Cork actor and writer: We adapted during the pandemic to survive

Actor and writer Pat Kinevane tells AILBHE NOONAN about his recent work, the effect of the pandemic, and his future plans
Cork actor and writer: We adapted during the pandemic to survive

Pat Kinevane says he was “very proud of my brothers and sisters in the art” throughout the pandemic.

WHILE many actors and writers have found the past 18 months to be a lean time, Pat Kinevane has managed to keep busy.

His play Silent is being shown online as part of the ongoing Edinburgh Fringe Festival on Sunday.

It is the Cobh native’s second play and was produced and adapted by the Fishamble theatre company.

Pat described it as “a huge ensemble effort” and praised the “really, really strong team from Fishamble”, who also helped produce and adapt his fourth play, Before, for a pandemic audience.

“We got a tiny window (for filming) in August and September last year,” he says of the two plays, “and then we were shut down again.”

Since then, both plays have toured in festivals across the country and Irish culture centres around the world, with support from Culture Ireland.

Silent has received particular attention as this year marks the play’s 10-year anniversary.

Written in 2008 and first performed in 2011, Kinevane explained that it was inspired by a trip to New York that revealed the severity of the city’s homelessness crisis.

“I went with a dear friend, Claudia Carroll, and I hated it at first because of the homelessness. It was like a wake-up call.”

Upon his return to Dublin, the homeless crisis stood out even more.

Pat recalled: “I thought, there’s something wrong here, and I wanted to shine a light on it theatrically and open up empathy and conversation.”

Reflecting on the current housing crisis, he added that “things have got worse” since the play’s original run.

“It’s unfortunate that (the play) is even more relevant now,” said Pat.

Now audiences at the popular Edinburgh Fringe Festival will get to see it f-r themselves.

First performed in 2018 after five years of work, Before is a tribute to paternal love and to fathers who have become estranged from their children for the wrong reasons.

The play, inspired by a good friend and great father, follows a man in Clery’s Department Store who is desperately trying to find a gift for his estranged daughter as he tells his story and prepares to meet her.

Pat Kinevane  in a scene from his play Before. 
Pat Kinevane  in a scene from his play Before. 

I was lucky enough to catch a performance of Before as part of the Earagail Arts Festival, and found that the play expertly balanced the wacky musical elements and time-jumping with the sobriety and panic of the main character.

“I wanted to give a voice to fathers who’ve been alienated for the wrong reasons,” Kinevane explained.

“The show is about the beauty of men and women, but also about cruelty. I wanted to balance it.”

Much like other artists, the pandemic had a fairly sizeable influence on the ways in which he prepared his plays.

“We were very responsible — we rehearsed on Zoom,” Pat said. He and his team took the pandemic as “an opportunity to adapt rather than surrender,” and added that if there’s one thing he learned, it’s that “where there’s a will, there’s a way”.

He described the return of Silent, in collaboration with Culture Ireland, as “a very hopeful venture” and “a reminder that we are coming back”.

Kinevane is acutely aware of the lasting impact of the pandemic on arts workers, from box office staff and restaurateurs to theatre critics.

“A lot of other people have been impacted in a brutal way, and we needed to be looked after,” he said.

“People don’t understand that [the uncertainty] affects everyone, from critics to box office staff to the local restaurants.

“Box office staff aren’t there because there aren’t any shows, and the restaurant across the way doesn’t get its normal flow of people.”

Despite this, the arts sector banded together to support each other, something Kinevane was delighted to see.

“I’m very proud of my brothers and sisters in the arts — we’ve been very elegant about the whole thing, and we were utterly respectful of everything.

“We’ve held together with solidarity and will be appreciated more because it was missed.”

With this in mind, he explained how performing in the Clonmel Junction Arts Festival to a virtual audience from around the world was a surreal experience.

“It was bizarre to see an audience from everywhere, but they came and they supported it in the end,” he noted.

“Anywhere you go, the audience goes.”

Similarly, Before was recently livestreamed as part of the Earagail Arts Festival, done bilingually in English and Irish for the first time ever, proving that the world of theatre fights on even through the toughest of circumstances.

“Nothing could be worse than what we went through, but we’re very resilient, we’re used to uncertainty,” Pat added. “If we’re all in this together, then we’re all in this together.”

When asked for his advice to young theatre makers, he responded that they should “use (their) creativity in the way they’ve always done, but magnified. Look after each other and encourage each other, and don’t be afraid to let your imagination go crazy.”

Laughing, he added that “creativity is very uplifting, so we just have to keep moving onwards!”

To end the interview on a positive note, I asked Kinevane what he was most looking forward to once restrictions ease and live events return.

His response? 

“I’m looking forward to going to live entertainment again, whether it’s theatre, a concert, or a gig in the pub!” 

He also looked forward to “going out for a bite to eat with friends” after a show, and to being inspired by other people.

“Onward, onward!”, he laughed — a sentiment I believe all of us share.

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