Seamus O’Rourke is looking forward to getting back in front of a live audience.

Time to flex the muscles...

It's oft been noted that Seamus O'Rourke is one of the hardest working actors in Ireland. Posters for his shows are ubiquitous landmarks on the highways and byways of the country.

It's no surprise there's a plaintive note to his voice when he says “we have to get back out to a real audience” in the course of discussing a show he's staging next week. It's not rebellious, it's not desperate, it's just a pragmatic declaration by a man in love with his work.

“It is strange, and a little bit scary as well,” he tells the Celt about the forthcoming performance. “When you're off stage for 21 weeks, 23 by the time the show takes place, going back is a bit daunting. I know from before that it's like any muscle, it gets weak if you don't use it. I am a little nervous about the whole thing, but glad to get back.”

The Big Guerilla Productions presents 'The Sand Park' by O'Rourke, for one night only at the Corn Mill Theatre, Carrigallen. This production comes under the umbrella of #irelandonstage, an initiative by Donal Shields (a producer and promoter of theatre, opera, music and dance) who aims to put a show on stage in every county in Ireland on August 14.

“It's a really good idea. It says 'we are going to get back out there and work in whatever circumstances we have to work in'. What we do is 'live'. All this messing about on YouTube or Zoom is not really our thing, we have to get back out to a real audience,” he says. This observation carries weight from a man who has hundreds of thousands of YouTube views for his pithy monologues that all bear the crust or rural wisdom.

“Stage acting and film acting are very different. I grew up in the theatre setting. I've always felt a kin to the theatre. It's about the energy you create and the feedback you get from an audience. The converse of that is film work. It's much more meticulous, but the plus side is, when your piece of film is made, it's perfect for all eternity.

“The problem with doing theatre on livestream is that it's neither one thing, nor the other. You are neither in an audience setting with the energy feedback, nor is it absolutely perfect. It has the flaws of a live performance, without that audience energy,” Seamus describes the magic missing from web-based performances, “I don't like that sort of buck eejiting.”

That flip from studied insight to linguistic levity is a device he also uses as a playwright. The eye for observing the everyday then presenting it afresh is the hallmark of O'Rourke as a writer and an actor. The Sand Park is an account of how James Anthony Lowery, a man in his mid 50s, came to terms with the death of his son, 15 years ago, followed by the more recent passing of his wife, Rose. It is a play about rural Irish life and coping with the inevitable. Themes such as life and death, humour, love and sadness are all explored in the engaging, one-man show.

Presenting a one man show for irelandonstage is no accident: “One of the problems at the moment is that no one has been able to rehearse a big show with lots of people in it, because nobody knows what's coming down the tracks. There are a few of us around the country who have shows in our back pocket we can take out and dust off. I have a few. The show is just under an hour, which is what theatres want at the moment. They don't want half times where people mingle in the lobby. It's kind of ideal to have the audience there, socially distanced, and me spitting on them for an hour,” he laughs.

Though Corn Mill has a capacity of 155 this show will have an audience limit of approximately 40 to 45: “Booking is going well, even though it was only announced yesterday. Some people are just dying to get back to the theatre. Hopefully the pubs will be open as well at that stage and we will be able to go for a drink after. We need to try and get back to some sort of normality.”

The Big Guerilla Productions in association with #irelandonstage presentation of 'The Sand Park' by Seamus O'Rourke, is for one night only at the Corn Mill Theatre, Carrigallen. Booking is only by phone on 087-2570363, no tickets are available online. There are only a limited number of tickets available due to COVID-19 restrictions in place within auditorium.