GALWAY PLAYWRIGHT Christian O’Reilly and actor John Mahoney have lit up previous Galway International Arts Festivals with their contributions, but 2014 sees them joining forces in O’Reilly’s acclaimed new play Chapatti.
Christian’s previous Artsfest credits include his professional debut with Druid’s production of The Good Father in 2002 and last year’s hit show for Blue Teapot, Sanctuary, while John Mahoney has become a regular visitor to Galway with a range of shows from Steppenwolf, Chicago’s Northlight Theatre Company, and Irish Repetory Theatre of Chicago.
Chapatti centres on the relationship between two lonely, elderly pet-lovers from Dublin. When forlorn Dan and his dog Chapatti cross paths with the amiable Betty and her 19 cats, an unexpected spark begins a warm and gentle story about two people rediscovering the importance of human companionship. The play premiered in Chicago in March to great public and critical acclaim.
“It surpassed my expectations in all kinds of ways,” O’Reilly admits. “It got an amazing audience reaction - full houses and standing ovations, a really good critical reaction, and it was one of Northlight’s best-selling shows. We had previously done a rehearsed reading in November 2012 in front of an audience of 200 and it was so well received it encouraged us all to believe we had something an audience would respond to. So it proved with the actual production. I went over there with my wife Ailbhe and our son Cóilín, who is four, ahead of the production. It was cold there and snowing and it was the first time Cóilín had ever seen snow so it was just a great adventure”
While Christian has previously had his plays done by the likes of front-rank Irish companies such as Druid and Rough Magic, this was the first time one of his plays has been premiered by an overseas ensemble. He is full of praise for his time working with Northlight.
“It was a great experience working with them,” he tells me. “Just as people and a theatre company I found them incredibly welcoming and accommodating. When we went over they helped us find accommodation and made sure we were OK, they were very mindful of us, it’s like we were adopted as part of their family and there is a real family atmosphere about Northlight and that was lovely.”
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