m just going to learn my lines and hope for the best. My agent says I’ll laugh about this in years to come but I won’t, I will never laugh about this.
Part of the tension in the room is that they are expecting a visitor – the third person in Carr’s creative trinity. Coming to see how rehearsals are progressing is Ronan the Writer. And word is he isn’t happy with his own changes to the script that he made himself without his knowledge. He feels he has stabbed himself in the back, right from under his nose.
Moments later, with cigarette ash down his front and stinking of fortified wine, Ronan the Writer comes bursting in the room
Ronan: You effing Philistines!
It’s more than we can take so we leave. Hopefully, it’ll be alright on the night. If it isn’t, Ronan has no-one to blame but him-selves.