Eva O’Connor is a young actress and playwright, one part of theatre company Sunday’s Child, and the creative force behind My Best Friend Drowned In A Swimming Pool, appearing at the Project Arts Centre this month, which ran in last year’s Edinburgh Fringe Festival to positive reviews.
Your play you’re performing this month is called My Best Friend Drowned In A Swimming Pool. What can the audience expect, beyond the self-evident?
It’s about a guy called Henry, who drowns in a swimming pool, and how his four friends react to his death. I thought that, at our age, everyone has their own stuff going on, and the four people who are left behind after Henry’s death all have their own problems and their own ways of dealing with their loss. So it’s about each of their coping mechanisms and also how each of them use Henry’s death to go “off the rails”, or as an excuse to do whatever they want. And then Henry reenters their lives or is resurrected, in a manner of speaking, and it doesn’t solve anything.
And you play one of the characters?
Yes, I confess that I started writing basically so I could be on stage myself [laughs] – I don’t claim that, like, “playwriting is all I’ve ever wanted to do!”. My first play was a one-character sort of monologue (Clinical Lies) and after that did well, I wanted to see if I could write, you know, a “proper” play, with lots of characters, and pull it off. But, part of that was that I also wanted to be one of the characters in it. So I play Eleanor. At the same time, being directed is great because you can write the play, you can act in it, but you can’t direct it, so I have someone sitting in front of me (Sophie Fuller), being able to process the work and say “no, that’s terrible,” or “that looks shit,” or whatever.
Tell us about your theatre company: Sunday’s Child.
Well, it started in 2010, when I performed Clinical Lies at a student festival in Edinburgh and it was suggested to me to perform in the Fringe, so I applied for a venue and they said “yes, of course, what’s your company called?” and I said “hmm, my company is called Eva O’Connor at the moment,” and it became Sunday’s Child because, basically, I was born on a Sunday. Then, one of my best friends from college, Sophie (Fuller), said “let’s make a go of this, let’s do this properly,” so she came over to Edinburgh with me and, since then, she and I have grown Sunday’s Child. So we worked together on My Best Friend Drowned… last year; this will be our forty-somethingth performance of it, in Dublin this month. Sunday’s Child now has six members: myself, Sophie, all the members of the cast and Hildegard Ryan, a good friend of mine who lives in Berlin, as I do, which is great because we can work on the company together over there. And now we’ve got Arts Council funding as well, which is fantastic.
Did you find it difficult to get funding? There’s been a huge amount of well-publicised cuts in the Arts Council in the last few years.
Yeah, we we’re lucky: we’re funded by the Young Ensemble Scheme, which is basically helping young people set up in the arts: generally they fund people up to the age of 23 and we’re all under 23 so, I don’t know, maybe we’ll all hit 24 and we’ll be really poor but at the moment they’ve been really good for supporting us.
Does your work thus far tend towards the autobiographical?
Well, I’m always slow to say that it’s autobiographical, My Best Friend Drowned… is quite dark, certainly, and to some extent, while I was writing it, there were all these people I knew and all these friends around me that were going through these terrible things and I just, I suppose, threw it into a play, but it’s not autobiographical and it’s not really about any of my close friends as such. There is this problem with people our age, that everyone’s going through these things but noone really talks about it, so I just wanted to get it out there, in a way. And at the same time, it’s just a play; I mean, it highlights these problems, but it doesn’t solve them, and I don’t think it’s really supposed to: I don’t think that’s my responsibility, as a playwright.
My Best Friend Drowned In A Swimming Pool runs at the Project Arts Centre from the 9th until the 12th May. Tickets available here.
Words: Oisín Murphy