‘Inhabitance’ at The Project Arts Centre: Interview with Writer Peter Dunne

Peter Dunne- Inhabitance at The Project Arts Centre
Inhabitance director Peter Dunne

Glass Doll Productions returns to The Project Arts Centre this Spring with Peter Dunne’s new play, Inhabitance.

Reuniting the team behind the massively successful production of Broadening, Inhabitance challenges the ideas of selflessness and altruism, asking us how far we would really go for someone else?

Lucy Hill is missing. Her mother Priscilla has done everything to find her.  Police have been called. Streets scoured and appeals launched. But Lucy is fading from memory, fast. If the public could only connect with Lucy, understand her, listen to her story, maybe they could help to find her. If only there was a way to make people care?

Inhabitance. Welcome to the future of mass entertainment.

Pure M caught up with Writer Peter Dunne ahead of the opening show to really get under the skin of this exciting new production.

Peter Dunne- Inhabitance at The Project Arts Centre
Inhabitance writer Peter Dunne

What motivated you to write Inhabitance?

After our brilliant experience of working together on Broadening, myself and actress Michelle McMahon (who also appears in Inhabitance) decided to collaborate on something new and a little darker.  During a brainstorming session we came up with an idea – rehearsing a tragedy. This really stirred something – the knowledge that a bad event had or was going to happen but instead of trying to change it, a person would choose to relive it over and over. From there we went on to think about how someone else’s pain could become a mass entertainment. So with those cheery ideas circulating, Inhabitance was born.

Each person is aware they aren’t creating in a vacuum, that all the cogs have to slot together or else the machine won’t work.

What is the dynamic between Glass Doll Productions and yourself that made Broadening such a success, and brought the team back together to work on Inhabitance?

It’s not just Glass Doll Productions (Aoife Moroney-Ward and Donncha O’Dea) who I’ve reunited with on Inhabitance, it’s also director Ronan Phelan, set and lighting designer Zia Holly, sound designer Denis Clohessy and photographer Oliver Kehoe Smith who made the poster/viral!

It was such a revelation working with this crew previously on Broadening – to see that a limited budget was no constraint to what they could achieve. To have your work staged with that level of polish and professionalism is a writer’s dream. I know my work is really dark but luckily the gang respond to it. I feel we mesh well together as there is an open dialogue across the team and transparency in each area. Each person is aware they aren’t creating in a vacuum, that all the cogs have to slot together or else the machine won’t work. Productions that achieve that are rarer than you’d think, so, if it ain’t broke don’t fix it!

What are the differences between the social experiments in Broadening and the challenging of the idea of selflessness in Inhabitance?

I would say the more interesting thing is not the differences but the similarities. The social experiment in Broadening and the selflessness in Inhabitance are both firmly rooted in the ideal of altruism – the desire to do something for the betterment of the world. It is when idealism mixes with reality and human nature that things really start to get interesting.

Dealing with themes of power, complicity and exploitation, Broadening and Inhabitance are the first two plays in my ‘Complicity Trilogy’. Although both may be variations on a theme, it is their characters and stories which couldn’t be more different.

My aim first and foremost was to create a dark mystery with hints of black comedy…

Is the play a contemporary social commentary?

I have a big belief that the rise of certain mass entertainments and the facelessness of the internet  are having a huge impact on society’s empathy levels.

There’s a line in the play that says “If a person can remain faceless, the go-to emotion is hate”, which is an exaggeration of course, but there’s a huge piece of that which is true. You just have to look at comments under videos or articles, some of them you’re like ‘Wow, where did that level of anger come from’.

Things like the dehumanising rise in internet shaming, reality entertainments feeling the need to create a villain no matter the show, if you think about it too long it can get a little frightening. As our forms of entertainment are becoming more solitary and with a huge portion of our lives being lived online, it can’t help but drive us apart.

Saying all that though, my aim first and foremost was to create a dark mystery with hints of black comedy which touches on those ideas rather than them being the thrust of the play. Now while that may all seem really heavy, you will get a few laughs from this! Whether you feel good about them afterwards is another story.

Most theatre can be regarded as a weird experiment – we’re gathering you all in a room and showing you something we created in order to elicit an emotional response…

Will the audience technically be taking part in a social experiment, for example, “being made to care” about Lucy, the missing girl?

While the audience won’t be taking part in a social experiment, we are dealing with ideas about empathy and selflessness that may make them query their own beliefs and preconceptions. Any successful work should have an impact on its audience so I suppose in a way, most theatre can be regarded as a weird experiment – we’re gathering you all in a room and showing you something we created in order to elicit an emotional response. That’s something that’s wonderfully weird about theatre – the fact that it’s real people pretending to be other people, attempting to make another group of people feel the same thing at the same time, and every night will be slightly different.

Which is my roundabout way of saying you should really go see Inhabitance a few times during its run!

 

 

LISTINGS INFORMATION:
Venue: Project Arts Centre
Dates: 4th May – 14th May
Preview: 29th April, 30th April, 3rd May
Time:  8.15
Tickets:  €16/14
Booking Information: (01) 8819 613 or www.projectartscentre.ie