Final year DIT student Joleen O’Brien is courting both critical acclaim and controversy in equal measure with her final year production “Any Summers.”
The play, sponsored by Dublin City Council, is based on six women from diverse backgrounds who attend an Ann Summers party. The play opens with the traditional sex games that are the hallmark of the popular parties. Writer Joleen O’Brien promises that the play is not merely “slapstick” and as the cast’s colourful pasts come to light she predicts that audiences will laugh and cry in equal measure.
The play will run in the Axis theatre Ballymun from 10th- 12th April.
The dress rehearsal for the play was set to take place in the Dochas centre, the women’s section of Mountjoy prison. This decision was subsequently revoked in the wake of negative public reaction.
O’Brien says that the decision to bring the play to the Dochas centre was fuelled by an empathetic view of rehabilitation. “Theatre is the closest representation of real life that allows people to make assessments… why should we on the outside world not give our female inmates the same opportunity to reflect, identify and evaluate life through art?”
The play, says O’Brien, was written for women and she doesn’t see why it should only be accessible to some.
When governor Mary O’Connor granted permission for the dress rehearsal the Irish Mirror quoted independent TD Finian McGrath blasting the move. The TD called the decision to stage the play for female prisoners inappropriate.
Expanding on this point when speaking to campus.ie McGrath clarified that he was “in favour of drama in prisons that would help build self-esteem but held personal reservations about content that could potentially glamorise the sexual exploitation of women.” McGrath confirmed that he had not seen the play but hoped to make it to the Axis this weekend.
The public reaction from the Irish Mirror story and McGrath’s comments caused the Dochas centre to revoke the decision to allow the dress rehearsal to take place in the prison. O’Brien said that McGrath had no right to pass judgement on the play before seeing it and that the play delved into serious issues such as domestic abuse, miscarriage and infidelity that are issues close to the heart of many women. She also noted that the play in no way glamorised the sexual exploitation of women.