On the road with Livin’ Dred

Thomas (Seamus O'Rourke) with 100 year-old Da (Gus McDonagh), lead the search for life in 'Trad'.

THE IRISH Times Theatre Awards is the country’s bible when it comes to signposting outstanding theatre. This year’s nominations flag Best Actor for Aaron Monaghan for lead role  in ‘The Travels of Jonathan Swift’. It is his third sprint in this category that he won previously for Druid’s ‘Conversations of a Homecoming’.

‘Trad’, the show that Aaron is now directing, has cast member Clare Barrett nominated for Best Actress for her dual role of Sal (female) and Fr. Rice. She is further nominated for her Leonata in ‘Much Ado About Nothing’.

‘Trad’ by Livin’ Dred comes to Lime Tree Theatre for one night only this Saturday February 8 at 8pm.

A play to do with identity, the life cycle and belief, it has been hugely successful on the touring circuit.

Written by Mark Doherty in the early 2000s and revived by the Cavan based Livin’ Dred company at Aaron’s behest, the production has been praised heavily by The  Guardian, The British Theatre Guide and everyone else in between. ‘Trad’ sold out at The Lyric Theatre in Belfast, again at Dublin’s Peacock Theatre and had a terrific run at  Cork’s Everyman.

Sign up for the weekly Limerick Post newsletter

Limerick audiences know Aaron Monaghan from playing Estragon in Druid’s ‘Waiting for Godot’, ‘The Beauty Queen of Leenane’, DruidMurphy works and their ‘The Colleen Bawn’. He has done loads of telly, from ‘Vikings’ to ‘Love/ Hate’ to ‘The Tudors’.

Five years ago, he was central to DruidShakespeare’s Henriad, all plays listed staged here at Lime Tree. Clare Barrett was integral to that compelling project too and to 2017’s ‘Angela’s Ashes – The Musical’ as Granny.

Arts Page caught up at last with the supremely modest and chatty actor/ director Aaron Monaghan between his filming a feature film in Cavan [working title ‘The Redemption of  Roger’] and rehearsing for ‘The Cherry Orchard’.

He is excited about all of it.

“I am thrilled with The Irish Times Theatre Awards this year,” he admits, deflecting his own presence there. “There is a generous spread to them, a mix of geography and companies, those funded and unfunded.”

The judges vetted 815 performances, the most ever and across all regions. “I’m particularly pleased for Trad’s Seamus O’Rourke and Clare being nominated and it is a great honour for us.”

Along with Gus McDonagh (Fair City), they are the bones of ‘Trad’ with Gus cast as Da, a 100 year-old Irishman with an older father Thomas (Seamus) who embark on a journey of discovery to find Gus’s 70-something year old son, their lost child.

Is there a touch of the ‘road movie’ genre to this? “I think that’s how I would describe it as well,” says Aaron. “I saw ‘Trad’ first in 2005 at Galway Arts Festival where it was produced by the Festival. It was one of the most profound and hilarious plays I had ever seen, and at the end I nearly fell off the chair laughing. Yet it was so poignant and moving.”

Thus it was first pick when the board of Livin’ Dred invited him in. As director, what  did Aaron Monaghan bring to the work?

“I very much came back to the text. I talked to Mark (Doherty) about it a lot and his one stipulation was that is was done with actors who were funny and who understand ‘funny’. There’s a father and son and a third character who plays two parts and never in the history of this play’s productions was that role played by a woman.

“I also have an all female design team and I wanted that, that was purposeful and I am lucky to have them. And Clare Barrett is one of our most distinguished and very funny and capable of female actors.”

He talks in and around echoes of Beckett to the dialogue, the physicality of the characters and the musicality of this play scored by renowned jazz musician Jim Doherty. Jim is the playwright’s father.

Again, he returns to the “profundity and hilarity” at the heart of the matter, laid open to Limerick this Saturday night.