Way to Heaven: An interview with Breffni Holahan

Way to Heaven. Image by Lucy Nuzum
Way to Heaven. Image by Lucy Nuzum

Way to Heaven, the Rough Magic SEEDS showcase production, directed by Rosemary McKenna and set in a concentration camp during WW II sounds like a fairly bleak prospect for the weeks running up to Christmas. However, when I voice these concerns to Breffni Holahan, she reassures me that it is not a depressing piece of theatre. She says there is a lightness to the piece as the members of the fake concentration camp attempt to imitate life and convince the Red Cross that there’s nothing untoward happening, everything is fine here, nothing to worry about. Breffni also attributes some of this lightness to Karl Quinn who plays the Nazi guard. She worked with him during this year’s Dublin Fringe Festival on Collapsing Horse’s Distance to the Event and was happy to see a familiar face when she started rehearsals for this show.

Breffni plays a woman in the concentration camp, only known as She or The Plain One. Her other Jewish prisoners are played by Kieran Roche and Ruairi Heading. They are joined onstage by three violinists and a number of children. On working with children, Breffni said she was told “if a child comes up to you and says I need to go for a wee, find a meaningful way to leave the space”. She says it hasn’t happened yet but if it does, she’ll be ready. Other cast members include Will O’Connell as the Mayor of the Jewish camp and Daniel Reardon as the Red Cross Representative. The play, which is based on a real events that happened in 1944, is written by Juan Mayorga and translated by David Johnson.

Breffni worked with Rough Magic earlier this year, on The Critic which was part of the Dublin Theatre Festival. She was one of the students from the Gaiety School of Acting and DU Players who performed a version of Puff’s The Spanish Armada for the writer (played by another Karl, Karl Shiels) in The Ark. Breffni is currently in her third year at Trinity, studying Drama and English. She says that when she started college, English was her main subject and then she got distracted by Players. She is very enthusiastic about Players as an environment to learn and experiment and says she has learnt to “rig a light, sew a hem, sell tickets, make a poster” and just do whatever’s necessary to get the show up and running. She says that Rough Magic’s Artistic Director Lynn Parker describes Players as being her university and she feels that is an accurate description.

Breffni has had a busy year and right now she’s not thinking too far beyond Christmas essays and enjoying a bit of sleep over the holidays. However, sometime in the future she would like to perform all of Sarah Kane’s plays. She has already started working her way through them with Players and has played Phaedra in Phaedra’s Love and C in Crave. She would also like to perform the Beckett piece Not I. Right now though, she is just enjoying learning as much as she can and working with great people.

Way to Heaven opens tonight in Project Arts Centre at 7pm and runs until December 14th. Tickets are €12 this week and €14/16 next week, available here. It is followed each night by the other Rough Magic SEEDS showcase productions Assassins and I will have an interview with cast member Anthony Kinahan tomorrow.

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