The Morning After the Night Before is seeing more mornings and touching more lives than could have been imagined during its’ conception. If you haven’t heard of it by now… tell me, what rock do you live under? The effervescent Ann Blake, playwright and actor of the multi-award winning production has a very exciting year ahead. While December, for many, is a time to ponder on the achievements of the previous year and a time to start thinking of new ways to get on that brighter path, for Ann, it is time to reflect on how to follow her bright path on its’ international journey for 2018 with the touring of The Morning After the Life Before. Charming and chatty as ever, Ann shared some insight on the history and future of The Morning After the Life Before.
You’re travelling in the New Year with your play The Morning After the Life Before, where are you going?
The show, produced by Gúna Nua, is going to The Wildside Festival in Montreal. We will be opening and closing the festival in The Centaur Theatre, the largest Anglophone theatre in Montreal, which is pretty amazing. We have also been invited to The First Irish Festival in New York directly afterwards which we really hope to be able to accept, funding pending. The festival is run by Limerick man George Heslin and would be a wonderful platform for the show.
How did that come about?
In June ‘17 we brought the show to The Montreal Fringe and won ‘The Centaur Best English Language Production’. That award included an invitation back to The Wildside Festival in January ’18 where the show is placed as the centrepiece of the festival.
George Heslin of Origin Theatre Company has hosted Gúna Nua productions before and is keen to showcase The Morning After the Life Before considering its success and its subject matter, which focuses on a changing Ireland.
So, having already toured with it in Canada and being so successful, what exactly struck with the audience so much?
There is a love of all things Irish in Canada, but even then, it’s a personal story that looks at a major national and global event. The audiences loved the humour and the honesty that the show plays with. It also deals with everyday struggles around family, friends and identity that most people can relate to regardless of their background. Pretty much every Canadian audience was struck with the section that looked at the #hometovote phenomenon and found it very beautiful and moving.
What inspired The Morning After the Life Before?
The play looks at my own coming out story, meeting my partner and then living through the lead up campaign and referendum on Marriage Equality in 2015. The title of the play came from a text message my brother sent me the day after the vote: “How’s the morning after the life before?” He’s very smart.
Considering this is such a personal narrative, how has the journey been for you emotionally?
I think the toughest part was facing up to myself and my fears and writing it and then performing it for the first time. I’d no idea what people would think of it. What amazed me was, while people were moved and found it emotional to watch, they mainly talked about how funny it was.
I have an amazing friend and co-actor, Lucia Smyth, who is the most generous and remarkable person to share the stage with. She plays everyone else in my life while I just play myself (handy gig for me). Emotionally it really helped having her on board and she brings so much to the show. The creative team were also so helpful and brilliant in minding me in the process too. My real-life partner, Jenny, is very supportive – she has a fan club in Canada now, people loved her character in the show.
How have your friends and family reacted to the production and its delightful snowball growth?
Considering I was writing about my family and some difficult moments we had, I ran everything past them and let them read the script. I gave them a veto if they wanted anything removed but, thankfully, they didn’t exercise it. My parents have come to see the show three times and would probably come to Canada if they could. They are thrilled with its success, which is really interesting – if you actually watch the show.
How was it received in Ireland at the time, and did its’ reception change over time?
The show was originally a short play called Overnight Minority Report and was used as a canvassing tool. At the end I got down on one knee and ‘proposed’ to the audience asking if they would let me marry Jenny. They even got to vote on the way out. It was performed in the lead up to the referendum and obviously the air was charged as we didn’t know what the result would be. It had a very emotional effect on audiences. Since its development as a full-length show that now includes the result of the referendum, Irish audiences have been so receptive.
I’ve spoken to all sorts of people afterwards, from those who had family members who struggled terribly coming out in Ireland in the seventies, to teenagers who are out and proud and were too young to even vote in 2015 so their future was in our hands at the time. The reception has been steadily emotional, supportive and thankfully, people have been entertained. I met some Irish people in Canada and one girl thanked me for capturing the day that she said was her proudest day as an Irish citizen.
What is your ultimate dream for The Morning After the Life Before? Is there any particular fringe festival or country you wish to take it to now?
I’m looking forward to touring Ireland with the show but also bringing it…everywhere. Considering what Australia has just gone through I would really love to bring it to any number of Fringe Festivals including Melbourne, Adelaide etc. as well as going back to Canada as there is a huge network of fringes and I only brought it to two in 2017. Closer to home I think it really needs to go to Northern Ireland as they are in the crazy situation that Ireland and The UK has Marriage Equality but they don’t because of the DUP veto.
It is an entertaining show but it is also a piece of political theatre and I feel it can still have a powerful effect on people unsure of what they feel about Marriage Equality.
Are you working on any other production in 2018?
I am also a member of the band The Brad Pitt Light Orchestra and we are working on a theatrical cabaret show. It’s all very hush – hush so I could tell you more but then I would have to kill you.
Well we couldn’t have that now! Before we part, is there anything else you wish to add about your journey and who you’ve shared it with?
It is a very special experience to be enjoying parallel success with a friend like Joanne Ryan. Both our shows came out of the same theatre development project, HatchLk in 2015, and now we are touring our work internationally and winning awards. It’s very special considering we did an arts degree together in Mary I, quite a while ago, and have been close friends ever since. It makes all this stuff that bit more special.
Interview by: Rebecca Egan
Photography by: Ken Coleman
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