'I wanted a hero that can save the day': Actor creates first large theatre production in Cork featuring non-binary main character

Kelby felt the theatre world was still relatively limited in terms of diversity
'I wanted a hero that can save the day': Actor creates first large theatre production in Cork featuring non-binary main character

Kelby Guilfoyle, who lives in Cork city, previously penned a book called Bloomers which also featured a non-binary character. However, they felt the theatre world was still relatively limited in terms of diversity. Photo: Domnick Walsh 

AN inspirational actor, who overcame adversity after coming out during lockdown, has created Cork's first large-scale theatre production boasting a non-binary main character.

Kelby Guilfoyle, who lives in Cork city, previously penned a book called Bloomers which also featured a non-binary character. However, they felt the theatre world was still relatively limited in terms of diversity. 

The 25-year-old hopes that their new work Bláthanna, their eighth play to date, will serve as a catalyst for change in the industry. Described as a story filled with mystical monsters and sparkling magic, the production has been made possible by the Creative Empowerment Programme and support from the Cork Arts Theatre, The Community Foundation for Ireland, Cork City Council and the Cork Arts Fund.

It will run from May 4 to May 7 and May 10 to May 14 at 8pm nightly. The show follows a non-binary character who attempts to defeat the evil Dorcha with the help of mystical guardians and the ghost of a cat.

Kelby, who identifies as non-binary-shared their motivation behind creating the piece.

"When I was a character I didn't have that hero character," they said. 

"I didn't want to create a play with a non-binary character just for it to be educational. While it's nice to have that responsibility I was starting to see a pattern in shows where any production featuring such a character was purely for educational purposes. 

"Some of the stories I feel are more suited to the history books than they are to the stage. It's as if you are expected to explain or justify having a character like this. Whenever you see LGBT characters it is set against the backdrop of the Aids epidemic or some significant period in history. I wanted mine to be a fantasy story with a hero who can save the day."

Kelby is calling for more opportunities for emerging writers.

"There are so many traditional plays that have been around for years. You just stop and think 'my God, these people have been dead for years' and yet there are so few new works coming out. We need to support the people who are living. Television and film are so full of representation. Theatre still has a long way to go even if it is getting better."

The artist hopes that diversity will someday be the norm in theatre.

"You have a responsibility to help people feel less alone. It's all about telling stories and hoping that at some stage in life we won't need to talk about being underrepresented. We shouldn't need to be having conversations about things that are normal, especially when you are talking about the sheer existence of someone's love for another person."

They described the process behind their work.

"I spend most of the time in my room writing. I'm with the characters. It's like they are extensions of me. For me, the process of writing is as much fun as abseiling. Apart from everything that's important about it, it's also fun."

They elaborated on the story behind Bláthanna describing it as a spectacle.

"You might describe it as a spectacle. It's magic that's happening right in front of your face. The show is a love letter to Cork and to fairytales."

To find out more about Bláthanna visit corkartstheatre.com.

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