Janet is both writer and performer for Realtine/Noreen which will be at Shoreham’s Ropetackle on Sunday, October 2 at 7pm.
Poignant and funny, the double bill offers portraits of two very different Irish women and the results of growing up in a theocracy.
In Realtine, Deirdre joins a creative writing class but week after week fails to come up with a single word.
Today the dam has burst and her story comes pouring out and, with it, some long-buried secrets…
In Noreen, alone in her kitchen, normally-shy Noreen is in full battle cry, railing against her daughter, her husband, and her upwardly-mobile neighbours. But the neighbours aren’t really the problem…
Janet has recently enjoyed success with the pairing in Camden – a massive relief as she freely admits it has been the most terrifying thing she has ever done.
“Overcoming the fear, I felt terribly proud of myself, but I have to admit that people really loved them! The whole evening is only 40 minutes, but there is an awful lot to take away and think about.
“They are about two Irish women who have in different ways fallen foul or had their lives disrupted by something to do with the Catholic church, something to do with living in a society which is dominated by a religion.
“The first piece is a lovely lady called Deirdre, and she is taken from real life. I used to teach creative writing in the Hammersmith Irish Centre, and anybody who has ever been to a creative writing class will recognise the type.
“This woman would come along every week, week in, week out, always talking at cross-purposes, and you knew she would never, ever write a single word.
“One day, she was not there when the class began, and so I started, but she then flew in 20 minutes later, and she said she absolutely had to tell us all something. I was quite dismayed at the thought of her taking all the oxygen because there were other people there, but she told her story and we just sat there, jaws dropping!”
Janet has since tried to contact her again but hasn’t been able to. But it is her story that Janet will tell on stage in the first of her two one-woman pieces.
“The other one is a character from a play I wrote many, many years ago when I was a young mother living in Walthamstow in our first home.
“A very unusual lady lived next door. She was very, very shy when I met her in the street, but in the house, I could her hear her shouting through the walls, and sometimes she was shouting about me!
“I wrote this play giving both women a chance to speak, but I came across as a bit of a middle-class whinger, and so I put that part in the bin, and this other woman just came alive.
“This is the story of that woman who is very unhappy and can’t get out of the house but comforts herself with retelling things that have happened to her, some of them happy things, some of them quite devastating.
“I hadn’t actually realised until I had hired a theatre and got a director that I had never ever done a one-woman show before.
“It has been a real baptism of fire! I have never been more terrified in my life, but it went really well in Camden.”
Directed by Jessica Higgs. shorehamwordfest.com.
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