‘Shelter’ offers a fresh take on thorny issue

Cristín Kehoe whose new play Shelter will receive its world premiere at Druid.
Cristín Kehoe whose new play Shelter will receive its world premiere at Druid.

Arts Week with Judy Murphy

An often-quoted piece of advice given to would-be authors is ‘write about what you know’. Playwright Cristín Kehoe doesn’t agree and, in her debut, full-length play for Druid Theatre, she tackles the controversial issue of homelessness.

Shelter, which is running as part of this year’s Arts Festival, featured as a Druid Debut during the 2016 Festival when, as a work in development, it received a rehearsed reading in front of a full house at the Mick Lally Theatre.

Set in a disused flourmill, it offers an insight into the lives of a group of friends – some homeless – as they drink, dance and share memories, while the world waits outside.

It’s central character Fus is “the guy who doesn’t want the party to die. He is a loveable rogue who never gives up on the good times although the other lads have moved on”, says his creator.

Fus shows the institutionalisation of homelessness and “is in that world”, she remarks.

“I don’t know everything about homelessness and I’ve never been homeless but I’m not going to shy away from such an important topic,” stresses Cristín, who graduated with an MFA in Playwriting from the Lir Centre in Trinity College in 2014.

“People shouldn’t think you can only write about things you experience. You can write about things if you have affinity and sympathy with people. These are our neighbours and fellow citizens and homelessness concerns us all.”

Shelter emerged from her Masters at the Lir and she had already done some rehearsed readings of it under the stewardship of her fellow student and friend Oonagh Murphy, who is now directing it for Druid.

The duo had intended to apply for Arts Council funding to stage Shelter, but in the meantime, Cristín sent the script to Druid and it was accepted for its Debut series. That involved three days of rehearsals and a reading, followed by an audience discussion.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.