A RADIO PLAY by GILLIAN GRATTAN
Recorded in KCLR 96FM, Kilkenny
Producer Breeda Slevin
Sound by Martin Bridgeman
Funded by the BAI and KCLR
A RADIO PLAY by GILLIAN GRATTAN
Recorded in KCLR 96FM, Kilkenny
Producer Breeda Slevin
Sound by Martin Bridgeman
Funded by the BAI and KCLR
STARRING ROSE HENDERSON
DIRECTED BY CAROLINE FITZGERALD
THE NEW THEATRE, JUNE 2023
Set design Martin Cahill
Sound design Neil Handly
Lighting design Cathy O Carroll
Stage Management Eva Walsh
Assistant Stage Management Aidan Murtagh
Photography & Video Al Craig
It is the first anniversary of Martin’s death, Angie’s lover. His family has come to visit his grave. Angie watches the mourners from the safety of her car, hidden under the Yew tree. She remains unseen, her own grief buried deep within. She remembers the foxes, appearing in formation like a string of ugly thoughts…..VIXEN by Helen Casey is a compelling psychological drama of one woman’s resilience, determination and desperation to name the love that was hers, but belonged to another. Both haunting and mesmerizing, it is a visceral exploration of love, unspoken loss and uncomfortable truths. As we are drawn further into Angie’s world, the emotional rollercoaster plunges from the frothy highs to a much darker terrain filled with suspense and a gnawing grief. Tis better to have loved and lost…or is it?
IRISH INDEPENDENT – KATY HAYES
– WED 28 JUNE 2023
VIXEN REVIEW: A PORTRAIT OF THE OTHER WOMAN IN THE AFTERMATH OF A SUDDEN DEATH
It was said after the coronation of King Charles III that this was a great year for “side chicks”, with Camilla finally getting to be crowned queen. This interesting monologue play by Helen Casey gives an account of how it feels to be the unacknowledged “side chick” after the sudden death of a lover, while the wife and family absorb all the public grieving space.
Angie is an art teacher. We are in her apartment on the first anniversary of Martin’s death, a day she has booked as a holiday from work so she can process her grief in private. She spent the morning visiting his grave, then hid in her car under a yew tree and watched from afar when his wife and family arrived.
Angie is a complex creature and indulges a recurring fantasy of meeting the wife and confessing the affair. She runs this confrontational scenario in different versions in her head – these passages are the best writing in the play. Casey’s style is perceptive and often poetic. The vixen of the title reflects some vivid symbolism involving foxes. And the story is well shaped; the slow revelation of how Martin died is satisfying and the conclusion brings a welcome flourish.
Rose Henderson is skittish and spirited as Angie, the off-kilter element of this clandestine relationship neatly embodied. She captures the anger of the “bit on the side”, her number hidden in his phone under the title “boiler repairs”.
Caroline FitzGer;ald directs with great sensitivity, ensuring Henderson hits the high points of intensity as well as the more playful elements.
But the story could do with more texture. More details of Martin’s liffe and their experiences together – this material remains vague, with a few gestures at art galleries and hotels. Martin never becomes a real flesh-and-blood creation in the writing. Angie’s devotion to him comes across clearly, but the lack of detail means we never understand why she is so devoted. And this is a real weakness in the generally accomplished storytelling.
The cosy New Theatre provides a lovely space for this kind of work that relies on direct communication with the audience. At 50 minutes, the play is short and sweet, a pleasant diversion, and Henderson’s warm stage presence wins you over.
NO MORE WORKHORSE – 29 JUNE 2023
We meet Angie (Rose Henderson) as she has just returned home to her apartment. Today is the one-year anniversary of the death of her lover; Martin. It has been a difficult year for her, made worse by the fact that she couldnt attend Martin’s funeral. While Angie was in love with Martin, she was a secret part of his life. Martin was married and Angie was his mistress, his ‘bit on the side’ and this is her story.
This is a one-woman piece with Rose Henderson taking the part of the ‘other woman’ Angie. Rose is a regular on Fair City and has worked on a variety of TV shows, even making an appearance as Sister Assumpta on Father Ted! This is a new piece written by Helen Casey. Helen has worked in theatre for many years, and is involved with “drama in education; creating and devising theatre in school and community settings.
The set design (by Martin Cahill) gives us the sitting room of Angie’s apartment, complete with a sofa and various tables and chairs. Often in small venues such as this, the actor is left with a barren stage but time and effort went into this set.
This is an interesting topic for a play and it is rare we get to hear this side of the story. It is also unusual how unrepentant Angie is she doesn’t see herself as a homewrecker, nor is she consumed by guilt. The piece gives many good images and moments in their affair but doesn’t give us an insight into how the relationship started or evolved. It would give the production more depth if the character of Martin was developed further but he remains elusive. The script contains many moments in their relationship, such as weekends away and their time in her apartment, which are handled well. Rose Henderson is lively and vivacious on stage, keeping the audience entertained and on her side throughout. In the wrong hands, she may have lost the audience, but Angie feels like a warm and friendly character that owuld be difficult to dislike. The piece has an original slant and the performance of Rose Henderson gives the piece life.
Saw Vixen last night in the New Theatre. I would totally recommend it. It’s a beautifully heightened piece of writing that is excellently directed. You get to see Rose Henderson as you’ve never seen her before. What versatility! She creates a ‘vixen’ with great warmth, wit and understanding. You could hear a pin drop in the Theatre. Overall it’s a gorgeous piece. – Liam Halligan, director
Rose Henderson was wonderful in the role. Congratulations to the writer Helen Casey and legendary director Caroline FitzGerald – Jack Gilligan
I was really, really moved by the performance of Vixen this evening. Rose’s performance was stunning. – Brid McCarthy
Rose is an absolutely outstanding actress
Vixen was so cleverly written, challenging and inviting us to think about the unsaid and unseen heartfelt in Angie’s life. Lovely coupling and resonances with words – poetic and poignant.
Enjoyed Vixen – especially the twist at the end
Congratulations Helen, on a super play. A powerful exposition on the complexity of relationships. And a stunning performance from Rose. Top drawer – Clodagh Havel
OMG Amazing. Vixen was performed so beautifully. Adored every second.
The character Angie unravelled before us, layers beneath layers, opening up and at times closing up to catch breath, to find courage. Declaiming as the wine and the sugar took hold. The piece disturbed me in the best possible way that theatre should. Angie appeared a cornered vixen howling in both triumph and grief, resigned to her fate, now the quarry, now the ‘other woman’. In the closing minutes we see Angie like a prisoner awaiting execution, or is it absolution? The widow ascends like a vengeful angel from the underworld looking for that missing piece of herself. In the widow’s mind, Angie is that missing piece. In confronting Angie she will only ever see her own self reflected back, the truth that she too is ‘the other’. In the end the wily vixen steals away into the shadows feeding on the memories, the leftovers beyond death, and each pebble brought to the grave, a love letter. – Sean Molloy
A tour de force, Rose. Loved Angie’s intensity and spirit and the play on Vixen/foxes. You totally held your audience. Don’t think I’ll be looking for vacancy as mistress! – Ros B
Brilliant performance – Sandra Bogle
Fantastic. It’s just lovely when a play and a performance are just perfect together – M Cahill
Fantasic show Rose. Such versatility and courage. You’re phenomenal, every moment perfectly judged! – Isobel Mahon
Fantastic show and performance. Could see you enjoyed all of it. That’s what stood out to me. – Luke Collins
Produced by RTE at the CONVENTION CENTRE Dec 2022
On the eve of the Late Late Toy Show, twelve-year-old Nell Mooney is determined to recreate her Mam’s favourite Toy Show night traditions, but not everyone in her family wants to remember the past. Disaster strikes, and with the entire Toy Show in jeopardy, Nell and the local kids must find a way to save the night and keep everyone’s favourite TV show alive.
“Toy Show the Musical celebrates one of our nation’s most loved traditions and in that, recognises the importance of play, the transformative power of the imagination, and the strength, bravery, and resilience of children.” Director Séimí Campbell
“Has perfect recipe to become an instant Christmas classic”, Irish Examiner
“A rollercoaster of emotions”, Evoke.ie
“… Will likely see not a single dry eye in the house”, Buzz.ie
Jamie Beamish (Bridgerton, Derry Girls, Otto Bathurst’s Halo, Billy The Kid) will play the role of Dad, aka Brendan Mooney, the father of the lead character of the musical Nell.
Clare Barrett (Fair City, Medicine, Wild Mountain Thyme, Trad) has been cast to play Nell’s Mam, Áine Mooney.
The role of Nana will be played by Anna Healy (The Spin, The Last Return, Mother’s Day and Emmerdale).
Dee Forbes, the Director General of RTÉ, has defended Toy Show the Musical following negative reviews, saying “the audience reaction so far has been fantastic”. Ms Forbes said “families and children are really loving the show”, saying it was “always going to be a show led by children for children, in keeping with Toy Show itself”.
In the opening moments of Toy Show the Musical an ensemble of children are performing an elaborate song-and-dance countdown. “Only 12 more hours to go,” they sing energetically, impatient for “the one and only night when we all come together” to begin. Are they talking about Christmas, a person might legitimately wonder, looking at the sparkling lights and gingerbread clues, or about the arrival of Santa Claus? No. They are waiting for The Late Late Toy Show, which in this odd confection from Jane Murphy and Katherine Drohan elevates the annual TV show beyond its status as a contemporary cultural tradition to that of a national holiday.
The book and lyrics from Lisa Tierney-Keogh and Jamie Beamish create a plausible storyline for proceedings, with RuthAnne Cunningham and Harry Blake’s wide-ranging music offering a skeleton structure to the plot. It is Toy Show eve, and the kids of Tricycle Street are especially excited for this year’s programme, as one of their friends, Billy Bagpipes (Calum Kieran), is due to perform. Nell Mooney (played on opening night by the spunky Clare Keely) has some trepidation: it is the first time that her late mother (Clare Barrett) will not be present to conduct the family’s Toy Show rituals, and she is not sure her father (Beamish) wants to participate at all. When an all-island power cut puts a stop to festivities, Nell and her gang of friends (who include several stars from previous Toy Shows) step in to save the day.
There is much to admire in the ambitious staging by Séimí Campbell, which moves along quickly on Colin Richmond’s revolving set. Puppets stand in for lead characters in flashbacks. The adult ensemble animate pieces of furniture. A miniature streetscape offers panoramic views of the community, a symbol also of the greater global community the musical invokes. Richmond’s props and costumes are also noteworthy, adding an ingenious and inventive DIY feel that will inspire creative children.
But the production cannot shake off its indebtedness to the source material it seeks to celebrate. The Late Late Toy Show may have become an important element of an Irish Christmas, but the musical tries far too hard to make a case for its significance. Despite the talent evident on the stage and behind it, it is difficult not to feel cynical about the artistic intention of what is essentially a spectacular, self-congratulatory marketing ploy.
Forget the politics, the Toy Show musical is good innocent fun
There’s absolutely no doubting that the Late Late Toy Show has become a seminal programme in the Irish psyche, spawning, among other things, pyjamas, sweet filled boxes, mugs, games, dicky bows (yes, really) and slippers.
Your social media feed alone is filled with enough proof that this is now a ‘thing’.
The last Friday in November has become the day when Christmas trees are decorated all over the country, when families gather in matching pyjamas dear lord, spare us from the onesies and the children are force-fed sugar-filled sweets in a bid to keep them awake for at least a half an hour of it so that parents can feel less guilty about being glued to it until the bitter end.
What started as a short slot on the country’s most popular talk show has grown to become a broadcasting behemoth, with tickets like gold dust and advertising slots a coveted splurge.
Nell Mooney played on opening night by the wonderful Clare Keeley is facing into the season with a bit of a dilemma.
It’s the first year without her mother (Clare Barrett), who loved Christmas, and she wants to recreate the happy times her family all had together, but her dad (Jamie Beamish, who also wrote the book and lyrics) is not getting into the spirit at all. She’s helped somewhat in her bid to jolly up the neighbourhood by her lovable but rather bonkers grandmother (Anna Healy), who may or may not be dating two men as well as attending judo and flamenco classes.
There are upbeat tunes and dance sequences aplenty, with delightfully nutty teachers, overbearing mammies and an enthusiastic lollipop lady all adding to the colour.
Of course, this being the Toy Show, there is an element of tragedy too. As Nell and her brother Luan try to come to terms with their mother’s death by still talking to her and via flashbacks to when she was still alive, their dad is happy to bury himself in his work fixing clocks and hoping the season will just pass him by.
But Nell is determined not to let that happen. She brings home a tree so big it can’t fit in the house, she wants lights that can be seen from space, and for their family to laugh and sing together again.
The talent on display in this staging is of a very high calibre indeed the young actors in particular are as precocious and adorable as you’d expect.
The beauty of the real Toy Show, of course, is the sheer unpredictability of it all, the inability to know what the children are going to say or do, the expectation of what could go wrong. In the absence of all of that, the musical’s script is strong enough to carry it. It’s 90 minutes, without an interval, and it flew by.
I brought three girls with me, aged 17, 13 and 11, and they all loved it. There may be much to criticise about the politics of this show, but there’s so much to praise about the staging.
Lauren Murphy – Entertainment.ie
In reality, it seems that Toy Show: The Musical has not been as warmly received by the public as RTE bosses may have anticipated.
The show, which is currently running at Dublin’s Convention Centre after opening there last week, and features original songs by pop songwriter Ruth-Anne Cunningham, has cancelled five performances – citing illness among the cast as the reason.
The affected shows were due to take place on Saturday and Sunday with RTE releasing a statement saying “It is with deep regret that due to illness in the cast and crew that RTÉ Toy Show the Musical had to cancel its afternoon and evening shows today and its three shows tomorrow.
“The team did everything possible to avoid this situation and are truly sorry for the inconvenience caused. Our ticketing partner, Ticketsolve will be in touch as soon as possible with those with tickets for cancelled shows regarding rescheduling or refund options.
“As media fragments, RTÉ, as a dual funded public service media organisation, has an obligation to diversify its commercial activities beyond advertising. We must try new things, to grow and sustain all we are obliged to do,” Forbes wrote. “Inevitably when we do something new, it attracts attention. While the BBC (and other broadcasters) has developed many live shows based on some of its big TV properties (eg, Top Gear, Strictly Come Dancing, Dr Who), this new show, developed over the past few years, is a new departure for RTÉ.”
She went on to say that the employment of mostly Irish cast and crew, and nurturing the development of the young cast into the stars of tomorrow was a “key aim” in developing the show.
“The attempts by some to pit Toy Show the Musical against other productions is at odds with the broad support we have received from the theatre world,” added Forbes. “It is also at odds with the amount of airtime support RTÉ routinely makes available to live events of all kinds through its RTÉ Supporting the Arts scheme.”
She went on to say RTÉ was “very proud” of the show and that it had not detracted from the organisation’s World Cup coverage, developing documentaries like ‘Quinn Country’ or their political news coverage. “RTÉ has long had to do many things at once,” she said, “that’s what we’re here to do.”
“While there is a significant degree of resilience in the cast, where roles can be covered by understudies, given illness persists among a cast of predominantly children, it is necessary to make further adjustments to the schedule this week,” it read. “On Wednesday 21st and Thursday 22nd we will be reducing the number of shows from three performances a day to two, cancelling the 12.30 show on Wednesday and the 7.30pm show on Thursday.
Ticketsolve, our ticketing partner, will today be contacting those affected regarding rescheduling and refund options. We will of course be offering full refunds. In addition, for those who missed the show due to the cancellations, we would like to a 25% discount on tickets to attend a show this week or next. We sincerely hope those affected by the cancellations can find a time to come and see the show.
The Toy Show the Musical team is truly sorry for the real inconvenience these changes have caused. We have been monitoring and responding to ticket holders on social platforms and are very aware of how disappointed and upset families were that the shows were cancelled, particularly at such short notice. The team tried its very best to make the shows happen, but ran out of time and options and had to cancel. The adjustments we are making to the schedule this week are to minimise the risk of that happening again.
by GER GALLAGHER
Directed by Caroline FitzGerald
with Rose Henderson and Isobel Mahon
comes back to the Viking Theatre, The Sheds 198 Clontarf Road.
Mon 30 May – Sat 11 June at 8pm
All shows start at 8pm. Doors open at 7.45. Mon – Sat.
All tickets €20. No Sunday performances.
Smock Alley Theatre Directed by J. R. Sullivan
10-15th May 2022
Matinees 1.30pm Sat 14th and 3pm Sun 15th
Tickets :€18.00 – €20.00
Cast: Michael Grennell, Clare O’Malley, Ger Kelly, Emer Kelly, Alex Sharpe, Pat Nolan, Rose Henderson, Gerry Herbert, Aidan Jordan, and introducing Charlie Reid and Chloe Cody
Adapted from the story by TOMASEEN FOLEY
At Christmastime, more than the Christmas cards, more than all the symbols of Christmas, for me, growing up as a small boy in Teampall an Ghleanntain, the prime symbol of the Christmas season was the parcel from America.
Almost every family had a relative in America at this time, and those relatives would send home a parcel at Christmas to the family they had left so tearfully behind. And in that parcel would be clothing, often clothing that they themselves had worn in America over the previous year, and was of course all the more precious for that.
And very often, in with the clothing there would be an envelope stuffed with dollars. And I can tell you that for many families, more cash money and more clothing would come into the house in that parcel at Christmastime than in the course of the whole year that had preceded it. So that parcel was looked forward to with the same glee and anticipation by grown men and women as young children look forward to Santy Claus.
That parcel contained the gold, frankincense and myrrh from that fabled land across the sea: America.
TV NOW MAGAZINE:
After a long absence, live theatre is back with a bang! And who better to indulge you in an afternoon of outdoor theatre than the company who have been touring their much loved outdoor theatre all over Ireland and Europe since 2013, even performing for Michael D himself at the Áras!
Previously featured as part of Angels in the Park, Shiva Productions have revived three of their most popular 10-minute plays to bring a smile back to your face:
Forgiveness by Owen Fitzpatrick
Food of Love by Lorna Kelly-Dalton
The Deal by Catherine Barry
The F Word, featuring three 15 minute plays written by three very different Irish writers, will be performed promenade-style in the beautiful settings of St. Anne’s Park, Herbert Park, and Palmerston Park on selected dates in August and September. The plays examine love, loss, conflict, online dating, family relationships, and random life-changing encounters.
Starring: Robert Harrington, Rose Henderson, Michael Heavey, Geraldine McAlinden, Joe Purcell, and Lisa Walsh. Directed by Aoibhinn Marie Gilroy.
Sunday, August 29th – St.Anne’s Park, Raheny
Sunday, September 5th – Herbert Park, Ballsbridge
Saturday, September 11th – Lexicon, DunLaoghaire
Sunday, September 12th – Palmerston Park, Ranelagh
Saturday, September 18th – National Botanic Gardens, Glasnevin
Sunday, September 19th – National Botanic Gardens, Kilmacurragh
Times: 3 Afternoon performances per date. Running time: Approximately 50 minutes.
Tickets: €8 + booking fee. Eventbrite.ie/The F Word
As numbers are very limited, early booking is advised to avoid disappointment. Wheelchair accessible.
A numerologists dream – 3 plays, 3 writers, 3 dates, 3 performances per date, 6 actors, 30 tickets available per performance.
Rose Henderson has been awarded a Screen Ireland Actor as Creator Grant to make a short film about Alzheimer’s. We are excited to announce additional funding is being made available by Memory Health who provide nutritional supplements for the prevention and/or treatment of neurodegenerative diseases. (See Memory Health.com)
This short film will be based on the play, Take Off Your Cornflakes, and will star Rose Henderson and Pat Nolan, with appearances by Sorcha Furlong, Helena White and Clare Monnelly. We have completed the final cut and are very excited to announce that the film will premier at the Galway Film Fleadh in July under the Actor As Creator Short Films banner. More information will be posted when we know the exact date and whether we can attend in person or online.
Here is the team:
Director of Photography Noel Brady
Director Liam Halligan
Screenplay/Producer Rose Henderson
First Assistant Director Sean Nolan
Production Manager Miriam Duffy
Editor Noel Brady
Sound Danilo Zambrano
Costume Rowena Cunningham
Hair and Make-up Gillian Stapleton
Original Music Score Denis Clohessy
COVID Compliance Officer Helena White
Rose Henderson (Trish)
Pat Nolan (Tom)
Sorcha Furlong (Doctor)
Helena White (Alzheimer’s Society Facilitator)
Clare Monnelly (Kelly)
by GERRY LYNCH
LIVE THEATRE DESPITE OR THANKS TO PANDEMIC
Starring Rose Henderson and directed by Caroline FitzGerald
According to Sydney, everything has gone into decline: morality, masculinity, social behaviour… According to Sydney, the colour green should be outlawed. According to Sydney, plays should be dark, funny and short.
Rose Henderson plays Ruth, a law graduate who has been married for many years to the opinionated Sydney, who has sadly died. It’s important to spot the warning signs when a loved one is driving you over the edge, but did Ruth help him on his way? Did she go too far, in the end? Who is the woman who turned up at his funeral, wearing red shoes? Ruth didn’t mean to kill him… but in the end, something had to give.
One woman on a park bench.
Axis Arts Centre Ballymun, Courthouse Arts Centre Tinahely, Muck and Magic Community Gardens Ballymun, Cashel Arts Centre
Performed in 2020 in:
White Rock Beach
Clugga Co Wexford
Axis Arts Centre, Ballymun
Cloughjordan Eco Village, Co Tipperary
St. John’s Theatre, Listowel
Dunamaise Arts Centre, PortLaoise
Droichead Arts Centre, Drogheda
An Tain Arts Centre, Dundalk
Lexicon Library, DunLaoghaire as part of their Plays in the Park Series
Directed by Liam Halligan
Tom and Trish have celebrated their Silver Wedding Anniversary but what happens when he wakes up with a strange woman beside him and she tells him she’s his wife? Trish has to make a choice, which she does, armed only with humour, music and love.
This play is inspired by Rose’s Dad, Jack, who had Alzheimer’s and couldn’t remember he had cancer.
“He taught us about staying in the present, because that’s where he lived. We had to learn to never ask a question that didn’t have the answer in the room. His intelligence made life a crossword puzzle to be solved. I believe humour is the only way to survive if this topic visits you.“
Who am I without my past? Who am I without my partner? When we go out of our mind, where do we go?
You will laugh, you may cry, but you will find a tender story of the true meaning of love.
Show in a bag is an Artist Development Initiative of Dublin Fringe Festival, Fishamble: The New Play Company and Irish Theatre Institute to resource theatre makers and actors
IRISH INDEPENDENT 6 May 2023 Katy Hayes
Clear Portrait of living and dying with Alzheimer’s
There is a lot of Alzheimer’s in theatre at the moment, what with Deirdre Kinahan’s collaboration with Bryan Murray in the Peacock (An Old Song, Half Forgotten) and this gentle portrait of a man losing his mental grip playing in Bewley’s Cafe Theatre. Take Off Your Cornflakes was first presented in the Dublin Fringe in 2017, created under the Show in a Bag Scheme led by Fishamble.
Rose Henderson and Pat Nolan, both best known as TV actors, have co-written and star in this sad story of a Dublin bus driver diagnosed with Alzheimer’s at the age of 53. The play follows his 15 year journey with the condition. Tommy is at first distressed, but as the condition progresses, his awareness lessens and his state becomes simultaneously worse and better. Meanwhile, his wife, Trish, becomes his carer and in many ways the tragedy is worse for her.
The style of storytelling is episodic – lots of short scenes, each with their own clear epiphany or emotional point. The dramas are small: putting keys in shoes by accident; Tommy looking for his Mazda in the car park, forgetting he had replaced it with a Volkswagen.
Liam Halligan directs with a meticulous approach, teasing out the emotions at all points. A video backdrop by Kieran McBride adds a strong visual dimension.
Pat Nolan is a winning Tommy – commanding in his terrible dad jokes (he doesn’t forget these) and conveying occasional frustration in sharp outbursts of anger. Rose Henderson is a soft-hearted, coping Trish.
The tone is low-key without any major twists or turns; once the diagnosis is received, the disease the show continue on their projected path.
The most interesting and challenging idea, that Trish sometimes feels like smothering her husband with a pillow, gets raised timidly but qyickly out back in its box. Trish says “put me down if I get it” then rapidly pulls herself away from this black thought. There is a sense, however, that this black thought might have unlocked a greater dramatic payload.
But the play delivers its ambition well – to paint a clear portrait of what living and dying with Alzheimer’s is like. And if the story feels timid, it is also moving and very real.
IRISH TIMES ONLINE 06 September 2017
Finding the fun in the fog of Alzheimer’s
Experiences with her father inspired actor Rose Henderson to write a play about Alzheimer’s. Her former Fair City colleague, Pat Nolan, was a co-writer and also stars
The best thing about my dad having Alzheimer’s disease was that he couldn’t remember he had cancer.
An engineer who could always fix anything, my dad, Jack Henderson, had started to have a few forgetful moments. I remember him attempting to fix the rearview mirror in the roof of my car and being unable to figure out which direction to turn the screwdriver that was by then upside down.
It was another three years before he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and, 10 years later, he developed pancreatic cancer. My mum, Edith, was able to care for him at home until five weeks before he died, in April 2016, in St Michael’s Hospital in Dún Laoghaire.
My mum and dad were one of those couples who still held hands walking down the street. Married 62 years, they had their disagreements as well as their joys but Alzheimer’s was their biggest test. It seemed to us a cruel blow for an intelligent man who was such a gentleman, but it was these qualities which helped everyone who met him to wonder if he had the disease at all.
He always remembered his jokes, and enjoyed them, chuckling long after we had moved on to another topic. The choice was to laugh rather than cry in the face of disaster.
I hope that telling my parents’ story through a new play for the Dublin Fringe Festival, showing their daily reality and demonstrating their courage, will help to remove the stigma and to humanise the disease.
Moments of joy
People with Alzheimer’s are not zombies. In later stages they can withdraw, but there is often a key to ignite their focus and help them find moments of joy. My dad was never a singer, but at a birthday party his friend handed him the words of a song and he sang a solo with tuneful panache, surprising us all.
Take Off Your Cornflakes is my testament to him. Although, my former Fair City colleague, Pat Nolan, and I have created characters and a new story in this Show in a Bag production, there’s a lot of my dad in there. We hope that anyone who has been touched by this disease (which affects one in four families in Ireland) will recognise the journey of these characters, laugh at shared dilemmas and maybe learn a few ways to find relief.
Trish in the play has to make a choice – to survive or succumb to the pressure. She makes this choice armed only with humour, music and love. I believe humour is the only way to survive if this condition visits you.
We have been laughing a lot in rehearsals, learning to dance with Diane Richardson, trying to talk while dancing (we may abandon that), and Liam Halligan, who directs, nudges us gently to explore new ways of moving and staying true to the story which covers a period of 35 years.
I was rarely with my dad 24 hours a day, and was mostly able to enjoy my time with him. For my mum it was much harder, watching her best buddy steadily disconnect from their well-rehearsed repartee. It’s a lonely place, making decisions for both of them, and carers are largely unsupported by the health services (they managed to get an hour and a half of home help).
Kindness of neighbours
Without the kindness of local people, I don’t know how long mum could have kept him at home. The staff of Solo Café in Killiney would keep an eye on him while she did their grocery shopping, refusing to accept his repeated offers of money, and plying him with another coffee if she had not come back. The council even let him off a parking fine once, when he spent three hours searching for his car. How often does that happen!
Neighbours dropped everything when I was onstage in the Tivoli and brought mum to the hospital when he was ill. Their car mechanic, in PK Motors Blackrock, shut up shop, put on a suit, and came to dad’s funeral. Please know these kindnesses make a world of difference to a carer.
It was the little things that broke my mum’s heart, like having to buy her own Christmas present from him. Now, since his death, she finds herself surrounded by lovely friends and family – but alone.
To get this story on stage, Pat Nolan and I have had huge support and encouragement from Fishamble, the Irish Theatre Institute and Fringe Fest who run the Show in a Bag initiative to encourage actors to write and produce a new piece of theatre.
I miss my lovely dad. The writing of this play has been cathartic and enlightening, and I hope when people come, they will laugh, they may cry, but they will find more than just a story of Alzheimer’s, they will find a tender story of the true meaning of love.
The Arts Review – Chris O’Rourke
The Year that was 2017
While many shows focused on size or scale, some of the most memorable productions resulted from solo or duet performances. Take Off Your Cornflakes by Rose Henderson and Pat Nolan, as part of Fishamble’s Show in a Bag, was deeply moving.
Emer O’Kelly – Sunday Independent, Sept 17, 2017
The Fringe: from Rasputin to Alzheimer’s
Take Off Your Cornflakes by Rose Henderson and Pat Nolan, also part of the Show in a Bag initiative at the Fringe Festival, has it all: the initial joking references to losing one’s marbles, the increasing irritation at seeming thoughtlessness, the terror at finding the world alien, the anguish of the dark cloud of irrational suspicion of nameless betrayals, all culminating in a once passionately and deeply loved companion becoming merely a mindless cloud, and for the one who has retreated, what can only be hoped is a painless nirvana of loss.
The two authors play Trish and her taxi-driver husband Tommy, to perfection, directed by Liam Halligan with music by Denis Clohessy.
Fiona Charleton – Sunday Times, September 24, 2017
Good marriages rarely feature in theatre and when they do, tragedy usually lurks just a scene away. In this Show in a Bag production, written and performed by Rose Henderson and Pat Nolan, Trish and Tommy are married 25 years when his Alzheimer’s flips them from living to coping. Such topics require sensitive handling and director Liam Halligan steers a steady path. Tommy’s symptoms start small, such as forgetting the odd word. They laugh it off, since he’s only 54. As the ending is sadly inevitable, the story arc is more emotional than narrative. Henderson and Nolan have such natural chemistry that, like Trish, we are smiling through tears for much of the show.
An acutely observed piece inspired by Henderson’s family experience, this has an authentic dignity which affirms that love and good humour can coexist with heartbreak.
The Arts Review ****
Chris O’Rourke – September 18, 2017
“Take Off Your Cornflakes” by Pat Nolan and Rose Henderson, should come with a warning. At the very least it should stipulate ‘bring your own supply of tissues.’ Between tears when you want to laugh, and laughing when you want to cry, “Take Off Your Cornflakes” can be something of an emotional rollercoaster. This is a story of two people. Flawed, overwhelmed, and in love in sickness and in health, “Take Off Your Cornflakes” follows the experiences of Trish and Tommy, good people in a bad place, as Alzheimer’s takes hold in what is one of the most sensitive, heartfelt, and uplifting shows of the festival.
Reminiscent of the 2001 movie “Iris,” staring Judi Dench, Kate Winslet and Jim Broadbent, “Take Off Your Cornflakes” follows something of the same format and structure, dropping linear narrative and weaving past and present like a rich, luscious layer cake. Busman, and later taxi driver, Tommy, the man with the ready joke always to hand, has been getting forgetful lately. Trish reckons it’s the stress that’s got him into this state. As time passes and Tommy’s condition deteriorates, Trish has to adapt as her relationship shifts from wife to minder, lover to carer. Helpless as her partner becomes her patient, requiring her to have the patience of Job, Trish must face the transformation alone. With family away in San Francisco and Manchester, a son and daughter of the diaspora, Trish is left with phone calls, letters, and Skype calls for moral support. In the end it’s left to Trish to learn to agree, to divert, to distract, to reassure, and reminisce, over and over and over when Tommy needs it. Yet when the brain breaks down, love speaks up. Sometimes in every thing you do, other times in a brief moment of clarity.
Director Liam Halligan does a neat job with a script whose ordinariness conceals some intense depths below. Keeping pace and emotion balanced right on the line, Halligan ensures “Take Off Your Cornflakes” may tipple in places, but it never fully topples into becoming a sentimental tearjerker. Video imagery by Kieran McBride, lighting by Colm Maher and music by Denis Clohesy reinforce Halligan’s sense of the heartbreaking ordinariness of the experience. Pat Nolan is outstanding as the fun, life-loving Tommy, always telling a ridiculous joke, loving his wife and family more than anything, trying to hang on their memory by crosswords or memory games as his mind, and he, disappear. Indeed, Nolan just keeps getting better and better as Tommy gets worse, delivering a beautifully understated, heart wrenching performance. Rose Henderson as Trish, a woman who never complains, hiding her pain, and her needs, behind a forced smile is wonderfully compelling throughout. Clinging to Tommy in every moment, ready to kill him in the next, Henderson’s Trish is deeply moving as the wife who wants her husband back. For an hour. A day. A moment. Throughout, there’s a charm and ease, and an irresistible chemistry between Nolan and Henderson, that is utterly enchanting.
Hats off to A Show in a Bag, brainchild of Fishamble: The New Play Company, Irish Theatre Institute and Dublin Fringe Festival. When new writing all too often means young new writing, supporting a new work like “Take Off Your Cornflakes” as part of the four A Show in a Bag productions in the festival, helps challenge the ageism many feel dominates Irish theatre, especially when it comes to new writing. Hats off, too, to Pat Nolan and Rose Henderson for crafting a work of such sensitivity and relevance, giving voice and immediacy to the experience of those afflicted by Alzheimer’s. When all too often works by older writers are nostalgically looking back, Nolan and Henderson are firmly in the here and now, looking forward.
When it hits, Alzheimer’s is a puzzle that can’t be solved, only lived with, and it takes all those around it down in one shape or form. “Take Off Your Cornflakes” refuses to stay down and reclaims something back from that battle. Refusing to go quietly into that dark night, “Take Off Your Cornflakes” is a heartbreaking joy, full of love, laughter, and the living of every moment. And of jokes so bad you just can’t help laughing. So don’t miss “Take Off Your Cornflakes.” Remember to take your loved one with you, no matter what your age, and don’t forget to ask them to dance.
Michael Moffatt – Irish Mail on Sunday
SHOW OF THE WEEK ****
Tale of dementia gets a heartfelt touch
This latest play on the subject is seen very much from the point of view of Trish, watching her husband Tommy slowly losing his memory as she tries to cope with her own problems while trying to keep a watchful eye on his.
By themselves, those escalating episodes would make for a pretty routine production, but the play, written by the two performers, skilfully keeps the loving relationship central to everything, and the script is enlivened by Tommy’s ability to retain elements of his sense of humour based on word-play and his interest in crosswords; screen projection illustrates forgotten times and places. The ability to remember names and places is vital to taxi driver Tommy.
Rose Henderson as Trish and Pat Nolan as Tommy give very moving performances as a couple clinging to love and affection despite the impossible situation.
Kevin Worrall – Meg.ie – Sept 13, 2017
Take Off Your Cornflakes takes on a complex subject matter. A complicated topic rarely tackled in theatre. Directed by Liam Halligan, this Fishamble production offers an honest and heartfelt portrayal of living with Alzheimer’s.
The couple’s chemistry is beautiful. Portraying a typical Irish couple who have shared a million laughs and a million heartbreaks. Not only does it lend a voice to those suffering with dementia, but it gives a platform for those who have to watch a loved one go through it.
All in all, the message behind the project is very simple. To appreciate one’s past, but to more importantly, live in the present.
2023 Venues included:
BEWLEY’S CAFE THEATRE
2020 Arts Council Funded Tour included:
DROICHEAD ARTS CENTRE
WEXFORD ARTS CENTRE
DELVIN COMMUNITY CENTRE, CO MEATH
ST JOHN’S THEATRE, LISTOWEL
NENAGH ARTS CENTRE
THE COURTHOUSE ARTS CENTRE
2019 tour venues included:
EUROPEAN REMINISCENCE CONFERENCE
MARKETPLACE THEATRE ARMAGH
2018 tour venues included:
RIVERBANK ARTS CENTRE
HAWK’S WELL THEATRE
SOURCE ARTS CENTRE
DROICHEAD ARTS CENTRE
AN TAIN ARTS CENTRE
THE LINEN HALL ARTS CENTRE
VISUAL ARTS CENTRE
OUR LADY’S HOSPICE HAROLD’S CROSS
DUNAMAISE ARTS CENTRE
BIRR VINTAGE ARTS FESTIVAL
ROSCOMMON ARTS CENTRE
THE WHALE THEATRE
SION HILL SCHOOL as part of Living Well with Alzheimer’s HSE Group (Discussion after the show)
IRISH FESTIVAL OF OULU, FINLAND
TOWN HALL THEATRE
RED LINE FESTIVAL at the Civic Theatre
Director: Caroline Fitzgerald
Starring: Rose Henderson and Isobel Mahon
NEW ZUMBA SCENE AND BREDA FEELS A SONG COMING ON!
The Easi-Slim diet clinic in Clones town hall has just signed up a new member – upwardly mobile Pam McGowan (Isobel Mahon) has cruised into town in her soft top sports car. Pam has reached her target weight and has only signed up to maintain, and brag about the four stone she’s lost.
Breda (Rose Henderson) has been attending Easi-Slim meetings for quite some time but just can’t manage to reduce her waistline – until Pam comes along and whips her into shape.
Breda becomes a disciple of the high-priestess of low-carbs and is bowled over by just how fabulous Pam really is. The jet-style lifestyle, perfect family and of course, low-calorie intake all point towards the fact that Pam has a life every woman strives for. In fact, the only part of Pam that weighs too much is her over-bloated ego.
Breda’s gushing admiration for her new slimming buddy only serves to make Pam all the more condescending and insufferable. However, when Pam’s mask begins to slip, Breda is reminded that things aren’t always what they appear to be.
Weighing-in is a fast-paced comedy about life, love and dieting and how we all need to adjust the scales to find the right balance.
Reviewer: Rachel Rafferty – The Public Reviews
Probably one of the most appealing features of Ger Gallagher’s hilarious comedy, Weighing In is that at its heart is an all too familiar story that centers on two major aspects of women’s lives – identity and the body. Uproariously satirizing society’s contemporary obsession with the body beautiful, this two-hander is set in a small town in rural Ireland. The plot revolves around the svelte and hugely driven, blow in, Pam McGowan (Isobel Mahon) and the more amply proportioned, local Breda Lynch (Rose Henderson). Both are members of the nearby Easi-Slim clinic, but the difference is Pam having already lost a whole four stone has the prestige of being a life-long member while Breda is struggling. The two women bond, as the super-fit, Pam takes on Breda as her protégé in the battle of the bulge. Steered along by Pam’s leadership, a mixture of pep talks, pop psychology and power walks, Breda eventually begins to see results. However, as their friendship develops, an interesting parallel in the relationship emerges, for just as Breda drops the weight, so also does Pam drop her carefully, controlled veneer
The action takes place on the housewives’ power walks and Gallagher’s sharply funny dialogue is evident throughout. Pam and Breda lament for example, the unfortunate Dolores, who though a long-term attendee of the clinic actually got so fat she needs help to get up on the scales. Fitzgerald’s clean direction is obvious in this energetic, fast paced performance.
The actors also have a great rapport – Mahon’s Pam is a very heightened performance, a parody of a manic control-freak becoming almost cartoonish at times. Yet, she instills just enough humanity into the role to save it from veering over into caricature. This is tempered by Henderson’s very grounded Breda, down to earth, mammyish, plumb and pleasant.
At interludes, the offstage, voice of the Class Leader, in the form of Rosaleen Linehan’s voiceover adds to the fun. She dispenses tips, and advice, much of couched in those tired clichés that are the mainstay of most slimming clubs. Such hackneyed slogans as: ‘Fridge pickers wear bigger knickers.’
The play works on a deeper level also, positing the idea that obsessive dieting is just a fetish hiding a deeper need. The question is: what brings happiness? Pam is wealthy and gorgeous, but lonely, while the frumpy Breda’s home life is fulfilling and happy!
Reviewer: Frank L. No More Workhorse
We are constantly being told that obesity is a killer disease and we all need to eat less, to eat more wisely and to exercise. The first week in January after the excesses of the festive season is an entirely appropriate time to return to this less than amusing topic. Maybe an upstairs theatre in Dublin’s most iconic café, Bewleys in Grafton Street, is not the ideal venue in which to encourage eating less but that no way inhibits Breda (Rose Henderson) nor Pam (Isobel Mahon). Pam is new in town but is a long time successful member of Easi-slim (think target weight achieved, 4 stone lost, power walking guru, life time free membership); Breda shall we say is less successful and the problems of being a good wife and mother to her two sons have diverted her from success at Easi-slim. Pam brooks no arguments as she decides to take Breda in hand. They become bosom pals as they keep unwanted calories and needed exercise firmly in their sights.
Henderson and Mahon complement each splendidly in a two hander which takes a fair old swipe at the slimming industry. At the regular weigh-ins which take place weekly, the voice (off stage) of the Easi-slim guru (Rosaleen Linehan) gives advice, makes comments on the weekly weight losses, if any, and throws in for good measure some home truths as “encouragement” for those fighting the flab.
The inflections in her voice and the variety of its tones make a great foil for Breda and Pam to drive forward comically with their own personal battles which are not just about weight.
Losing weight is no laughing matter but adding humour to the ingredients must help the task to be a little bit easier. Weighing In has the right mixture of the difficulties and the obsessiveness which are likely to be encountered in any diet leavened by the comic script of Ger Gallagher, which is delivered with considerable skill by Rose Henderson and Isobel Mahon, that there is more than a good chance that smiles will dance merrily along the lips. In fact a large cream bun in Bewleys might be just what is needed to celebrate the inner glow that this production radiates!
Reviewer: Emer O’Kelly Sunday Independent
The lovely Emer O’Kelly hated Weighing In but I give you the grudging compliments she couldn’t ignore:
Rose Henderson’s endearing Breda is directed with her usual professionalism by Caroline FitzGerald, The audience at Bewley’s Cafe Theatre in Grafton Street at luncthime, 95% of them women, adored it. It is a relaxed way of spending a lunchtime hour.