I am delighted to be part of this new adaptation of The Unmanageable Sisters by Deirdre Kinahan directed by Graham Mclaren opening in The Abbey Theatre at the end of February. A fantastic cast who will knock every bit of fun and social comment out of this great script.
The Unmanageable Sisters is an adaptation of Les Belles-Sœurs, a much-fêted Quebecois comedy from 1965 by French-Canadian playwright Michel Tremblay.The impact of this work is still being debated in Quebec today, but suffice it to say that it changed much of what was believed to be Quebec culture; language, the form of theatre, which plays should be done at which theatres, the displacing of the Old Guard. Indeed, when it was proposed for the Dominion Drama Festival it was turned down by the jury. It was Tremblay’s first professionally produced (and now his most-produced and most often translated) work. It set off a storm of controversy, firstly because of the language (a particularly raucous – some say vulgar – joual), and then because it dared to portray working class women doing working class things. Also, it went after men. None of this sounds particularly special today, but in 1968, theatre in Quebec was just releasing itself from religious and morality plays and joining (late) in the Quiet Revolution; although Marcel Dubé and Gratien Gélinas had been writing about “normal” folk for years, they had not been doing it quite like this. The premiere also reinforced the emergence of a long and still-fruitful artistic relationship between Tremblay and director Brassard.
Deirdre Kinahan has relocated Tremblay’s story, setting the action in Ballymun in 1973.
The story is that of Ger Lawless, who has won a million Green Shield Stamps from the supermarket, and has invited 14 of her friends around to help her stick all the stamps into their booklets. As they stick, the women discuss the men in their lives, the church, and their small joys. And they also all rob her stamps.
Tremblay’s play was a revelation in the 1960s for its depiction of working class life, and Kinahan’s update, The Unmanageable Sisters, will provide you with just the same thrills and insights in this startling Irish retake.
Look forward to start rehearsals next week.