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A Natural Science

Like most theatre projects, the work commenced five months prior to the first preview of a Natural Science. Huddled by the heater in writer-director Martha Fitzgerald’s Ashtown kitchen, we diligently compiled material for our funding proposal to Roscommon Arts Office. After a restorative seaweed bath almost a month later, we got the glorious response that opened with “we are delighted to inform...”

Summer rolled around quickly after I spent the Spring learning an hour and twenty minutes worth of monologue in the conservatory of my Roscommon home, excitement building with the lengthening sunlight. I also did some actor's research by binge-listening to Living Room Logic, a fun and accessible science podcast o Spotify. It was during this time I made friends with Sandra O'Connor, the teenage protagonist of this dark-comedy coming-of-age play. Rehearsals commenced in the sunny June in Roscommon Arts Centre, where myself, Martha and actors Sean McManus and Caoimhe Mulcahy donned our labcoats to start experimenting with this playful text.

And what fun we had! Thanks to the time and resources afforded to us by the Roscommon Arts Office Local Live Performance Programming Scheme (LLPPS), the play lovingly revealed itself to us in the bright and peaceful workshop space. Sweaty dance warm-ups with choreographer Lindsey Woods, giddy improv games, bonding activities and soul-searching text exploration nourished the play into its full essence; a Frankenstein creature made up of love, belly-laughs and many hard days' work from the whole cast and crew.

The play is about Sandy's coming-of-age in pre-recession Ireland. A child genius, dangerously straight-forward and at the same maturity level as her elderly parents, it's safe to say Sandy is not the most popular kid in her all-girls Catholic school. Not even among her teachers. Until she meets Punk-Rascal Billy, that is, then all of a sudden perfecting the Mitosis diagram or binge-watching Planet Earth is not the most exciting part of her day, (though still very important). In a whirlwind of heart-warming teenage adventures with her new best friend, Sandy finds herself landed in a myriad of obstacles not even Einstein can theorise himself out of. As an actor, it was inspiring to follow Sandy through the minefield of teenhood through her book-smart lens, as it was battered from all directions by all her first experiences of love, sexuality and relationships. All non-sensical, unpredictable, undiscovered and taking place in a conservative world where emotional nurture for teenagers was not a priority.

We all found the rehearsal process incredibly healing, continuously discovering another golden nugget of teenage glory through beautiful movement and text exercises. Although the entire story is told from Sandy's point of view, the non-verbal characters coloured in hugely important aspects of pre-smartphone pubescent existence. Our first two previews were met by tender smiles, belly laughs and sorrowful tension at parts when Sandy's experience of the whole growing-up thing is too much for anyone to shoulder, never mind a 15 year old kid. A loving and raucous play, a Natural Science celebrates the dorky girl in your year, teenage cringe, rebellion and of course; science.

Although we're not sure where a Natural Science goes next, we are all so ultimately proud of this gem. I cannot fathom how much growth we all witnessed as adult artists working on a coming-of-age story, and how much it resonated with our Roscommon audiences. Huge gratitude to Roscommon County Council Arts Office and Roscommon Arts Centre for their endless warmth, encouragement and patience in supporting this beautiful project. Finally, my favourite quote from the play...

"The only tests that really matter are those that lead to a discovery", - JP, Sandy's Dad.

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