Legendary Irish writer Roddy Doyle, along with the cast and crew of his play Two Pints, sat down with Travel Ireland Magazine to discuss the show.
A household name on account of his Barrytown Trilogy of books later adapted into films; various other well-received novels; a handful of plays; a ground-breaking TV series; and the screenplay for one of the most important Irish movies in recent memory, few Irish writers are as prolific as Roddy Doyle.
“David Mamet had this great line recently when someone asked him why he still wrote,” says The Commitments author to Travel Ireland. “’Beavers don’t build damns because they like building damns. Beavers build damns because they have itchy teeth.’ That’s me as a writer.”
One of his most recent works – although since its premiere in 2017 Doyle has already released plenty more content – Two Pints is coming to the Olympia Theatre from August 18 – 29 before embarking on an Irish tour. Focusing on two unnamed men (played by Liam Carney and Philip Judge) as they meet for a pint, the play actually had its start playing in actual pubs. This was before being performed in the Abbey Theatre and then travelling the US and UK circuit.
“The Abbey’s idea was to put it on in pubs. I thought it was great and as any writer will tell you, I was just keen to see it. If they said, we’ll do it in the jacks under Busaras, I’d have said: ‘That’s a great idea,'” jokes Doyle. “Anywhere at all, you just want to see it done. You want to see actors like Philip and Liam and a director like Caitriona McLaughlin doing it. It’s just something on paper until then.”
Speaking about the pros of performing in bars, star Philip Judge says: “There’s an intimacy and immediacy to the pubs. There are some very funny lines. It’s Roddy. It’s hilarious. You’d get big guffaws which were overwhelming because you are in the middle surrounded by people laughing.”
“Then there’s very poignant moments, when both characters have really quite sad things to recount. You can see the audience right there being sucker punched by it. There’s a great gratification of having that immediate impact in an intimate environment.”
That said, Judge and his co-star Liam Carney still prefer the stage. Judge remarks: “There are benefits in playing it in a bigger space. There is a bigger crowd and there are more people. That has an energy which feeds you as an actor.”
Carney adds: “It was brilliant travelling around Ireland with the show. But it was exhausting because we were performing one venue per night. We’d do the show, go to bed, get up the next day, drive to the next town and do it again. Now that we’re back into the theatres, it’s like home again.”
Based on small sketches posted to his Facebook account, one wonders how Doyle managed to turn Two Pints into terrific theatre. “I needed a plot,” recounts the writer. “I met a man in London. We were talking about the possibility of a play. Earlier in the year my father had died. I was talking to him about it and how the rhythm of one’s life was dictated by this: going up every day to see my father in Beaumont Hospital, the growing fact that he wasn’t getting out and then the funeral.”
“This guy I was talking to had been through a similar experience recently. His mother had died. We were exchanging notes about the absurdity of hospitals, the difficulty at the door of any hospital distinguishing between the patients and the visitors sometimes. We were laughing about it. By the end of the night, I thought: ‘I have my plot.’ Once I had the idea for what I thought could be a full-length play, it lifted the anxiety and made it something I’d like to write.”
Doyle’s writing is known for having a particular rhythm, mimicking the Dublinese he heard in his years growing up in the capital’s north side. While Two Pints continues this trend, according to the cast and crew, US audiences responded positively to it as it toured the States.
“They are very familiar with Roddy in America,” says director Caitriona McLaughlin. “I thought there was a lot of Irishisms in Two Pints but there wasn’t or if there was, they translate very well.” That said, the script did need a few minor tweaks. Carney recalls laughing: “We clarified that Artane Castle isn’t a castle, it’s a shopping centre.”
Doyle, on the topic of non-Irish people reading or seeing his work, says: “That’s a conversation I had years ago when my first book [1987’s The Commitments] was coming out. People said there would be no interest in it outside of Dublin, let alone Ireland. I was fairly confident there would be. They are universal stories. They’re just set in a particular parish. If it was two American men in their 60s on stage, nobody would be asking: ‘Are you worried people in Ireland won’t get it?’”
“I’m quite content to be called ‘a Dublin writer’ or ‘an Irish writer’ but actually I’m happy enough just being called ‘a writer’. Yes, some of the rhythm of the language in Two Pints is very Dublin. But the two men are talking about death, mortality, love and the way the world is going. Men and women all over the world are doing the exact same thing. It’s just the accent is different and some of the words.”
Discussing Two Pints being staged at the Olympia, Doyle flashes back to the first time his work was performed at the iconic venue: “My first play [1987’s Brownbread starring Brendan Gleeson] ended up coming here for ten days. I remember standing on the side of the stage and looking out at the gods. They were filling up and I was thinking ‘This is amazing’. I was only 28 or 29. It’s brilliant to bring a play here again. It’s a lovely bit of a circle.”
Two Pints comes to the Olympia Theatre from August 18 – 29. Tickets are available to purchase in person from both the Olympia Theatre Box Office and all Ticketmaster outlets. Tickets can also be bought online at ticketmaster.ie or over the phone by calling Olympia Theatre bookings on 0818 719 330.