Notions and secrets the focus of Isobel’s ‘Boom?’

Isobel Mahon who wrote and performs in Boom.
Isobel Mahon who wrote and performs in Boom.

Arts Week with Judy Murphy

“A suburban farce that crosses over into a family drama,” is how Isobel Mahon describes her play Boom? which will come to the Town Hall Theatre on Thursday, November 2, as part of a national tour.

Most of us over a certain age will probably know Isobel best for playing the sparky barmaid, Michelle, in RTÉ’s popular weekly drama, Glenroe. She subsequently worked on The Clinic, also on RTÉ and continues to work as an actress, mostly on stage these days.

And she writes.

As the title indicates, Boom? was inspired by Ireland’s ‘boom’ of the early noughties, inspired by personal experience.

Isobel also stars in it, playing Selma Mae, a wife and mother, whose husband is an architect and who lives in a beautiful home. In short, someone who might seem to be living the dream. But when her mother, a social climber played by Maria McDermottroe, comes to help Selma Mae organise a party to unveil a new state-of-the art extension, complications emerge. The guests are a motley crew, consisting of Selma Mae’s straight-talking sister Maeve, (played by Karen Egan) a glamorous neighbour, Chloe (Claudia Carroll), and the eccentric Bernie (Rose Henderson). As they arrive and the plot unfolds, Selma Mae’s perfect façade begins to crumble . . . as does the perfect extension.

Isobel had lived as a singleton in the heart of Dublin City for many years, before having a child at the age of 40. Suddenly, she was part of a couple and a new mother, living in suburbia.

It was life-changing and she found suburbia, in particular, a culture shock.

“It was the time when everyone seemed to be getting gold-plated gas heaters or wearing rhinestone outfits on the school run,” she recalls with a giggle. “I found it very different.”

But Isobel didn’t just observe. She wrote. Boom? was completed more than a decade ago, but the arrival of the bust put paid to its production, in the short-term at least.

Her first version had really high-spec stage directions, involving fountains and lots of water. While Andrews Lane Theatre had been interested, they felt it would have been too costly to stage. So, she revised it and the Gaiety expressed interest. All was going well – until it wasn’t. The boom was over and the play was shelved.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.