Glengary Glen Ross interview

January 31, 2010

Not content with having a career past the age of forty and a much vaster range of roles to play with, in recent years the less fairer sex have lived up to their name by poaching some of the plum female roles in all-male productions. Sick of whining about the rules of the game Yvonne Ussher decided to play by them and hit the boys where it hurt, staging a role-reversed version of David Mamet’s Pulitzer prize-winning Glengarry Glen Ross. The show was a baptism of fire for her production company Idir Mna, who following a sold out run in November return this week to the New Theatre with a play that depicts two days in the lives of four desperate real estate agents who are prepared to engage in any number of unethical, illegal acts to save their jobs

Tell me about Idir Mna?

The idea of the show has been there longer than the idea of the company – one informed the other. I was on a rant a few years ago when there were a lot of all-male productions. Since there are so few female parts out there why were they taking what few parts there were away. We should get them back and do all female versions of plays. I wanted to do something ballsy. I wanted to do an all-female Glengarry Glen Ross.

So you’re out to change people’s conceptions about what women in theatre are about?

It’s not a gay thing and it’s not a malebashing thing, which is something I feel quite strongly about qualifying. There is a male director involved in GGR and it was pivotal to have that balance and to have that point of view in the rehearsal room and to take heed of that when we were creating the show. The arts are exploratory fields and if we don’t use it to its full advantage then what are we doing here?

When people hear “all female productions” one automatically gets a certain image as to how they expect that show to appear…

I got the whole “well, you’re obviously going to put that show on in the Gay Theatre Festival” even though it is not a gay show – it has nothing to do with lesbianism at all. And then they go “Oh well, you’re all going to be butch, women trying to be men” and I’m like “NO! These characters are real people and we are going to do it like we do any other show, we are going to allow these characters to be created and explore them in the same way we would explore any character in any other play”. I mean I understand that the movie is about testosterone-fuelled, career-driven men, but why can’t women be career driven and aggressive in the workplace? The character I play is the office manager. She is not a nice character at all but playing her was like an exorcism because I have met so many bitches that are office managers while temping that I’m drawing on real life experiences.

I spoke to Elaine Murphy in the current issue of Totally Dublin, and we talked about sexism in Irish theatre and she said she found no barriers in her way; no problem getting her play read, and that being a woman may even have helped.

I don’t think there are barriers there. I think it’s a matter of the women being inspired to get up and create this stuff in themselves. At the theatre forum a few years ago there was a subgroup that rallied and said that all women seem to be playing the young ingénue, or the mother – these were the only roles available – and there needs to be more opportunities there for females. I think that’s a good point; but why are you saying it instead of CREATING it? We are in a creative field with no boundaries. My company is completely unfunded, it’s on a wing and a prayer that we’ve set off, but… I did it… and I’m not an extraordinary person. What I am is motivated, and rather than waiting for someone to phone me with an ideal job I set off on my own and did it!

Glengarry Glen Ross
 by David Mamet

@ the New Theatre. Jan 11th – 16th @ 8pm
Tickets: €15 / 12 (concs)
 Parties of 8 or more: €10


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