Counter culture on the shopfloor


by Rose Rushe

Counter Culture Theatre at the Savoy
SET aside lunch hour 1pm-2pm this Thursday July 31 and Friday August 1, or teatime 6pm on Thursday 31 only, to view the next Theatre at the Savoy presentation. ‘Counter Culture’ is written and performed by Katie O’Kelly and directed by her father, actor Donal O’Kelly. It is a savvy comedy that mines our our consumer culture and those at the ‘coal face’ of providing it – shop assistants.
The O’Kellys have worked together previously, roles reversed with Katie stage managing his ‘Joyced’ show that was nominee for Stage UK Best Solo Performer in Edinburgh Fringe of 2012.
‘Counter Culture’ welcomes us to a world familiar to her wider family, Katie’s own experience in retail “where you are just a cog in the machine, replaceable. It’s something you do while in college”, and a link to her maternal grandmother Frances Purcell.
“I found a photograph of her protesting out Clery’s, 1983, holding a placard and on strike for better pay. She worked in Clery’s for 30 years and this was a totally different world to the one I’d known”.
Katie the playwright has rooted her comedy in realism, relying on disciplined direction to distinguish her 20 characters.
“‘Counter Culture’ is set in a Dublin department store on O’Connell Street, with Jim Larkin’s statue outside. I found it to be really ironic to be writing this piece, where it all happens over one day in-store, during the year of Lock-out centenary celebrations for workers’ rights, while zero-contracts were being brought in for retail workers.”
Working with her Dad, experienced as he is in solo shows himself, was invaluable to her “as I can’t think of anyone who has his insight, his experience” into this medium in which the entire work – writing, production, delivery on stage – is weighted on one.
The National Association for Youth Drama gave her a standing ovation in Kilkenny the other week so Theatre at Savoy offers reasons to be cheerful going into our bank holiday weekend.
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