Grant Corr and the Online Arts Personal

Tammy Moore talks to Grant Corr about Mena Town transexuals and directorial love at first sight

Lonely Belfast playwright, has a 'spark', enjoys Blondie and dressing up, looking for risk-taking, enthusiastic director who enjoys same. Own theatre company a must.

When Grant Corr finished the script of Rip Her to Shreds – a play about D, a 17 year old, Debbie Harry obsessed, Northern Irish transsexual from Mena Town (representing Any Town, Corr claims, not Ballymena Town) – he needed someone to direct it.

So he did what any social networking member of an increasingly technophile society would do – he posted an ad online. Not on Ebay, although everything from Jesus on a tortilla chip to dignity has been sold on there, but on the 'Directors Wanted' ads on the Young Vic's Genesis Directors Network.

He got over 30 replies and winnowed that down to ten possibles, who he auditioned for the role of director.

‘It was an interesting reversal,’ Corr admits cheerfully. ‘Usually, it’s the other way around with directors isn’t it?'

All ten had something to offer, but when Corr met Max Lewendel of the Icarus Theatre the thunderbolt hit. It was love at first sight. Artistically speaking.

'Max just really got it,' Corr explains eagerly. 'He was enthusiastic about the play and it just felt right.'

Of course, like any relationship there were some mercenary considerations at work too. Lewendel wasn't just enthusiastic about Rip Her to Shreds, if this 'first date' panned out he also had a track record of quality plays and a theatre company ready to perform the play.

Theatre goers can see the result for themselves, with Rip Her to Shreds showing at the Icarus Theatre in London from March 16 - April 3. Who says relationships that start online never work out?

Advertising for a director might seem like a ballsy move for a neophyte playwright with an untested script, but although this is Corr's first stage play he has plenty of experience under his belt. The Belfast-born writer teaches drama part-time in London, has a BA and an MA in Creative Writing, from Bournemouth University and City University of London respectively, and he won a coveted place on 'Sparks', a writing programme run through the BBC’s writersroom.

‘That was really helpful. I learnt a lot,’ Corr says. It wasn’t just about the craft and technique of writing either. ‘I learnt about the whole process. I made some great contacts with other writers too, people I’m still in touch with.’

Rip Her to Shreds started its life as a ten-minute play written for one of Corr's MA workshops and received such a positive response that he decided to keep going. The play is more than just Corr’s theatre debut. It’s a tribute to friends and acquaintances from Northern Ireland who went through a struggle similar to D’s to express their identity.

‘It’s an amalgamation of all these brave, amazing people, whether they were gay or transsexual or whatever,’ Corr says earnestly. ‘Who got dressed up and went out because that was who they were. It’s about everyone who knows what it’s like to be different.’

In 1981 Mena Town there are certainly few people as different as D, who’s determined to dress up as Blondie for his brother’s wedding and fancies his mate’s new boyfriend. So is D trans, gay or...

‘I don’t label D,’ Corr says firmly. ‘That’s the point of the play, that nobody else has the right to label you.’

To date Corr hasn’t sought any feedback from the LGBT community about the play, but his research into the time period and subject matter has been extensive. Although he admits that he only just scrapes the surface of LGBT politics and identity, he’s confident that audiences will respond well.

‘D’s just starting out on this journey,’ he explains, ‘but it’s an overwhelmingly positive representation.’

Rip Her to Shreds can be seen at the Icarus Theatre in London from March 16 - April 3.