Clare McMahon submitted The Gap Year to Fishamble’s A Play For Ireland in late 2017. Although just an idea at that stage, both the team at Fishamble and the Lyric (one of five national partners in the scheme) felt it was one rich in potential and we were excited to work with Clare in developing the play. Clare was one of six writers attached to the Lyric for a year and, having known her as a wonderful actor, I was delighted to work with her in developing her writing. After the year, the play was at first draft stage, and so Clare applied to our New Playwrights Programme to develop it further. We felt there was mileage (pun intended) in the play, and that it was a very special, orginal piece that would really resonate with audiences. Over the course of the programme, Clare and I worked closely together and the play went through multiple drafts. We held a development workshop, which was the first time we heard it read with professional actors, and got the feedback of a brilliant director. At the end of the programme, we were thrilled with the rapturous reception the play was given at its showcase. This is a beautiful, thoughtful, heartwarming story of female friendship and resilience, and we hope that audiences will enjoy listening to this audio version.
Clare caught up with us for a quick Q&A:
The Gap Year is heart-warming, hilarious story about three women of a certain age who decide they need a break from their lives – what made you want to write it?
I was studying at The Lir at the time and we were really encouraged to write a new idea every week. I’d realised a lot the work that I kept creating was about unheard voices, often female. I kept thinking about that generation of women who often dedicate themselves to their families. Then I wondered what would push a woman to ‘abandon’ their responsibilities and take time for themselves. ‘The Gap Year’ was born. The power of friendship for females is huge. And I liked the idea of three, very different, friends guiding each other through a year of grief and love and adventure.
Do you always have a clear plan of where the idea is going to go when you sit down to write?
It varies. For ‘The Gap Year’ I had a very clear concept that I started with. Then I got distracted driving around Ireland trying to be a Tourism Ireland expert. Once I realised it was more about the women’s journey and less about the route they took, then I was flying. But it’s taken two years from first idea to a very strong draft I’m happy with. Thankfully I’ve got there.
How did it feel to be back in a rehearsal room, especially under the current circumstances?
It was like Christmas when you’re five. I was overwhelmed with the joy of it. To be in a room with an amazing cast and creative team, albeit very spaced out, was just so special. There was a sense of us all coming ‘home’. And then as we worked through the play I realised that this story, one of hope and new beginnings, was just the remedy for what we’ve all been through over the past six months. I hope it can bring a lot of joy to the listeners who tune in.
What was the process like adapting the play for an audio-recording? Did you have to change or compromise anything?
Myself and director Benjamin Gould, were in New York in January presenting the play with an American cast as part of the ‘1st Irish Festival’. It was a very intense process and I had to work quite quickly in adapting for an American audience and American-based actors. They style is slightly different. I think that experience really helped me to feel confident in what the play was and my intention for every beat of it. This meant when I came to adapt for this recording I was very clear about what needed to be cut or kept. Ben, the director, was also a huge part in thinking about the aural experience. He and Chris, the sound designer, really brought so much to adapting the play in this form. I felt like the play I’d written for the stage was still being portrayed to the listener.
The Gap Year is now available to listen to online as part of the Listen at the Lyric season. Find out more here