Award-winning performer and writer Irene Kelleher (Game of Thrones) invites you to the Penthouse Suite to meet Emily this August at the Fringe. Shrouded in her wedding dress, for the past five months she has been a social media sensation. Some say she’s a deranged lunatic, many say she just needs help and to others she’s a hero. Taking Dickens’ extraordinary Miss Havisham in to the era of social media with its artificial gloss and filtered reality, this is one woman who isn’t afraid to tell it like it is – the grit, the grime and stench of rotting flowers. Irene spoke with The Fountain about the influence behind the show and her plans for Edinburgh.
TF: You are performing at the Edinburgh Fringe this year, how exciting?
I am indeed! I’m back again to the Fringe this year with a brand new play. I am very excited and in preparation now for the glorious madness that is the month of August in Edinburgh.
TF: Gone Full Havisham certainly sounds intriguing, what is the premise?
Gone Full Havisham centres around the character Emily Halloran. When the play opens, we see that Emily has locked herself into the Penthouse suite of her family’s hotel. She has been there for the last five months since the morning of her wedding day. The wedding never took place. She has been live-streaming herself for the last five months, never leaving her penthouse. Emily becomes a huge hit on social media and thousands of people tune in to watch her everyday – under her new pseudo name #GoneFullHavisham.
TF: And what drove the project, where did your influences lie?
The heroine of this play came to me suddenly one day on a very long train journey. Someone sent me a viral video of a bride, on her wedding day, having a breakdown. She was at the altar, ripping up flowers, hitting the groom and screaming. She looked so distressed and clearly was having a traumatic meltdown but this video had a pop song over it and silly captions, which made it comic. It had gone viral because so many people found it funny and then I read the comments… As Dave Gorman would say I went to the bottom half of the internet and the comments were, unsurprisingly, quite vicious. They called her all sorts of names, ‘psycho’, ‘crazyBitch’ ‘BunnyBoiler’. I also found it interesting that almost everyone commenting assumed it was that she had found out the groom had cheated on her, though there was no evidence in the video to suggest this. But one commenter wrote ‘#Pure Miss Havisham’ and that really stuck with me.
I started thinking about how this woman, clearly having a traumatic breakdown, had become a joke. Her pain was turned into a source of viral entertainment for the world. I started thinking about that comment, comparing her to Miss Havisham.
I had always been fascinated with Dickens’ character Miss Havisham. Painted as a villain I always empathised with her. I felt there was a lot more to her breakdown rather than it all being because she was ‘jilted at the altar.’ To me- that was the final straw- but there is much more deep rooted trauma that brought her to this mental state. Dickens hints at this but does not go into too much detail, instead he lets it up to our imaginations to paint her backstory.
Then I started to imagine if Miss Havisham was around in 2019… what would she be like? How would the world be different for Miss Havisham in this era? Inspired by that viral video I imagined that she would create a persona on social media- the jilted bride, the psycho lady… the ‘hashtag Bride-Not-To-Be.’ Wearing her grief openly for the world to see.
And then I started dreaming about the character.
And she wouldn’t let me alone until I started to write her story. So, I wrote the first draft in July- August 2018.
And now here she is!
I’m incredibly lucky to have a dream team on board with this show. It is co-directed by Regina Crowley and Cormac O’ Connor. Cormac is also the designer. Both Regina and Cormac have brought a wealth of experience and skill into the rehearsal room and have brought the show to a whole new level.
TF: What are your plans for the Fringe, having been before are there any tips or musts you would offer to first-time performers?
This is my third year coming to the Fringe. I toured with Ian Wild’s Mrs Shakespeare in 2015 and with my first play Mary and Me in 2017. What I love most about the fringe is the amount of brilliant shows you can see while over there. I try to get to see three or four other shows a day. I’ve made some friends for life on each trip. I think the best piece of advice I would give to any performers brining their show to the Ed Fringe for the first time is – support other shows. That is a huge part of what Fringe theatre is about. Everyone is in the same situation and getting a show to the Fringe is no mean feat. These are fringe shows that a lot of people are self-producing and worked incredibly hard to stage them there. Go and see as many other shows as you can. I’m always so inspired when I go there. The best show I ever saw in my life was in the Ed Fringe 2012 when I saw A Clockwork Orange. The production was sublime and I think I paid less than ten pounds for it!
See shows and enjoy!
TF: And what are your future plans beyond Gone Full Havisham?
Both Mrs Shakespeare and Mary and Me enjoyed a tour after their successful premieres at the Edinburgh Fringe so I am hoping the same will happen with Gone Full Havisham. I self-produced the last two shows but I am beyond thrilled and very lucky to have RBM presenting Gone Full Havisham. We are hoping that after the fringe there may be an opportunity to tour to various venues. Fingers Crossed! It is also my first time performing at the Gilded Balloon venue and I am very excited to be performing in such a respected venue.
You can see Gone Full Havisham at Gilded Balloon Patter Hoose from 31st July – 25th August (not 18th or 19th August) at 16:00. For tickets, please visit www.edfringe.com