The Madame MacAdam Travelling Theatre: An exploration of the outsider – Jenny Stephens, Director

As Bristol Old Vic Theatre School students enter their final days of rehearsals and the company ready themselves for their journey into our Studio next week with The Madame MacAdam Travelling Theatre, we asked Director Jenny Stephens what she loved about this poignant Irish melodrama.

Jenny (centre) in rehearsal for The Madame Macadam Travelling Theatre. Photos by Craig Fuller

Jenny (centre) in rehearsal for The Madame Macadam Travelling Theatre. Photos by Craig Fuller

When I first picked up Thomas Kilroy’s script for The Madame MacAdam Travelling Theatre, it was the characters of this Irish comedy drama that had an immediate effect on me. Richness of characters is something that I absolutely look for in plays that I direct at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School and with this production we have an abundance of compelling multifaceted characters that steer fascinating intertwined stories.

Now, as we enter the final weeks of rehearsals, these stories have been brought to life by the students, and the humour and Irish wit has been beautifully coupled with sorrow and poignancy.

Like much of Kilroy’s writing, and the work of Brian Friel’s Field Day Company who first performed it in 1991, Madame MacAdam… is a funny play but also has a sad underbelly of unfulfilled dreams; of an exploration of the outsider. Behind the sharp comedy lies a haunting theme of a missing child, the backdrop of the historical Anglo-Irish political tensions and the horrors of the Second World War. Thrown into this mix are a group of extraordinary travellers who are suddenly caught up in the lives of the villagers; tensions build and cultural differences are exposed.

I’m never big on saying “this is the message of the play” – that’s more for the audience to decide – but I think Madame MacAdam… raises compelling questions around national loyalty and sense of identity; concepts that are universal and are relevant to us today.

If you like good drama, if you like good comedy, if you like intriguing characters, then you will love The Madame MacAdam Travelling Theatre. And I feel very excited to bring our students back to Bristol Old Vic Studio to show it to you.

The Madame MacAdam Travelling Theatre plays at Bristol Old Vic Studio between 30 Oct – 10 Nov. Find out more, and book tickets, here.

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