CAILLEACH ÓG, JESUS, HOMER SIMPSON, ME & DUFF BEER…
by Gerry Moynihan.
Sometimes you write something and when its finished, or more precisely when it finally reaches a level of acceptability, you are left wondering rather as one of the characters in CAILLEACH ÓG might put it, “Where in under Jesus did that come from?”
I’ll try and retrace some of my steps.
For a ten minute play challenge I wrote a scenario called CAILLEACH ÓG involving two women in the west of Ireland having a confrontation over a missing man. The play involved a black hole (i.e. a circular piece of black cloth) and it appeared that the man was pushed into the hole by one of the women, CAILLEACH ÓG, who also subsequently pushed the other woman – her adversary – in as well, only for her to get mauled to death by a ferocious animal. The man is then made to re-appear by CAILLEACH ÓG in the form of a small black kitten…
See what I mean?
“Where in under Jesus did that come from?”
But it was only when I won the Blackshaw Showcase Award that I revisited the script and tried to answer that because now I was charged with the challenge of turning it into a full length play due to be staged roughly nine months thence.
I immediately had to confront a series of questions.
To once again echo the character in CAILLEACH ÓG; “Who in under Jesus was CAILLEACH ÓG and where in under Jesus did she come from?”
“What in under Jesus was it really about anyway?” and so on.
The “when and where in under Jesus?” were the easiest questions to answer; it would still be set somewhere in the west of Ireland in the present day.
Next came the “Who in under Jesus?”
“The Cailleach” is a figure from Irish/Scottish mythology who shaped the landscape. She was very often portrayed as an ‘old hag’. I found out that this was largely down to the usurping of of pagan mythology by Christian mythology and, as a sign of the churches future patriarchal nature, “The Cailleach” was recast from being a powerful Goddess/deity, to that of and old hag, who was barren and who lamented the loss of her youth. That was why I had already decided from the outset that I would call her CAILLEACH ÓG, óg being the Irish word for young for I wanted to make her young(er) and feisty again.
The “What in under Jesus?” was going to be harder and so “I played it by ear” as the saying goes.
And after many false starts and attempts at different scenarios I sat down one day and the whole opening scene in the pub seemed to write itself and there was very little about that scene that would change. Indeed it would dictate the general direction that the rest of the play would take. And so, there it was; instead of an Irish man walking into the pub and being the main story teller it would be a woman; CAILLEACH ÓG – younger, feisty and of course, enigmatic.
I now had the main characters and the pub setting – a solid basis on which to build since the first scene raised all the questions that an audience would expect to be answered in some way or another… so my work was cut out for me… to try and answer those questions was the spur needed to move forward and progress.
I also knew by then that I would be incorporating either poetry, song, dance or music or perhaps a combination of all three as music and song loom large in my background having been a gigging musician all my life in various guises. And so to this end I rifled through my music and book collection.
Then it was time to mull again…
After another bout of fits and starts in the writing I took a break from it until I went on holiday where I found that I was able to move forward… just as well because it was coming up to Christmas and the showcase was scheduled for March.
I came back from holiday, submitted a draft, was happy with the feedback, made some changes, did a lot of tweaking and suddenly the story direction was becoming clear. I was of course hoping that any meaning(s) taken from the play would amount to a lot more than the sum of its parts – that certain themes would come to the fore – but it is a matter for the audience to decide upon as to whether or not this is the case and if I am successful in that respect.
Eventually after months of feeling like Homer Simpson – who, when he decided to get fit, took on the challenge of climbing a mountain and each time mistakenly thinking that he’s reached the summit, only to find that it was in fact just another ledge on the way to the real summit – I finally felt that I made it to the summit.
There was only one thing to do.
Just like Homer, get in some Duff beer and bask for a while on the sofa.
But still, all I could think as I swilled my Duff was – “Where in under Jesus did that come from?”