Monday, February 7, 2011

Down the Rabbit Hole with Quarry Players

NICOLE Kidman has just received a Best Actress nomination in the upcoming Academy Awards for her taut and drawn portrayal of Becca in 'Rabbit Hole', John Cameron Mitchell’s movie adaptation of David Lindsay-Aubaire’s Pulitzer Prize winning play.
Playing a sort of Stepford wife character who spends her days tending to her garden, Kidman’s performance is a restrained and gut-wrenching examination of the problems dealing with grief - the central theme of a play that is held as one of the greats of American theatre.

Having secured the rights to the play and a top class director in Dara Carolan, an accomplished playwright, actor and graduate of the London Guildhall who has appeared at Ireland’s top venues and toured internationally, the Limerick based theatre group Quarry Players have pulled off something off a coup in that they will be producing the Irish premiere of the renowned play at the Belltable next week.

“We got the rights after a year and a half looking for them for Quarry Players, so it is nice timing to be able to jump on the fact that the movie hasn’t been released in Ireland yet - it has in America to great acclaim, and we are looking to jump on that bandwagon over here,” says local actor Zeb Moore, who stars in the play as Becca’s husband, Howie, and is PRO with the Quarry Players.
Indeed, the acclaimed movie is released on these shores four days ahead of Quarry’s production, which boasts a cast of five; Moore, Michelle O’Flanagan, who plays the Kidman character, Niamh O’Meara, Bernie Hayes and Conor J Ryan.

“It is great timing with the Oscar announcement, but this piece is renowned as one of the best to come out of America,” says Zeb, well known on the local scene for star turns with Quarry over the past six years, plus work with Impact, Teaspach and his own theatre company Magic Roundabout, whose one man play Spinal Krapp took him to UnFringed and Electric Picnic last year.

Rabbit Hole was brought to Quarry’s attention, “nearly two years ago”, Zeb explains, and it had a dramatic effect on the theatre group.

“When we read it, we all fell in love with it. It just fell into the right place this time around, when we sought the rights, they were available and we decided to move on it,” he says.

The play is a fluid one and largely plot-free, save for the central strand, which deals with Howie and Becca’s attempts to deal with the tragic death of their four year old son. However, there are elements of wit and humour, and the tagline runs that “no-one would ever call Rabbit Hole a comedy about grief, it is a play that shows how close comedy and tragedy really are”.

“The play pivots around the family and how each individual family member copes with this traumatic experience, and whether they can move on,” explains Zeb.
“In saying that, even though the context of the play is based around this tragic accident, the play doesn’t dwell on that sentimentality aspect, there are comedic parts - the attraction to the play is the normality of it, these are real people, this is how life goes on, rather than being dramatised,” he reasons.
Zeb adds: “There is a lot of wit and humour in it”.

Originally from Dublin, Zeb moved to Limerick 11 years ago with his wife.

“We said we would give it a year and if it didn’t work out, we could leave. That was 11 years ago, which is great,” he laughs, his most recent work as casting director on The Outlaw Concy Ryan for RTE’s Storyland project.

A chance encounter several years ago with a director led to a small film role, and Zeb hasn’t looked back. A nephew of Eurovision star Butch Moore, he is a firm believer in getting involved in all aspects of theatre in order to learn the craft. He is staunchly proud of Quarry, who have been an established theatre group for close on 40 years.

“Quarry Players have prided themselves on several Irish premieres in the past, nor is this the biggest production,” he explains. “They have run for 40 years and have had huge, significant successes in the past.

“This production is different in-so-far as it is not your typical mainstream piece, it is a little bit off a tangent, it was just that the writing was so brilliant that it drew us in,” he adds.
Rabbit Hole runs in the Belltable on February 8-12. For bookings see here.

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