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Manning up

Alan and Rhys in a scene from LAD. Picture: Keith Dixon.

Alan Mahon told David Hennessy how the rugby rape trial inspired him to co-write LAD which explores toxic masculinity, how Pauline McLynn makes everything sound hilarious and why he hopes two bums on the poster will get bums on seats.

Fresh from their successful recent run of Flights that has been rewarded with a nomination for Best Ensemble at the Off West End Theatre Awards, Irish theatre company One Duck will bring a new play that explores the issue of toxic masculinity to London following a sold out run in Dublin last year. LAD is co-written by One Duck’s creative director Alan Mahon and Rhys Dunlop, both of whom also act in it.

Alan Mahon told The Irish World the play the rape trial of rugby players Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding inspired him to think about men’s place in the modern world: “The idea popped into my head. It was not long after the Belfast trial and then I think we both read Louise O’Neill’s book Asking for It.

“The media and the zeitgeist forced me to reflect on what it means to be a man.”

LAD sees Alan play Steve who has always been a lad. However, when Steve’s friends give in to the ‘latest fad’ of feminism, Steve feels like an endangered species with nobody to talk to but his lad.

“We got this idea in our heads. What if we put, not unlike Brian Friel’s Philadelphia, Here I Come, the voice of someone’s masculinity inside their head? What if we personified that?

“Rhys is playing the voice of masculinity inside in my character’s head or as some people have seen it, he’s playing the personification of a penis.

“It’s a comedy first and foremost.”

Flights dealt with hard-hitting issues like the effects of austerity, lost youth and the prevalence of suicide in Irish society. LAD sees them tackling another issue that has been all over global media in recent years with movements such as #metoo.

“I think the message in the media sometimes around it can be, ‘Men, you’re bad’. I wonder if there’s a more positive way of coming at it. It’s not only women who are victims of toxic masculinity, it’s not good for men either. Wouldn’t it be great if we could say, ‘Lads, actually if you felt okay expressing your emotions and you didn’t feel the need to be the big man the whole time, you might be a little bit happier in yourself’. And then obviously there will be positive results of that for women and for men and society in general.

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“If you go back to the very early days of childhood, boys are given blue toys, girls are given pink toys. Men are encouraged to play sport possibly more than women and they’re kind of encouraged to be stoic and not to show their emotions. Maybe violence to some extent is encouraged, certainly on the GAA pitch.

“Even in terms of relationships when we were growing up sex was something that men tried to trick women into giving them. If you grow up hearing that all the time, you can’t help but develop this masculinity that we all have inside ourselves. Actually I think it’s great now that people are starting to step back and ask some questions of themselves without beating yourself up either because we grew up in the society we grew up in. It’s not necessarily our fault that sometimes we behave in these toxic masculine ways but wouldn’t it be great if we could change them a bit.”

One Duck are quickly establishing themselves as Ireland’s most prolific emerging theatre company. In addition to their acclaimed and critically acclaimed run of Flights, they had a work-in-progress showing of another play A Young Man Comes in February which starred Pauline McLynn who is known for playing Mrs. Doyle in Father Ted.

Alan met Pauline on the set of Last Night in Soho, the forthcoming film from Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz director, Edgar Wright in which he plays a role: “It was a pleasure to be along for the ride.

“She did a play reading for us last month. I think it went down really well. Pauline is obviously a fantastic actress. She was saying lines that I had written and I hadn’t planned on them being funny and as soon as you put them in Pauline’s mouth, they’re hilarious.”

Alan’s cast mate Rhys Dunlop has just finished acting in three-hander Flights and has also shared the screen with Christopher Ecclestone in BBC’s Come Home. He has been nominated for an Irish Times Irish Theatre Award for his role in Punk Rock at the Lyric Theatre, Belfast.

On the Offie nomination, Alan says: “We’re delighted. The boys are brilliant. They’re three really strong performances. I know myself and John and Tom, the writer and director, are all delighted with the work that they’ve been doing. It’s great. It’s always nice for somebody to be saying they like the work you’ve been making.

“Anything that helps get the company’s name out there helps. Hopefully that will help us get a nice audience in to see LAD. We actually premiered LAD in Dublin in September in the Dublin Fringe Festival and it went down very well. We actually managed to sell out before we opened. They say sex sells and I think having two bums on the poster seems to have done us no harm.”

One Duck have kindly offered a 10% discount on LAD for Irish World readers. 

Use the code IRISHWORLD when booking online at www.vaultfestival.com/whats-on/lad/  to receive your discount.

LAD is at Vault Festival 9pm 4-8 March.

Venue: The Forge, Vault Festival, Leake St, SE1 7NN.


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