ON THE BLOG: Una Nic Eoin from Belfast's Prime Cut

Belfast-based Prime Cut Productions is an award-winning independent theatre company with over 50 Irish and Northern Irish premieres to their name. Two-time beneficiaries of Cooperation Projects funding, we caught up with Executive Producer Una Nic Eoin to hear about EU Collective Plays! – an eight-partner project that promotes the creation of plays that are the result of a collaboration of playwrights of different nationalities.

EU Collective Plays! is a four-year Cooperation project, entering its final year. Tell us about where you’re up to 

"Prime Cut Productions joined the project in 2016 – a year into the project cycle. So we’re not one of the ‘original’ partners, but rather were invited to join when another UK partner had to pull out. That has come with its challenges!

"Remember the great privilege you have in speaking your first language and recognise the generosity of your partners in enabling this."

"But we’ve got a really busy six months ahead, profiling the project and the Northern Irish voices within it on a number of international and high-profile platforms. For example, I recently gave a presentation for the IETM Plenary in Munich – where I shared insights into EU Collective Plays and contrasting being a partner and lead in Cooperation Projects (Prime Cut was Lead Partner in a project in the previous programme, The Conquest of Happiness)."

For the project you’re working closely with playwright Fionnuala Kennedy on a new work?

"Yes, we’ve commissioned Fionnuala to develop a new work, that will be in an anthology of plays published as part of EU Collective Plays. Her piece is called ‘Removed’ and we presented a reading recently at the Oslo International Theatre Festival, a slightly evolved script from the first reading at the Young at Art Festival in Belfast a few months before. 

"It received a standing ovation in Oslo and we are now exploring opportunities for presentation by the Royal Theatre in Montenegro. It’s a very Northern Irish story, but one that clearly resonates far beyond. This wasn’t an original ambition of the project but demonstrates how opportunities do present themselves along the way.

"The show is now in third draft and we’ll be starting rehearsals in January." 

Polyvocality, polyvocal/polyphonic plays – key words for EU Collective Voices – can you elaborate? 

"As you can imagine we’ve had plenty of discussions around defining polyvocality! And as much as it can be simplified to ‘more than one voice impacting on a play’, the different cultures and experiences that each of the partners brings to the table means that the discussion will never end! 

"There are hundreds of different approaches to playwrighting, hundreds of different methodologies - it’s valuable to explore these through the project. And we’ll be doing that intensely in Northern Ireland between November and March – through a series of workshops exploring the idea of joint approaches to creating theatre.  

"As Prime Cut we’ll be sharing our learning with audiences in Northern Ireland and getting their input - our workshops will be for different groups - funders, stakeholders, participants  the arts community and Prime Cut audiences. Seeing Finn’s work will enable us to apply the theories and the debate, and we hope for Northern Ireland will have a really strong voice in the project."

Has anything surprised you?

"Having been involved in a previous Cooperation Project I think we’re pretty open to surprises! Going into this we knew that opportunities would open up beyond the specific remit of the project. A nice example of this is a new theatre and education project exploring diversity, for 3-6 year olds. It’s a different way to demonstrate how polyvocality can be used. 20 children per workshop collaborate with visual artists and storytellers to create characters. The characters are gradually amalgamated, and the stories interwoven, to create a production seen by all the children in the school in which they will be able to identify the bits of the characters and stories they created. i.e. the play as a reflection of diverse voices. To deliver this we’ve worked in partnership with Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council, and Belfast City Council. 

"And with EU Collective Voices as the catalyst, we’ve been able to link our international work brilliantly recently – ‘Removed’ will hopefully be shown in Montenegro, by our Creative Europe partner Montenegrin Royal Theater Zetski dom, and Gina Donnelly, our Production Manager on a Weston Jerwood Creative Bursary (2018-9), with the support of the British Council is currently working at the Theatre. You can hear from her about her experience here." 

Do you have any advice for potential applicants for Creative Europe?

"Have a strong project plan and strong partnerships where each partner knows exactly what is expected of them. Be rigorous with your own financial planning, and expect there to be some financial bumps along the way. It’s helpful if you have reserves in order to manage these risks.

"Remember the great privilege you have in speaking your first language and recognise the generosity of your partners in enabling this."

The call for 2019 Cooperation Projects is now open

Image: Royal Theatre - Helen of Savoy workshow (Fura direction), part of EU Collective Plays!