Hope springs fraternal

Roisin McBrinn's debut, Gompers, is a tale of struggling American self-esteem
Click to follow
The Independent Culture

Having assisted the director, Michael Grandage, on After Miss Julie and Caligula at the Donmar Warehouse and then Kathy Burke on The Quare Fellow at the Oxford Stage Company, Roisin McBrinn, 26, is now directing her own production.

Having assisted the director, Michael Grandage, on After Miss Julie and Caligula at the Donmar Warehouse and then Kathy Burke on The Quare Fellow at the Oxford Stage Company, Roisin McBrinn, 26, is now directing her own production.

McBrinn was resident assistant director at the Donmar Warehouse until January, when she found the play Gompers - about the search for faith - while working in the Donmar's literary department. "I couldn't get it out of my head," she says. This was in between a year of working with Grandage and assisting other directors including Robin Lefevre on The Hotel in Amsterdam, Gary Griffin on Pacific Overtures and Robert Delamere on Accidental Death of An Anarchist. "It is all in the writing," she says. "The play is full of black humour and splashes of magic in a real world."

This is the European premiere of Gompers, which was written by the American playwright, Adam Rapp. His play Blackbird was premiered at the Bush Theatre, London, in 2001 and Ghosts in Cottonwoods received its UK premiere at the Arcola in 1996. He is currently in post-production for his first film, Winter Passing, starring Ed Harris to be released next spring.

The Dublin-born McBrinn has never met the playwright, but would be "honoured" if she did. "He may come to the opening night, I hope."

The play tells the story of 10 characters from the fictional town of Gompers, on the east coast of America, in search of hope. The steel mill has closed and its citizens have lost all faith. But when a golden greyhound is found under a tree and a blue-hued Jesus is seen down by the river, it opens them up to the idea of hope. "Until this happens, they have been void of potential, with no self-esteem because they don't have anything," says McBrinn. "All there is for them is drugs, violence and soulessness."

The sparse, urban and gritty set is designed by Paul Wills, Christopher Oram's protégé - who won a Laurence Olivier Award for best costume design for the production of Power at the Cottesloe. The Arcola Theatre is an up-and-coming fringe company in Hackney - a hotbed of new talent - who will put on Out of Joint's promenade version of Macbeth, directed by Max Stafford-Clark, in October.

McBrinn is now in her element as director of this production. "It is more challenging than anything I have ever done before," she says excitedly. What has she learnt from her mentors? "Kathy [Burke] is an amazing person and a fabulous director. She creates a very high morale in the company. She does that by allowing the actors to own what they are working on. It is a collaborative effort," she says.

"Michael [Grandage] is a visionary. He always includes you in his process. I have learnt from his style, his precision and his ability to stand back and analyse his storytelling. This is something that I am hoping to aim for."

'Gompers': Arcola Theatre, London, E8 (020-7503 1646), 31 August to 18 September

Comments