Cork director calls on global cast for lockdown play

Cork woman Tzarini Meyler tells COLETTE SHERIDAN how she used 25 actors from around the world to rehearse for a play which debuts online tomorrow
Cork director calls on global cast for lockdown play

Actor Megan Cusack rehearses for Talking Icons. ABOVE RIGHT: Cork director Tzarini Meyler

WHILE working on her latest play, Tzarini Meyler spent a day talking to an actor in Melbourne, followed by actors in Athlone, Madrid, Berlin and Belfast.

The 24-year-old writer and artistic director of Lip Zinc Theatre was availing of the wonders of technology as she cocooned at home in Ballylanders, outside Mitchelstown.

Using Zoom, a platform for video and audio communication, Tzarini’s new show, Talking Icons, deals with cocooning and isolation.

It’s a play very much for the times we live in, although Tzarini has had an even longer experience of cocooning than most. After corrective jaw surgery in January, she spent two months recovering at home, followed by lockdown.

Living with a family member who is immuno-compromised and thus susceptible to coronavirus, Tzarini, originally from Skibbereen, has been leading a very quiet — but productive — life.

She was due to bring a play to the Edinburgh Fringe this summer but it was cancelled. After the surgery, she spent two months recovering “away from human beings”, adding: “I couldn’t perform for a while. I knew I was going to be very down and frustrated creatively. So I decided to do something creative.”

With loneliness a very real side effect of cocooning, Tzarini thought there could be no better way to counteract that than to connect with actors she had met throughout the world and involve them in a show.

A graduate of English and drama at UCD who went on to do a masters in acting at the Institute of the Arts in Barcelona, Tzarini has international friends and colleagues. One of her teachers in Barcelona is voice coach, Kate Firth, a sister of actor, Colin Firth, who trained him for his Oscar-winning role in The King’s Speech.

Two Italian clowns and mime artists whom Tzarini met in Barcelona are in Talking Icons. She rehearsed with the cast of 25 via Zoom.

Tzarini Meyler, Artistic Director of LipZinc.
Tzarini Meyler, Artistic Director of LipZinc.

Tzarini’s mission statement is to “make shows that aren’t being seen, to give expression to unheard voices and to put unusual characters at the forefront of the stage. The shows should be vital to the audience and very truthful to the artists themselves. Basically, I want the shows to be entertaining and for people to feel they can connect with them.”

Through Talking Icons, is exploring the boundaries of the words ‘cocoon’ and ‘isolation’. The show comprises 24 monologues, referencing the length of the day. (There are 25 actors as two represent a couple that is apart because of isolating.)

“I was interested in how people dealt with isolation in the past.,” said Tzarina. 

“There has been a plague and the Spanish flu. I picked 24 literary quotes on the subject of loneliness from writers ranging from Chaucer to Winnie the Pooh author, AA Milne. I wrote monologues inspired by the quotes. So characters evolved. They’re called icons as we are all an icon in our own stories. We go on social media, where people are talking to themselves a lot more. We spend so much time looking in the mirror and looking at our phones, being physically locked in. In this show, the actors are talking directly to the screen — almost at themselves.”

While loneliness is a big theme in the play, Tzarini says “it’s about connection, not just for the actors but for the audience. I want people to feel there is hope and there is still art being made

“Each character kind of represents a surreal element of the pandemic. One person is the anxious type, panic-buying. Someone else is all about body transformation and someone else is into the baking and the Instagram photos.

“So there are lots of funny, relatable elements as well as it being serious and sad. It takes a surreal look at our times because everything right now is completely bizarre with people hoarding things like toilet rolls. It’s avant garde and contemporary.

There have been a lot of lockdown projects. This one is visually striking.

Tzarini’s feelings of isolation lifted thanks to her project. While she found it hard not seeing her boyfriend for four months, her project “has actually made me feel more connected”.

She explains: “I’ve been speaking to people I had lost touch with. One of the actors, Aaron O’Farrell, was in my show Dolly, which went to the Edinburgh Fringe a couple of years ago. He moved to Australia. Because of this show, I managed to work with him again. We had a lovely rehearsal on Zoom.

“Another is Megan Cusack. When we were both 12, we used to go to drama classes in the West Cork Arts Centre in Skibbereen. She went on to train at LAMDA and we lost touch. Through Talking Icons, I was able to get in touch with her again. She was most recently in the Abbey Theatre in a production of The Country Girls.”

Tzarini did individual rehearsals with each cast member. 

“Some of them don’t know each other at all. It will be interesting for them all to watch each other when it goes live.

“The monologues are pre-recorded live, in the sense that it was one continuous take. It’s a bunch of monologues from all over the world compiled into one video. We invite people to watch the show (divided into part one and part two) as it goes live so they can feel they’re at a show.”

The performances are tomorrow and Thursday at 8pm. See YouTube. com/c/lipzinc theatre. They will remain online for a while afterwards.

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