Myras Story is the tale of middle-aged homeless alcoholic woman, Myra McLaughlin, living rough on the streets of Dublin. Between begging from passers-by, she recreates her backstory. Hilarious, harrowing, heartbreaking. You’ll laugh with Myra. You’ll cry with Myra. What you’ll never do… is forget her. Brian Foster, Director and Writer, spoke with The Fountain about the show and what inspired the story.
TF: You are performing at the Edinburgh Fringe this year, how exciting?
Incredibly so. It has been my goal for several years now to showcase Myra’s Story at Edinburgh Fringe. Everyone wants to play the biggest and best. And they come no bigger or better than Edinburgh. So now that it’s actually going to happen, I simply cannot wait. And to have it perform in the iconic Assembly Rooms Ballroom is an added bonus. I already know from past performances in Ireland, USA and Canada how fantastic a reception the play gets from audiences. And have no reason to doubt that Edinburgh 2019 theatre-goers will be any less enthusiastic.
TF: Myra’s Story certainly sounds intriguing, what is the premise?
That all of us are guilty of instinctively turning our heads away and pretending not to see things that make us feel uncomfortable. And here I’m talking specifically about the public spectacle on our streets, and streets the world over, of homelessness and alcoholism. It’s as if we live in a vacuum. As if we inhabit separate worlds to those unfortunates who have had their lives blighted by the aforementioned twin evils. And that patently isn’t the case. Every homeless/alcoholic person has their own personal story to tell. If only the rest of us took the time to open our ears and listen. To open our eyes and see. For ninety-minutes, Myra’s Story allows audiences to step into the shoes of a homeless alcoholic lady. To feel what she feels. Smell her foul odours. Inhabit her itchy skin. And to hear her incredible backstory, seeing it come to life as she takes us on her hilarious, harrowing and ultimately heartbreaking life journey.
TF: And what drove the project, where did your influences lie?
I’m from Derry in Northern Ireland. Some years back I was down in Dublin for a day. Near that city’s famous Ha’penny Bridge I saw a pitiful, battered, bedraggled young woman begging from passers-by. I strode past her, pretending to be busy taking a phonecall (on a mobile phone that wasn’t even switched on). But in passing I couldn’t help but catch a glimpse of her face. A face now ravaged by scars, bruising and broken teeth. A face with high cheekbones that suggested a now long gone beauty. Above all, a face that held its own tragic story. Later that night I found sleep impossible in my comfortable hotel room bed as I twisted and turned, unable to get that face out of my head. Who was she? What was her backstory that caused her to end up like that? Why did I turn my head away and pretend not to see her? I went back the following day to try to see her again. To give her a bit of money. Maybe talk to her about her life. But she was gone. And the guilt I felt spurred me to sit down and, within weeks, come up with the first draft of Myra’s Story.
TF: Have you been to the Fringe before, is there anything you are keen to see whilst in Edinburgh?
I’m full of confidence that Myra’s Story is going to be one of the big successes of this year’s Fringe. I have to be, or why else bring it there? I believe it has what it takes. A heady mix of hilarity and heartbreak. A riveting story giving an insight into a fractured life. Myra’s Story has the power to totally blow both audiences and critics away. Let’s see if I’m right. This is not just my first Fringe, but also my first time setting foot in Edinburgh. However, I know a fair bit about the city’s history having been commissioned once to write a newspaper series on the infamous ‘resurrectionists’, Burke & Hare. So I’ll be visiting what remains of that ungallant duo’s old haunts. The best advice I can offer future Fringe first-timers is … spend as much time as you can perfecting your online application to venues. It’s possibly the most important application you will ever write. So don’t rush it. And only when you’re confident that you have presented both yourself and your show to their absolute best should you hit the send button. Then begin the agonising wait.
TF: And what are your future plans beyond Myra’s Story?
I have a brand new play, Red Flag City, (a kitchen sink comedy drama with music) set in working class Liverpool in the 1960s. So I’ll be trying to entice producers to have a read at that. Apart from that I’ll not be thinking of anything else over the next three years beyond promoting Myra’s Story to a worldwide audience. Besides breaking box-office records in Ireland, the play has also won awards in Canada, and in 2016 won Best Tragedy Award at the prestigious United Solo Festival in New York. So I know that Myra has the legs to travel. To resonate with audiences far and wide. Yes, the story may be set in Dublin, but the character of Myra McLaughlin is universal. Audiences look at that damaged but oh so lovable character up on stage and see their brother, their sister, their mother their father … themselves, there but for the grace.
Myras Story will be at the Assembly Rooms Ballroom at 12.00 daily for the month of August. For tickets, go to www.edfringe.com