Step into the world of captivating theatre as we bring you an exclusive glimpse into the mind of Ruairi Conaghan, the genius architect of Lies Where It Falls. In this Q&A, discover the inspirations and artistic challenges that gave birth to this thought-provoking production. Whether you're a theatre enthusiast, a budding playwright, or someone who appreciates the magic of live storytelling, join us in unraveling the creative brilliance that Conaghan has brought to the spotlight.
Can you start by telling us a bit about the show?
It is a one person show dealing with how the impact of an act of violence many years in the past can choose any moment in time to return
Can you share a little about what inspired you to delve into such a unique and personal topic?
I felt I had a story to tell. I also felt there was a uniqueness to my story. How can an actor really inhabit the role of someone when that characters beliefs were what impacted the actors family in such a devastating way. Can I still be authentic? Can I still bring truth?
The premise of your show is fascinating! How did you approach blending the emotional journey with the creative elements of theatre?
I have been very fortunate to have worked on a lot of new writing in my career. Brilliant places like The Royal Court, The National, The Abbey and The Lyric Belfast. I understand that what is written on the page must have a theatrical impact. Also that there may well be many drafts to get it to the position of presenting it. It must also entertain! It must be heard and understood. Despite its weighty subject and emotional journey I need to keep my audience engaged. So use your skillset. Laughter, tears..all those platitudes.
Death, politics, and family history can be weighty subjects, but it seems like you've managed to handle them gracefully. What was the most unexpected challenge you faced while writing this show?
I had no issue in terms of getting something on the page. It felt that almost immediately I had 50 pages of A4. So the biggest challenge was, what NOT to say. That is where the opinions of a dramaturg are so crucial. You will always need help with that. With Paddy O Kane I had someone fearless in that respect.
We know it's a delicate matter, but could you tell us a bit about how you've woven in the political history while keeping the overall tone light and imparcial?
I started writing this story whilst living in London as part of the Northern Irish diaspora. But the most significant part of it’s development came whilst living back here. That meant I didn’t need to constantly define the politics or history and I think that’s what will work as I take this show as far and wide as I can. I knew that to make this story work I mustn’t Judge and in the moments that it seems I do in the play come from flaws. Too much to drink. Petty paranoias.
Your uncle, the judge, sounds like a pivotal figure in the narrative. What aspects of his story did you find most interesting to explore and portray on stage?
My Uncle was a really phenomenal achiever to break through the glass ceiling of Catholics in the judiciary here in Northern Ireland. That’s why his murder was so wasteful. I think there was so much courage there, stubbornness to. I just felt it was important for my audience to get a sense of his achievement. But perhaps the most challenging moment for the audience is my description of his passing but I felt it was essential. That was very emotionally hard to research.
Theatre has a magical way of connecting with audiences emotionally. What do you hope people will take away from your show after experiencing this touching story?
I think a lot of my audience have their own story to tell, concerning trauma, the impact of the conflict, mental health treatment, childhood. A lot have shared their stories already to me whether through social media or directly to me after the show. I hope what they take away is to never feel self conscious to tell your own story but also I want to understand the healing power of theatre.
Creating a new theatre production involves collaboration and creativity. Can you share some behind-the-scenes anecdotes about the rehearsals and how you embraced this project?
My plays subtext is about Authenticity. It’s a word that is raised on a number of occasions throughout the story. So all the collaborations I had in its development were about keeping that word in place for the show. Never drift from truth. Most of the development period occurred during the pandemic so there was a lot of mask wearing., a lot of social distancing, no more than 4 in a room, thankfully a one person show but crucially a lot of cake!
Humor can be a powerful tool to help audiences process challenging themes. How have you managed to incorporate moments of levity without undermining the seriousness of the subject matter?
The humour is just basically me. I’ve always had a kind of gallows sense of humour. That maybe because there was such tragedy when I was young. But I think it’s crucial to listening. Particularly to theatre. Sean O Casey makes us laugh and cry almost on the same line. Owen Mc Cafferty does the same. To be honest I was told to cut a lot of the jokes.
Theatre is an ever-evolving art form. Were there any particular challenges or surprises during the development process that changed the direction of the show?
As mentioned earlier the biggest change was moving it’s development from London to Belfast. It made me different. I used a lot of Hamlet to emphasise the issues I was dealing with. It was too much so we pulled that right back but some remains and I think it has a tremendous power.
Your show seems to have a mix of drama and heartfelt moments. Were there any specific plays or playwrights that inspired your storytelling style for this production?
I talk about playwrights in the show. I feel so lucky to have said the words of these people. I wrote from within myself but I’m sure their voices are embedded in me. The poetry of Friel. The humour of O Casey and Owen Mc Cafferty. The tension of Gary Mitchell. The fearlessness of Debbie Tucker Green.
The title of your show is intriguing and mysterious. How did you come up with it, and does it hold any hidden meanings or symbolism?
The title is thanks to Shakespeare. In the player king speech of the slaughter at Troy. Pyrrus the assassin finds the old king Priam. Priam is so weakened, he drops the sword he lifts to defend himself and it “ Lies Where It Falls “. That thought seems to resonate throughout the show whether it’s me dealing with my own collapse, the death of my Uncle, Pat Magee, Northern Ireland. We all fall and we lie there. Some of us get up, others don’t. It seemed right.
The setting of Derry adds a unique and compelling backdrop to the story. Did you have the chance to visit the city during your research, and if so, did that experience influence your writing?
My family are all Derry people but it this story is more prevalent to the rural area of South Derry. That’s where I was brought up. That was were I spent “Years dreaming of escape” and where I now realise has made me the man that I now am and I am thankful for that.
What do you think your uncle would have said about this show if he were here to see it? Have any family members shared their thoughts or memories about him during the development process?
My family have been constantly consulted throughout this process particular my 2 cousins who were witness to my Uncles murder. They have been incredibly generous and supportive but for very good reasons want anonymity and that’s how it’s going to be. My family are also characters in the story. My wife, my son. It’s their story too.
The process of writing and producing a show can be an emotional rollercoaster. Have there been any moments during this journey that particularly stood out to you as highlights or significant breakthroughs?
I think the reaction to my initial group of shows has been the most extraordinary experience. People want to share with me their own stories. That has been both hard and hugely uplifting. I create debate. The show makes people feel something about their own experience of conflict.
Lastly, can you share a fun or quirky fact about the production that people might not expect?
I’ve laughed a lot during this whole process. It is a weighty subject but there is a lot of humour here. Dance. I insisted it be in the show because I believe I’m as graceful as Astaire and as athletic as Gene Kelly but in reality I’m a shite dancer!