Notions is a comedic two hander that uses outlandish, exaggerated techniques to portray the
universally common relationship of best friends. The oddball pair of opposites rely on each other for survival in a world they view from a self-made pedestal whilst creating sparks of destruction and chaos in each other’s lives. Reminiscent of ‘Little Britain’ in performance style when the pair regularly portray comedic caricatures when retelling anecdotes and there is something of a ‘Walworth Farce’ feel to their staple, long-distance phone conversations when they slip into familiar duologues of experiences that have happened and future plans that they promise to realise. As their speech overlaps and punchlines are told in unison from their respective homes, one hundred miles apart, we begin to understand how often they have been saying the same thing and question will their plans ever become more than fantasy or will they forever keep recollecting falsities and overcelebrating
small victories on the phone to satisfy their egos and ignore their reality. There is a duplicity to the
staging where the self-professed icons are surrounded by mirrors. At first, we view the mirrors as empowering but as the play continues we begin to see that our heroes rely far too much on good lighting to be seen at all.
As the reflection wanes and blurs depending on angle and position, we come to understand that nothing is ever truly preserved apart from stories. But you can only go so far while retelling the same old stories and an interesting reflection never stands still.
Commedia dell’arte mixed with naturalism.
100 minutes with 10 minute interval. Audiences invited up to tell their most ‘Notions’-esque tale during the interval as Kopperburg is served in champagne flutes.
Two Acts. With a prologue at the beginning and an epilogue at the end.
The opening is a play on Michael Jackson’s ‘Man in the Mirror’ as the two present themselves as icons
admiring ‘the man in the mirror’.
The prologue is split into sections. Each section is told by Eoghan and Val respectively. Each version of each section being dramatically different, presenting the idea of perspective being everything and highlighting the difference in the personalities and thoughts of our two key protagonists.
Equally, the epilogue is split into sections, again told respectively. This time, however, the versions are more similar to each other.
There will be frequent fantastical vignettes (similar to the Walworth farce) when Eoghan and Val
recollect stories over the phone. These stories will comprise of deviations from real happenings of the past coupled with projections of potential occurrences in the future.
Equally, when they mention people to each other over the phone, the other character automatically embodies the mentioned person and impersonates them in a commedia dell’arte style.
These characterisations will not be dissimilar from Pat Kinevane’s impersonations in ‘Silent’. Extremely physical, each note and accent well-rehearsed and comedic. There will be recurring characters that the audience will come to recognise and appreciate.
Valerie will frequently end scenes with comedic raps on the piano. The classical piano will contrast with the Cardi-B style hard-hitting lyrics she raps.
When Eoghan gets particularly excited or annoyed due to an imagined slight, he will revert to femme fatale complete with towel-balanced-on head realness and bitterly swishing a wineglass full of drama. The lights and music will accommodate this and his resemblance to Bette Davis will be come ever-increasingly, forebodingly accurate. This will be done very stylistically with posturing and clever references to famed lines from Davis’s most notable dramatic turns in her films.
The structure of the play will progress from extreme delusion based on nothing to the character’s reluctance to change to forced action and finally to a reconsideration of their perception of reality.
Why we are telling this particular story
It would be easy to compare our story to other stories about millennials stuck in a rutt, such as ‘The Young Offenders’ or ‘Going Nowhere’ or ‘Can’t Cope, Won’t Cope’ (Stephanie Preissner was Valerie’s former youth theatre teacher after all) but that would equally be reductive, pointless and entirely irrelevant.
If one looks at any period in time, there will be productions that reflected the current socio-economic status and why should this period be any different? The vague, external comparisons between these productions may look real but they are simply a framework (a framework that is necessary to place us in the modern day, to which audiences will be able to
relate) but beyond that foundation comes the depth and importance of the story. There are so many different facets to Notions that we believe are so important and relatively unique that need to be given a platform. We believe that the complexities of identity in relation to homosexuality, an economic crisis that impacts on everybody regardless of education or location, the depression that so often and so evidently comes with the ability of directly comparing oneself to your peers with the click of a facebook notification. We explore feeling of worthlessness that modern society has imposed on itself by giving ourselves unlimited access to one other. The inability to lie to oneself anymore even when we really, really need to.
We will also broach the idea of maturity. Are we any less mature because we are less wealthy? Should we not be allowed to voice our displeasure and dissatisfaction towards our parents when our parents are feeding us, keeping us alive? Should we be forced to look at ourselves in the mirror when we so freely and so ferociously criticize everybody else?
We demand to know what is wrong with denial and delusion if it’s the only thing that keeps us from depression? After all, wasn’t escapism always used to avoid facing up to looking at one’s own reflection?
A truly integral part of this production are the stories retold. Modern day stories that reflect on the increased transparency of the internet age. But, with increased transparency, comes increased hypocrisy. This new awareness of everybody else has created an enlightening that causes everybody to want to cut corners as opposed to promoting a greater work ethic (which it would do in the ideal, Orwellian world).
Through their retold stories, Val and Eoghan detail events in which
they encounter classmates in their mid-twenties who speak with such mindless, insensitive openness about the idiocy of those less wealthy than them or less fortunate than them. Our protagonists impersonate the lazy gargoyles of the modern age whose inherited wealth affords them their perch from which they openly, loudly demean others. Because these gargoyles have such an inflated sense of self-worth, they believe they are just in admonishing the behavior of others without seeing their offensive phrasing as hypocritical or bad in any way.
It will highlight how sometimes censorship is necessary. Not everybody should be given a platform, regardless of how many browsers they have open. It is freedom of speech, not freedom of slander.
It will also highlight the discrepancies present in modern day between people who consider themselves educated and people who consider themselves to be woke. We ask why is it that the youth of today care so much about American politics and yet, couldn’t name an Irish Minister? Why must the youth of today create infinite facebook albums of their travels abroad and never venture outside their doorstep in the beautiful area available to them in our nations scenic surroundings? Why can’t we appreciate ourselves for who we are instead of investing so much money in seeming better than everybody else by presenting something out of their reach?
We satirically ask, isn’t the point of all of this to seem better than everybody else anyway? If wealth wasn’t to be used to distance yourself from others, what is it for?
Equally, in an age, where Education has adapted to suit various abilities and to have different levels of accessibility, we explore the idea of education becoming a rat race. Those who get their first, with or without merit, perhaps via a series of endless grinds purchased by knowing parents frequently do not have the maturity level or emotional intelligence required to suit the positions of responsibility that they find themselves in. It’s the Dunnes Stores Manager who fires a member of staff for making jokes in his presence, with no regard for her circumstances. It’s the Doctor who spends his time trivializing the role of Nurses in the back room instead of doing his job. We look at the tendency of today's youth to make disparaging comments about tradition and culture and the Irish language and identity who equally evidence no pride in their own origin.
We ask what do these people see when they look at themselves?
The people who claim everybody should have a choice, as long as they get to determine the threshold for choice. The people who will block book seats to see the Pope in order to prevent somebody from doing what they would like to do who will call religion out from preventing them from doing what they want to do.
Who the audience is for this play and how we will widen the audience
Due to the nature of the theme and content of the play, the piece will be aimed at an audience exceeding the age of sixteen but not limited beyond that. It’s perhaps most relevant to recent graduates, people living with their parents and people stuck in unemployment. But relevance is not everything, as everybody will be able to appreciate the people that Eoghan and Val represent, whether they have a child or relative like this or they lectured them in college or simply they have ever seen somebody eccentric in the street and wondered ‘how did they turn into this?’
There will be a lot of references throughout the production to various different philosophers (Voltaire/Socrates etc.), film noir quotes (from the era of Cult Cinema) and popular modern-day artists (such as Cardi-B) but none of these references will rely on prior knowledge or will limit the understanding of the audience. References that are not inherently clear/obvious will be written in a way that increases the audiences awareness as opposed to requiring them to have known something already
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Valerie is a professionally trained writer. She specialized in Advanced Writing at Trinity College, Dublin and achieved a 1.1. She has had work produced/presented with Tribeca Performing Arts Centre, The Galway Fringe Festival, The Dionysian Literary Journal, The Venus Adonis Festival, DU Shakespeare Festival and DU Players. She recently completed writing Series One of NOTIONS.