“Jungle Door” Preview: Interview with Rena Bryson

“A visual delight Jungle Door invites its audience to indulge in the joyous, disheartening and hopeful moments over a year shared by Michelle and Louise. Their problematic relationship as friendly ex-lovers is challenged by marriage, jealousy and the housing crisis. Smiling through the Botox, Michelle plans her perfect day unaware her bridesmaid is hiding a dark and dangerous secret.”

On the 29th of April 2018, Eva’s Echo Theatre Company is celebrating one year in business with the final rehearsal of their play “Jungle Door”. Rena Bryson has taken up the pen in order to write their contribution to the “Where We Are Festival” hosted by The Rabbit’s Riot Theatre Company in the north-west. She stars alongside her co-founder Hazel Doolan in a piece that will take them back to their home stage, the Sligo IT Black Box, on the 3rd, 4th (8pm) and 5th (2pm) of May. It’s directed by Elizabeth Flaherty and set designed by Sabrina Kelleher, with beautifully photographed projections and promotional shots by Piotr Lyszkiewicz.

On the 28th of April, I caught her for an interview on what we might expect and what they hope to achieve with “Jungle Door.”

“Jungle Door is a really fun piece in that it moves between the natural and into more abstract; a lot of use of digital media. I feel that it really reflects modernised Ireland and the focus is the relationship between the two characters, Louise and Michelle. It’s a very digital media based show in a lot of ways. There’s a lot of projections and seeing that live contact between the live body on stage and the digital representation. We’re kind of playing with how people represent themselves on social media through that.”

It’s been described as a “visual delight” brought into being by their director and new set designer. It also has some previously shot projections and elements of modern folksong. It can be seen as a comment on modern culture which is very much what Eva’s Echo tries to do in its ethos.

“Jungle Door looks at the housing crises and how this can have such an effect on people, especially younger people who are moving from rural communities and the jobs just seem to be in urban settings for them and the prices of the houses are just so ridiculous and just what can happen to people through that and dangerous situations that young people and especially young women can get themselves into. And it also looks on the expectations of our kind of generation, just societal pressures. So, one of the characters is getting married and she wants to live alone with her partner in the house even though they can’t afford it because it seems like that’s where they’re supposed to be at that stage of their lives.

“It also looks at beauty standards towards women. Michelle, especially as it’s come up to her wedding date becomes more and more obsessed with her looks and is eventually drawn towards plastic surgery to try and create this bridal look of this ridiculous idea that you’re going to look the most beautiful you’ve ever looked on this one particular day and that nothing should go wrong to affect that.”

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As regards the connection between the two main characters, she says

“Michelle and Louise are ex-lovers and Louise is definitely still inclined towards Michelle and it comes very much from a focus on what life was like when they were together and really wanting to hang on to that phase of life and to their memories and to their relationship and to the way that is was and not the way that it is anymore. But underneath all that, what ties them together is the friendship that was present in their relationship and it really holds them together and helps them support each other in the struggles that they face in modern Ireland.”

She feels happy with the progress they’ve made as a company over the last year and with “Jungle Door.”

” I feel that in the last year that we have achieved putting modern Ireland on a stage. We want to … bring in more younger people to the theatre. It’s not kitchen sink dramas all the time, it’s something that a modern generation can see themselves in, empathise with and a discussion of the issues that are affecting them.

“It’s been a great experience putting this play together and I’m just absolutely, ridiculously grateful to have worked with such an amazing team. It really is a very strong team and it’s the first time because we’re such a young company that we’re working with all the people that we’ve worked with before and its so great to see all those people back and in the same room together working towards the same goal. It’s been a really lovely experience. I’m excited for people to see the show.”

The “Jungle Door” team from left to right: Hazel Doolan, Elizabeth Flaherty, Sabrina Kelleher and Rena Bryson. Photos courtesy of Piotr Lyszkiewicz

For more information and tickets, be sure to check out the “Jungle Door” Facebook event page https://bit.ly/2KlWPiD as well as follow Eva’s Echo Theatre Company on social media.

Interview with Rena Bryson: “The Way It Is”

It’s been pleasure getting to know the projects of the Eva’s Echo Theatre Company. They’re part of the new, upcoming theatre scene in Galway, having won “Best Emerging Artist” at the Galway Fringe Festival with their debut production. This month, on the the 22nd February at the O’Donohue Theatre during NUIG’s Theatre Week, their newest drama, “The Way It Is” is expected to make audiences think about the complexities of human nature, relationships, male victims of domestic violence and the dilemma of women’s life choices today.

Among the budding talent to be found at this year’s NUIG Theatre Week will be an incisive one-hour play, aptly entitled The Way It Is, written by American playwright Donna Hoke, adapted for a Galway setting and staged through Eva’s Echo Theatre Company. It promises to deliver a complex, many-layered exploration of the problems in a couple’s relationship that can come to light after a break-up. It will be held on the 22nd February 2018 at 8.00 pm in the O’Donoghue Theatre, University Road. Tickets are €8 at concession or €10 general admission and can be purchased at the SocsBox and on their website http://bit.ly/2BLj00D

In an interview on the 1st February 2018, director and co-founder of Eva’s Echo Theatre Company, Rena Bryson said that out of nearly 100 submissions, The Way It Is stood out as quite a meaty script with many twists and turns, chosen for its compelling emotional drama which fits in with the overall themes the company tries to address. They aim to “express the modern soul of Ireland,” voicing the challenges present in modern Irish culture today. They also strive to help other emerging artists through involvement in their shows and by always crediting and paying everyone committedly.

“The play focuses on the relationship between two characters, Yasmine and Cane, and they’ve been together for eight years, they’ve been engaged for four and Cane leaves Yasmine and then has to go back to the house they both shared together to collect the rest of his things. The drama kind of ensues from there and in real time we get to explore the issues that were in relationship and really kind of look at issues through that, like the pressure on women to, you know, have the career and the ring and everything by thirty and that there’s that kind of ticking clock thing. We get to look a lot at domestic abuse towards men, verbal and physical and sexual abuse towards men.

“What I’ve been kind of looking at through the lens of is a lot of media, especially sitcoms and television, and the stereotype of the nagging girlfriend or the nagging wife and where that can go from a stereotype, a fun comedy character into something that people think is okay to do because it’s a woman doing it.

“I do feel that those issues do speak to that age group, like, student age group and that people of this generation are looking at those kind of things that were never looked at before. We’ve been in contact with Amen and with the Galway Rape Crises Centre so we’ll have information and support numbers there on the night in case anyone’s affected by anything they’ve seen in the play.”

The male lead Cane will be played by Michael Reed, a professional actor for 13 years and the voice behind Mickey Mouse, Spiderman, Hiccup in How to Train Your Dragon and Speed Racer in Croatia. He’s written a few things too and is expected to appear in the new Irish film Black 47 and Red Rock.

It will also star the company’s second founder, Hazel Doolan as Yasmine. She is very much influenced by the works of Shakespearean drama in her acting. She featured in The Big Wall with Bob Kelly and Pygmalion. She and Rena Bryson graduated from IT Sligo where they studied Performing Arts before coming to Galway and setting up Eva’s Echo. The upcoming production company is best known for their debut Match, a romantic comedy that earned them Galway Fringe Festival’s ‘Best Emerging Artist’ award in 2017.

Rena is now a student in NUIG and started the MA programme in Drama & Theatre last September where she learns theatre directing. She has nothing but praise for the quality of drama coming out of NUIG. In particular she’s looking forward to the Jerome Hayes one act plays as well as “Dead Set” by Cathal Ryan during Theatre Week.