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Handling with care

London- Irish actress and playwright Eva Tritschler told David Hennessy about Careless, a new play set in the pandemic that deals with the pressures care workers were under in the midst of it.

A new play co-written by a Bromley- Irish actress and playwright deals with the pressures on those working on the front line during the pandemic.

The story of Careless, written by recent drama school graduates Eva Tritschler and Emma Francois, follows best friends Sam and Bryony.

Careless examines the complexities of female friendship as well as the pressures on those working in social care.

Both are struggling actors when Sam takes a job as a care assistant.

The play finds them on the night of Bryony’s birthday but Sam is far from in the mood to party.

Not only has she had the day from hell, she has possibly done something terrible.

Perhaps she was pushed to it but if what Sam fears is true, the party- and a lot more- could be over.

The play is based on personal experience as in 2020, in the midst of the pandemic, Emma François became a care assistant.

With no experience, she was thrown into a tough job of providing personal care in the home and attending to vulnerable individuals, some with Covid-19, and it was all emotionally and physically draining.

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Careless comes from her experiences in those times.

In 2021 Emma François and Eva Tritschler established Written Off Theatre and the play was their first production.

Emma plays the role of Sam while Eva plays Bryony.

Emma and Eva were brought up by NHS workers and have always believed in the value and importance of key workers.

Eva told The Irish World: “My mum’s a psychiatric nurse, and has been for about 32 years.

“She’s always worked for the NHS.

“And her (Emma’s) mother’s a GP. We both kind of had that in common.

“We both trained and graduated in 2019 when we finished drama school.

“Emma and I wrote the play in lockdown because she became a carer in the pandemic.

“She just needed a job.

“She had no experience really before and they give you two weeks of mediocre training, more or less shadowing people, and then they just chuck you in there.

“She was going into homes where the clients already had other problems, and then COVID, as well, so they were very vulnerable.

“I think she got to know the families quite well, you get quite attached.

“I think she found that quite difficult to not take it home emotionally and it was quite draining for her so it was nice to have the opportunity to kind of digest and debrief when she would talk to me.

“We would write down the feelings she was having, I think it helped kind of debrief her day sometimes.

“We kind of used that as our inspiration for the play.

“We just wrote it for something to do in lockdown.”

Careless is a story of friendship being pushed to the limit although it is told against the backdrop of the pandemic.

“It’s about two young women who are best friends, but this time in their lives is being tested.

“They’re very different. Although they’re best friends and they’re housemates, their lives are very, very different.

“Their days are different and Bryony isn’t quite understanding Sam’s stress and emotional trauma, because Bryony just thinks, ‘Oh my god, I can’t carry on with my career. I can’t do the things I want to do’.

Sam’s a bit like, ‘Well, you know, there are these other things going on in the world’.

“It’s a lot of pressure, which Emma definitely felt, I think.

“I think that our background, with our families, she has that caring nature to her.

“It’s wanting to do the best you can but also feeling a bit out of your depth.

“And then taking that worry home with you.

“And that’s what happens in the story is.

“It’s getting too much for her and she’s not noticing how it is affecting her.

“When she gets home, she finds it hard to switch off and the stress causes an incident to happen and it kind of ruins Bryony’s birthday because that’s the only thing she cares about.

“In the play, this is a bit gross, but we talk about how obviously she (Sam) had to clean a man’s foreskin.

“And she was like, ‘I never thought I would be doing that in my life’.

“And my character Bryony is just like in complete shock that that’s what she did today.

“Bryony’s just been watching TicTocs all day but not really living in the real world.”

The play has already enjoyed a sold out London run at the Lion & Unicorn Theatre as part of the Camden Fringe. This was followed by another sold out run at The Hope Theatre’s Spring Season.

Written Off Theatre will make their Edinburgh Fringe Festival debut this year after two more London preview shows at the Hen and Chickens Theatre.

How did it feel to perform it live? “Oh, it was great. It was really great.

“It was the first time performing again since the pandemic and it kind of felt like old times again, I guess.

“It was the first time I’d ever written anything and then performing my own work as well.

“So it was a bit scary because we were doing it all ourselves and had no idea what the reaction would be.

“Thankfully people found it funny, so that was that was a good feeling.

“A lot of my mum’s colleagues came and my cousin is a nurse as well.

“They did get a lot of the references to assisting patients and the struggle that they have every day: Being overworked and underpaid.

“It was nice just for key workers to hear their voice, I guess.”

Eva’s mother has been a nurse for 30+ years. Although the pandemic brought a new reverence for those on the front line, this did not translate into anything meaningful like a pay rise that reflected anything like that appreciation.

“The whole clap at eight o’clock, I think it was nice and I think it was a good gesture.

“But they want more than a clap at eight o’clock.

“My mum was always like, ‘You would be a lovely nurse’.

“I’m not a nurse, but we wrote a play about a carer.

“I think writing something for the people that you care about helps.

“And although it is a comedy, and there is music and dancing, a lot of Prosecco being drunk, I think it was nice to highlight how hard health care workers do work.

“Because I see my mum coming in after really long days. She’s always emailing and she finds it hard to switch off herself.

“It’s nice to recognize those people.

“Also we comment on the stress and mental health of working with patients.

“And I think, as my mum is a mental health nurse, she appreciated that as well, highlighting that the people who are trying to help others, they also need help themselves.”

Eva Tritschler.

Careless is set in March 2021. It is a year into the pandemic. While the initial fear may have rescinded for the public, those on the front line have had precious little respite for an entire year.

Perhaps the unrelenting nature of it causes Sam to act the way she does. When she finds something awful on one of her visits, she reacts by taking the edge off it with a drink before continuing to care for people which has disastrous results.

“As an audience member, do you feel bad that she’s been so stressed that she felt the need to go and have a drink and then carry on? Or do you think, ‘Oh my God, no, she’s a horrible person. How could she do that sort of thing?’

“It’s about the fine line between when it all gets too much. Or if maybe she’s got a problem, so those debates are in there as well.”

Although it may sound very serious and heavy, the play is also very funny and finds comedy in the serious subject matter.

“A lot of it is about girls living together as well and their friendship and how Sam, does want to have a good time. She does want to celebrate Bryony’s birthday.

“Especially after lockdown and everything.

“They do silly dances. They talk about kind of rude things.

“My dad was like, ‘I really enjoyed it, but then you said foreskin’.

“I was like, ‘Oh, sorry’.

“Yeah, there is some funny moments as well,

which I think you need. Especially after all the grimness over the last few years.”

From Kilkenny and Waterford, Eva’s parents moved over to England in the 1980s.

“My dad’s from Ferrybank, Waterford and my mum’s from Ballyragget, Kilkenny.

“School holidays I was always visiting there because my mum is one of nine so we have a big family.

“And my granddad had a farm in Ballyragget and he actually worked in Avonmore for a bit.

“Lots of cousins so we were always over there but I was the one with the funny accent who would come over: The English cousin, the one who lives in the city.

“It was good. They brought me down to earth.”

Emma Francois

I don’t believe I’ve heard of the Irish name Tritschler before..

“My dad’s great great granddad was from Germany and they came over years and years ago.

“And yeah, it’s the least Irish name ever.

“My dad’s side used to have a jewellers on the Quay in Waterford called Tritschler’s so it’s know there, everywhere else it’s Eva who?

“They used to actually call him O’ Tritschler just to make it sound a bit more Irish when he was in school.”

Are you ever taken for not being Irish due to the name? “They are surprised but then they see what I look like and then they go, ‘Oh, she’s red hair with lots of freckles, so it makes sense’.

“My mum trained in Waterford and met my dad, and then she got a job in the Maudsley Hospital in South London.

“So she came over here and then we just say that dad followed her over.”

Eva was raised in the Irish traditions of music and dance.

“I did Irish dancing until I was about maybe 15.

“And then I was like, ‘I’m not going to be a Michael Flatley so I’ll leave it there’.

“But I still do break into a jig after a few drinks.

“Somehow it’s just like muscle memory. It’s still there.

“I was in Killarney a couple of weeks ago with my cousin and my mum and her sister.

“Obviously, I just had to do a little bit of a jig, so I still pull it out now and then.

“We would go to the St. Patrick’s parade in London.

“And if there were any Irish plays on, mum would take me to them.

“It’s always been something that I feel like has definitely drawn me to the arts and writing as well.

“I think that the Irish are great at storytelling so it’s definitely always been part of me growing up and singing.

“You know, at every family event I would have to sing a song.

“Saturday my cousin from America was over.

“We sung Fields of Athenry, and a bit of Christy Moore. He came out. And yeah, I think the neighbours had enough. They definitely know we’re Irish at this point.”

Although it is early in her acting career, Eva has got to perform at the prestigious Gate Theatre in Dublin when she was part of showcase for the Federation of Drama Schools.

“They got all the Irish graduates from the UK and we all performed in Dublin to showcase to the Irish industry there.

“That was amazing. I got to meet lots of other Irish graduates from all the different drama schools in the UK. They brought us all together and we did some workshops with casting directors from Ireland.

“It was a great experience.”

Careless is at The Hen & Chickens Theatre, 109 St Paul’s Road, London N12 NA on 10-11 July.

Careless is at the Edinburgh Fringe in August.

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