view counter

Interview: The parallels of religious and social expectations between 1948 Cork and our contemporary world


Set in post-war Ireland, Tzarini Meyler’s two-hander grapples with the ideas of freedom and uncertainty in a changing world. Inspired by stories from Meyler's grandmother’s youth, this new show explores the intense friendship between two teenage girls as they navigate the instability around them. 


Talking about her writing process, Meyler explains that she often takes physical stimuli like found objects as a springboard. Here, she shares how this play sprang from watching the flitting of a kite one winter’s day, and how she’s tried to capture the contradictions of the post-war period in this story of politics, girlhood, and growth. 


Run Riot: Tell me about how Kites came about. Why did you want to write this story?


Tzarini Meyler: It was an incredibly windy December day and I was watching people flying kites by the sea. It struck me how their chaotic movements in the wind were like that of a child struggling to do as they're told. Their contradictory characteristics of frailty yet strength, freedom yet captivity, made me think of the pains of girlhood. 


I noticed all the people staring up at the kites longingly, like stars, and it made me think of the magic we all have inside us no matter what age, and the yearning we share for another life. I wanted to write a story about the value of friendship, love and finding yourself, in a world where the pressure to 'have it all' rings louder than ever.


This is super relevant today in our post pandemic world of cost of living crises and social media pressures. I wanted to create an empowering show that explores the power of childhood magic we sometimes leave behind in pursuit of our goals. 


Run Riot: The play is inspired by your great grandmother. Can you tell me a little about her? 


Tzarini: My great grandmother Kathleen was from a poor working class family but had big dreams of performing on stage. I have a photo of her in a makeshift costume with her friend when she was about six years old. Like many people, her brothers emigrated to Canada and Australia in search of a better life. They became travelling performers and musicians, whilst she stayed home in Ireland as a housewife and mother, and never got to pursue her creative goals. This made me think about how times have changed for women since the post-war period. 


Run Riot: Kites tackles political instability, harsh expectations for young girls, and the sacrifices women have to make. Why is this place and time - Cork, 1948 - such a rich period to explore all these topics?


Tzarini: I grew up in Cork myself, in a rural area, and even today, religion and social expectations play a huge role in women's decision making. However, during WW2, Cork was in fear of war arriving, holding its breath for an army that never came. 


Jobs were in short supply and food shortages and rationing continued well into the mid 50's. Women who didn't get married were seen as defective, and many were put in laundries and institutions for simply flirting with a boy, and yet, magazines and TV screens were showing images of icons like a hip-thrusting Elvis and a seductive Marilyn Monroe. There was a huge contrast between stifling expectations and modern promises. Also, Cork's urbanisation was growing rapidly, with social housing arriving during the 'birth of the teenager'. 


As a writer, I was really interested in exploring the city as a living, breathing being, and Cork during this period was going through huge struggle and change, just as its women were. Kitty and Angel grow alongside their landscape, pushing and pulling against what is right in front of them, and what is being dangled out of their reach.  


Run Riot: The play also explores friendship and possibility. What did you enjoy most about writing about Kitty and Angel’s coming-of-age relationship?


Tzarini: I loved exploring the darker side of teenage friendships, particularly amongst girls - that dependency, possessiveness and pressure. It made for rich material in the writing process. They both come from broken homes for different reasons and they respond differently to friendship because of this, with Kitty putting all her love and dependency into Angel, whilst Angel tries to 'fit in' and 'belong' with the rest of the community. I loved exploring how some people grow towards their fantasies whilst others push them away. 


Run Riot: How do you use physical theatre to embody all of this?


Tzarini: The physical theatre element is used to embody the passage of time, and the relationship between the two girls as it shifts and morphs as they grow. Sometimes the body speaks a thousand words, and in this show, movement is used to explore dreams, longing and fantasy, it represents all the unsaid words inside us. 


Run Riot: You’re also performing in the show. What has been the most exciting discovery during the creation of the show?


Tzarini: Playing with the costumes and props to explore the girls' identity and their growth as people, as well as the lighting and sound. During the rehearsal process we experiment with how their clothing moves and has a voice of its own, informing our characters' energy and movement. Also, colour is very important to the show, (and the lack thereof) so it's been really exciting to play with that, and discover more about this world than I had even considered when writing it.


Run Riot: What’s next for your theatre company, LipZinc?


Tzarini: There's a brand new show in development, supported by the Arts Council. 'The Three Chairs' is written by me and co-choreographed by Italian clown, Cristian Izzo and Ana Canals, with the cast. Also, our first short film, 'They Call Me Bridget' premieres at film festivals this summer, so keep an eye out! 


Run Riot: Is there anything else I should know?


Tzarini: It has a fairytale feeling, exploring the boundaries of fantasy and reality through the eyes of young women. The show is led by beautiful narration from the wonderful actress and voice coach, Kate Firth. 


LipZinc Theatre present Kites at the Vault Festival, 7-12 March 2023

view counter