Paul Mercier

WorksCriticismNotes


Life
1958- ; b. Dublin; son of a Cork-born foreman at Crampton’s and a Clare mother (Nuala née McGann), from Clare; he had 9 siblings; took his love of theatre from his mother; ed. UCD (grad. Irish and English); wrote The Passion Machine, and fnd. the Passion Machine Theatre Company, 1984, with an address at 27 Mountjoy Sq., Dublin; served as Artistic Director; launched Roddy Doyle’s and Michael Harding’s early plays and launched Brendan Gleeson’s acting career - both being Like Paul, they were teachers at Greendale Community School, Kilbarrack;
 
 
his own plays deal dealing with the lives of the young, marginalised and disaffected using ensemble casts and its pacey direction incl. Studs (1986; revived Gaiety Th. May-June 2002), the story of a no-hoper soccer team who continue to dream; later released as a film (March 2006); Home (1992); Buddleia (1996) - in which three generations of settlers in suburbia come to view the new world for the first time; Kitchensink (Dublin Th. Fest. 1997), weaving Greek myth with the reality of working-class Dublin;
 

others written and directed by him incl. Drowning (1984), a rock musical set in a working-class estate; Wasters (1985), Spacers (19860; Pilgrims (1993); Native City (1998); We Ourselves (2000); Diarmuid and Gráinne, and an outdoor theatre work entitled P.; afterwards wrote and directed Down The Line and Homeland for the Abbey - the latter a ‘white-knuckle ride’ in ‘the world of the Celtic Tiger’ (Abbey 2006); appt. director and script editor of AIFRIC Series 1-3 (2006, 2007, 2008);

 
appt. member of the Abbey board;Script Editor of SÍOL, a series of short films produced by Rosg, Eo Teilifís and TG4; script editor of ÚDAR, an Eo Teilifís and TG4 film initiative; his commissioned plays The Passing, and The East Pier were both premiered at the Abbey, along with No Romance by Nancy Harris under the New Writing label in March 2011; he is married to Paul’s wife, Anne Gately who was general manager of Passion Machine. DIL2

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Works
Plays: Home (Dublin: Passion Machine 1992); Buddleia (Dublin Th. Fest. 1996); Kitchensink (Dublin Th. Fest. 1997); Homeland (Abbey Th., Feb. 2006); The Passing and The East Pier (both Abbey March 2011).

Short films: Before I Sleep (Brother Films 1996), Lipservice (Brother Films 1998), and Tupperware (Brother Films 2001).

See listings and details at ...
International Movie Database [IMBD] - online.
Irish Playography website - online
...

Drowning (1984)
Wasters
(1985)
Spacers (1986)
Studs (1986)
Home (1988)

Pilgrims (1993)
Kitchensink (1996)
Native city (1998)
We Ourselves (2000)
Homeland (2006)

...
Also listing of all plays produced by Passion Machine Theatre Company
at Irish Playography - online

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Criticism
Jim Culleton [interview], in Theatre Talk: Voices of Irish Theatre Practitioners, ed. Lilian Chambers, Ger Fitzgibbon, Eamonn Jordan, et al. (Blackrock: Carysfort Press 2001), pp.331-41.

See also interview by John Kelly at the National Library of Ireland at at 8pm on Monday, 26 April 2010.

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Commentary
Nelson Pressley
, ‘Raising the Curtain on Modern Ireland’, in Washington Post (Sunday 22 Oct. 2000), notices Paul Mercier, Down the Line, dir. Lynn Parker at Peacock and dealing with a family in crisis, with conservative parents and children committed to abortion rights and rock music; 12 characters in all. (p.G9.)

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David Nolan (Irish Times Th. Critic), review of The Passion Machine:
Paul Mercier's new play for The Passion Machine is an extraordinarily clever construction of seven consecutive monologues delivered by seven people who came to young adulthood in the time of such television series as The Man from Uncle and Mission Impossible , who worked together for a time in a factory in Germany before moving to Eindhoven in what they called Dopeland and then separated out to develop their individual lives and careers.
  The monologues take us from the time Sarah and Declan walked the strand at Booterstown and then up by Baker's Corner to Dean's Grange and the 46A bus, to the day of Sarah's funeral when Declan (now Deaglán) is a senior civil servant in Brussels and the Celtic Tiger is on the rampage. The first monologue is Sarah's, (Pia McInerney), youthful and romantic and in search of fulfilment. The second is from Mikey (Conor Byrne), the schoolteacher who never knew terror until he came to fill in as music teacher to class 5C, and who is a bit older and maybe on the verge of disillusion. The third is from Úna, (Gabrielle Breathnach), dedicated to theatre, an art in which she seems unlikely to succeed), and the fourth from Aonghus (Gerry McCann), gay, living in what he calls Sodom City, fixated on Batman and Robin and determined to be a marching baton-twirling majorette in the New York St Patrick's Day parade. Then there is Eimear (Gail Fitzpatrick), an unhappy lawyer, wife and mother in a recently custom-built Georgian mansion, and bionic Pip (David Gorry) who is very much into computers and not much into anything else and, finally, a very drunk Deaglán (Liam Carney) who has missed his plane from Dublin to Brussels after Sarah's cremation and is asking the Kosovan night porter in his hotel to give him an early call to catch the morning flight out. /  Under the direction of the author and Jean O'Dwyer, the acting is excellent throughout as each player adds a bit of personal history to the tale of what happened to the original group and a bit of general history by way of attitude to goings-on in Ireland. The pace throughout is break-neck: so fast, indeed, that several touching moments get trampled by the speed, and many excellent glancing jokes get lost in the rush. A little variation in pace might add to the emotional impact and enliven the humour. Great demands are made on the audience by the need to concentrate on every word and line as the kaleidoscopic picture flashes past of both a changing Ireland and seven changing people. But the sharp attention required is rewarded by the always affectionate, sometimes irritated and occasionally angry passion that Mercier has invested in his text which runs, unchecked by an interval, for two-and-a-quarter hours. Recommended. (Irish Times, q.d.; copied on Diaspora E-list.)

 

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Ciara Dwyer, ‘The Cruel Business of Theatre’, in Independent [UK] (Sunday, 2 June 2002) - Independent Woman [sect.]: ‘[...] Paul Mercier came from a family of 10. His father’s first wife died. Paul is the eldest of the second family. They lived in Blackrock. Paul’s mother, Nuala McGann, was from Clare and his father, Peadar, was from Cork. / “My mother loved the theatre. When I was old enough she used to bring me with her to plays. Looking at the plays, it was inconceivable that I could ever become part of that world. Films and television were more important for me.” / Paul’s father was a foreman for Crampton’s builders. He also played the bodhran with the Chieftains for a while but he had to keep his day job there were 10 children to support. He drummed it into Paul’s head that he had to get a skill. / “When I came home one day and told my parents that I wanted to work in the theatre, they told me that I would have to be a teacher; that anything else was a mug’s game.” / Mercier got a degree in Irish and English from UCD. Then he took his parents’ advice and taught for 15 years. Only in the past few years did Paul pack in the teaching. / “My father was right. Without my teaching job at Greendale, there would have been no Passion Machine. It subsidised the drama. Theatre is a cruel business. I would hate to see anyone put all their eggs in one basket. I used to hop on my bike after school and then we’d begin rehearsals at half four or five. You can do everything. We all stuck to our day jobs Roddy, Brendan.” Rather than looking back in regret, Mercier would urge all aspiring young actors to get a skill, a day job.’ (See full-text version in RICORSO Library, “Criticism > Reviews”, via index, or direct.)

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Sara Keating, ‘Ordinary lives, but full of drama’, in The Irish Times (Wed., 16 March 2011): ‘[...] Mercier’s theatre company, Passion Machine, became one of the most vibrant forces in Dublin theatre of the 1980s and 1990s, producing his own work and the work of other writers, such as Roddy Doyle’s Brownbread and Declan Lynch’s Massive Damages. The success enabled Mercier to leave his teaching post at Greenhills College and become a full-time writer. However, his work was not without its critics. / “People would say, that’s not the role of theatre. That’s for soap opera. Kitchen-sink, they’d say.” (In response, Mercier playfully called one of his most celebrated plays Kitchensink.) “But it’s about letting ordinary people connect with the world in a different way. That’s really what ‘culture’ is about.” / Perhaps as a result of his inclusive creative aspirations, much of Mercier’s work has taken more fluid form than conventional literary text-based drama. (Perhaps because of their performative quality too, much of his work remains unpublished). Homeland, for example, took shape in 2006 after five-week improvisational rehearsals with the actors. / “There was a general idea of what we wanted to create and we took it from there. And the style was more physical, visual as a result. We were playing with the mechanics of the stage as much as with the subject matter.” / Remembering the “crazy” process, he grins when he says that “the best thing for me at the moment I think is to have the play written well in advance”.’ (See full-text version in RICORSO Library, “Criticism > Reviews”, via index, or direct.)

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Notes
Drowning (1984) is a contemporary rock-musical play set in a working class Dublin housing estate in 1984. Luke, the central character, lives with a dysfunctional family in a world of social deprivation and disadvantage. He escapes into a dream world where he is 'Ossie Stench', rock star and lead singer with the Tomahawks. He is, however, constantly brought back to reality by his family. Drowning is the story of Luke's struggle to reconcile his love for his family with his overpowering need to escape from them. (See Irishplayography details - online [.asp]; accessed 12.11.2012].)

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Wasters (1985) tells the story of six disenchanted and disaffected young Dubliners who spend a night drinking together on a waste ground on the edge of a corporation housing estate. Bonzo, the one who got away to work on a building-site in Islington, is back for a weekend and wants to party. He left unexpectedly and has returned the same way, only now he is trying to convince himself that all has changed for the better. His old friends re-unite for one last get together. Feelings run deep. There are scores to settle. There are wounds to heal. And there are games to play. (Pers. dram.: Liz, Bonzo, Martina, Ducky, Angela, Joycer.) (See Irishplayography details - online [.asp]; accessed 12.11.2012].)

Spacers (1986): A group of young workers from the local supermarket rehearse and perform a play, written by the security guard, Chas, which has been entered for a Variety Show competition. The cast includes Stella, the star-struck hairdresser, who falls for Ritchie, a lame Teddy Boy and the show's musical director; Thomas the skinhead who collects shopping trolleys; Belinda the mod who stacks shelves; Toni, the cashier with a puss, and Hughie who drives a forklift and everybody else around the bend. What begins as an earnest romance becomes an unintentional send-up of Kung Fu and vigilante movies. Cast: 5 males; 4 females. (See Irishplayography details - online [.asp]; accessed 12.11.2012].)

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Studs (1986): A play about a local soccer team on a working-class suburban estate. Emmet Rovers have not won a game in twelve months, and the last time was against Belview Dynamo whom everyone beats anyway. Rovers are at an all time low and they are about to lose their football ground. But the team's fortunes and the lives of the players are changed forever by a stranger who becomes their manager. Cast: 12 males. (See Irishplayography details - online [.asp]; accessed 12.11.2012].)

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Home (1988): Michael Sheehy leaves home in Westmeath and moves lock, stock and barrel into his first bedsit in Dublin city. Equipped with a diploma in hotel management, a degree in naivety, a plethora of self-help manuals and twenty-eight years of existence, Michael makes a fresh start in life. He sets up base in a house of flats, peopled by many colourful characters, and goes in search of the right job. (See Irishplayography details - online [.asp]; accessed 12.11.2012].)

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Pilgrims (1993): John and Kate are married and live in Dublin. One day in August, as the summer season draws to a close, they leave their children with friends and in-laws and take off in the car on a spontaneous holiday to the south west Irish Coast. Kate is looking to rekindle the magic that will save their marriage. John hopes to find the spirit of his dead father, and something to believe in before he goes back teaching. When they arrive at their destination, night has fallen and the relationship is at breaking point. But they encounter other holidaymakers, other people on a journey to something that will put meaning, wonder and hope back in their lives. The beach of John's childhood becomes a place where many paths cross, and where dreams are played out before it is time to go home. (See Irishplayography details - online [.asp]; accessed 12.11.2012].)

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Kitchensink (1996): Set in a fictional Dublin suburb, Kitchensink combines Greek Tragedy and kitchen-sink drama, masks and realism, ritualistic theatre and soap-opera. The action takes place on a building site, in the concrete shell of a half-built house. It is the story of Helen, a child of suburbia, whose life spans a period of three decades from the building of the first housing estate to today's sprawling development. This work is a document of an ever-expanding environment focusing on the experiences of childhood, love, marriage and death. (See Irishplayography details - online [.asp]; accessed 12.11.2012].)

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Native City (1998): Set in a disused church, the play opens with a group of Dublin football fans who encounter two Bosnian refugees and behave in a racist manner towards them. The action works its way back through the twentieth century, and rave parties make way for the more sedate concert hall performances of the fifties and sixties. We are transported back, through the Second World War, to 1916, to the First World War, and then to the earliest days of the century when Queen Victoria arrived in Dublin to an ecstatic reception from the Royal subjects in what was then regarded as the second city of the Empire. (See Irishplayography details - online [.asp]; accessed 12.11.2012].)

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We Ourselves (2000): In seven consecutive monologues, the play tells the story of seven Irish characters who worked together for a time in a factory in Germany before separating to develop their individual lives and careers. The monologues take us from the time Sarah and Declan walked the strand at Booterstown and then up by Baker's Corner to Dean's Grange and the 46A bus, to the day of Sarah's funeral when Declan (now Deaglan) is a senior civil servant in Brussels and the Celtic Tiger is on the rampage; to Mickey, the schoolteacher who never knew terror until he came to fill in as music teacher to class 5C, and who is a bit older and maybe on the verge of disillusion; to Una, dedicated to theatre, an art in which she seems unlikely to succeed; to Aonghus, gay, living in what he calls Sodom City, fixated on Batman and Robin and determined to be a marching baton-twirling majorette in the New York St Patrick's Day parade. Then there is Eimear, an unhappy lawyer, wife and mother in a recently custom-built Georgian mansion, and bionic Pip who is very much into computers and not much into anything else and, finally, a very drunk Deaglan who has missed his plane from Dublin to Brussels after Sarah's cremation and is asking the Kosovan night porter in his hotel to give him an early call to catch the morning flight out. (See Irishplayography details - online [.asp]; accessed 12.11.2012].)

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Homeland (2006) revolves around Gerry Newman, spin doctor, a fixer, and property developer, whose odyssey in Celtic-Tiger Ireland is played out against the background of the myth of Oisín and Tir nÓg. Having fled his native country for the Mediterranean after bribery charges, Newman returns to a changed land where he quickly progresses by selling up-market homes. Though instructed not to proceed beyond the airport on a trip home, he checks out the nightlife in Dublin and meets Niamh and wakes to find himself stripped of cash and credit cards. A journey into the unknown begins. The quick-change settings and multiple roles of the cast (except for Newman played by Carney) includes construction sites, hotel lobbies, fast-food outlets, internet cafés, supermarkets, posh houses and squalid flats. Supporting roles are played by David Pearse, Joe Hanley, and Denis Conway. (90 mins. one-act play.)

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The Passing: A childhood home fills with memories as long-buried emotions resurfaces in this tender new play. (Irish Times advert, March 2011.)

The East Pier: A modern day love story. Once close, now strangers, they meet again after twenty-five years. (Irish Times advert, March 2011.)

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Aifric: ‘The third series of Aifric, produced by Telegael, begins a five week shoot in Solas Studios, Tully, Connemara on Monday 14th July [2011]. The 4x30 min series stars Clíona Ní Chíosain in the title role of Aifric, with Mairéad Ní Chonghaile (How Harry Became a Tree), Barry Barnes (Kings, Veronica Guerin) and Kevin Ó Dwyer (An Créatúr) featuring as her eccentric family. / The programme follows the ups and downs in the life of schoolgirl Aifric, as she deals with the issues affecting all modern teenagers – falling in love, falling out with your parents, school stresses, friendship and finding your identity. The TG4 series scooped the IFTA for Best Children’s/Youth Programme in 2008 and the Bronze Torc at this year’s Celtic Media Festival. Series three is written by Richie Conway, Tadhg Mac Dhonnagháin (Ros na Rún, Turas Teanga), Roise Goan, and Trish Forde (Ros na Rún) and produced by Michael O’Domhnaill and John Brady. Paul Mercier returns to direct the third series while DOP on the shoot is Billy Keady, with Dara McGee as Production Designer.’ (See ‘Director Paul Mercier’ on Aifric: an interview by Angela Mullin, at Irish Film and Television Network [IFTN] - online; accessed 03.07.2011.)

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Namesake: Paul Mercier, Canadian-born and English-trained actor, has played successfully in US video-games such as Leon S Kennedy in Resident Evil and Private Miller in Call of Duty

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