The Kitchen, The Bedroom and The Grave

Marx, eco-coffins, sexuality and how they all fit together

It’s the final Rehearsed Reading from Accidental Theatre and to celebrate the occasional they’ve got the NIPPLES out. One anyhow.

Get your mind out the gutter; Accidental Theatre isn’t that sort of organisation. It stands for Northern Irish Professional Person Living in England and the main character in Donal O’Hagan’s The Kitchen, The Bedroom and The Grave is one.

‘I went to England in 1989 and friends of mine had done the same,’ O’Hagan, who was born in Belfast, explains. ‘The acronym just started cropping up as a sort of in-joke.’

O’Hagan also lived in Montreal and Paris for a year each, but they weren’t as funny. Returning to Northern Ireland in 2004 O’Hagan settled in the townland of Rahalp and joined the WriteDown writers collective. He teaches history and politics in Lisburn. ‘It is,’ he adds wryly, ‘a lot different from inner city London.’

The Kitchen, The Bedroom and The Grave is his first staged play and has been a couple of years in gestation. Tinderbox was originally interested in it too, but because they had so much on Hanna Slattne advised O’Hagan to go with Accidental Theatre. He’s delighted that he did, citing his experience with them as incredible.

‘Richard Irvine is so enthusiastic and Emily Dedakis (the play’s director) had an amazing eye and ear for dialogue and dramatic tension,’ O’Hagan says eagerly. They are great people and it’s a staggering experience. I watched my words turn into drama.’

His words, but not his story. Although both O’Hagan and Dempsey spent time as NIPPLES that’s the only similarity between them. The Kitchen, The Bedroom and The Grave isn’t O’Hagen’s story, he stresses, it belongs to the characters.

In this case the characters are Dempsey, his parents and his old school friend Mark. A journalist in London, Dempsey has only come back home reluctantly. He’s here to make a documentary on the changing face of Northern Ireland, but he can hardly ignore his family when he’s here.

Dempsey’s mother is convinced his father, who is obsessed with Marxism and eco-coffins, has Alzheimers, his father wants to talk about his own funeral, hence the eco-coffin and Mark wants Dempsey to tell his family who he really is.

‘It’s a story about family, sexuality and assisted suicide,’ O’Hagan says dryly.

He was inspired by a combination of things. Some of his friends had the same experience as Dempsey of telling their parents about their sexuality. He also had the same conversation with his grandfather that Dempsey does with his father about funerals.

The memory of family discussions about assisted suicide, a topic raised by his grandmother when she was ill, also loom large in the plot.

‘It’s about how do we really know what we think we know,’ he says elliptically. ‘And how that allows us to make decisions.’

The Kitchen, The Bedroom and the Grave is a play for anyone who is alive and has questions about life, death and/or sexuality.

The Kitchen, the Bedroom and the Grave will be staged at Blick Studios on September 9 at 7pm.

Tammy Moore