Ready, Steady, SHOW! is The Civic’s Festival for Young Audiences. Earlier this year we invited some of the best practitioners in this field to come and play at The Civic and present their ideas and to apply for our Ready Steady SHOW! Commissions and Artist Development Programme. We are delighted to announce the recipients and are excited to work with them and support the development of their ideas as we find new and innovative ways of engaging and reimagining work for 0 – 12 year olds during COVID-19.

Mary-Lou McCarthy has been commissioned €15k for the development of her theatre piece ‘The Dead Letter Office’. We had a chat with Mary-Lou to find out a little more about her and what her plans are.

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your background in the Arts?
Hi, my name is Mary-Lou McCarthy. I’m a Corkonian, which means I’m originally from Cork- although I did misspell it on Twitter once and call myself a CorkOnion- a small, but significant difference! I have never been good at spelling, in fact I wasn’t very good at any of the academic stuff at school, but I loved Drama. When I was a teenager I joined the Cork School of Music Youth Theatre and studied Drama and Voice there too. My confidence flourished, and thankfully so did my spelling! I went on to study Drama and Theatre Studies and English at University College, Cork and it was here I decided I definitely wanted to be a professional actor when I landed a role in the irish language TV series Aifric on TG4.  Once I graduated I continued working in the Irish language with TG4 and started to get roles in the theatre too. My work brought me all around Ireland and eventually a play in the Dublin Theatre Festival with Brokentalkers (former artists in residence at The Civic) called The Blue Boy, landed me here in Dublin and I’ve been coming and going ever since. Now I work across many disciplines as a performer and theatre-maker including TV, film, theatre and radio. I love that the work I do varies from week to week and has led to some fantastic collaborations with artists in venues and schools all over the country.

Tell us a little bit about the recent things you have been working on?
I’m a freelance artist, which basically means I don’t work with one company specifically, instead I collaborate with different people and companies depending on the project. Last year I split my time between Fair City (playing Tessa Holloway) and doing theatre projects for young audiences here at The Civic and in other venues.  For most of my career I have longed to write, and now finally with the support of Ready, Steady, SHOW! I have the time and support to develop my voice as a writer and to hone my skills as a theatre-maker.  I was in London at the beginning of the year and I started a 10-week playwriting course at the National Theatre led by the wonderful writer Jennifer Farmer. Due to the pandemic the course was cut short, however, a group of us have continued to meet online every Tuesday to share and read each other’s work. We are now going into week 20 (!) and It means that every Tuesday I have a writing deadline, and as everyone knows nothing like a deadline to get the work done!

Can you tell us a little bit about what you are working on for Ready Steady, SHOW! The idea, the audience where you are at at the minute?
I’m developing a project called The Dead Letter Office. The story is about Elizabeth, a letter detective who works in a Dead Letter Office solving the mysteries of the lost post, shut away from  the world at large. One day while sorting the lost parcels, Elizabeth opens a box and discovers a lost person inside. It is a story about migration, friendship and how through others we can find ourselves.  The project is currently aimed at ages 7+ and immerses the audience in an enchanting world of talking envelopes, lost love letters and missing objects with captivating stories to share. It explores the themes of friendship, home and displacement.  I’m delighted to officially announce that I will be working with the incredibly talented author, performer and director Veronica Coburn who will help bring this new project to life.

What’s it like under Quarantine, how have you been working/ engaging, any insights about life or the Arts?
I have had days where I can work for hours and make great progress, and days where I feel overwhelmed by the pandemic and what is happening in the world. I’m finding I have to work to look after my mental health, so each day I make sure I get out for a walk/run and do some yoga.  I’m used to working with people, playing, collaborating and being in a room together, so everyday I make sure I connect with someone, whether that is online, on the phone or in a socially distanced safe way. I find it’s important to feel connected to others at this time. The days where I spend time looking after myself,  are in fact the days I get the best work done.

Tell us a random fact about yourself for fun!
I’ve taken up rollerblading again after a 17-year gap, and I find it both terrifying and thrilling! I am still learning to stop. Baby steps.


Main Blog Image:
Photo Credit : Ros Kavanagh

Ready, Steady, SHOW! developments will take place over the Summer & into the Autumn. Stay tuned to our Social Media Channels for more!