Playing at cops and robbers when all the world's a courthouse
To illustrate this point, he tells me about a conversation he had with a solicitor whose client was caught breaking into a furniture warehouse. His legs were hanging out a window about six feet above the road when gardaí arrived on the scene in the early hours of the morning and arrested the individual. When the suspect was instructing his solicitor, his line of defence was: “I do a bit of contract cleaning and I was just pricing a job.”
On another occasion, a defendant gave his name in the Bridewell Garda Station as Mickey Mouse, and this name appeared on the charge sheet. When the case came before the court, the judge played along by stating: “Bring out Mr Mouse.”
The real test for Heylin came when he put on a version of the play in Cork prison for some of the inmates. “It was such a great buzz. We put it on in a room with no stage, and the inmates were turning around to each other and responding to lines that others wouldn’t have,” he says. “I did want the play to be funny and have the kind of chaotic energy they have in their lives, but I didn’t want it to be unsympathetic. I’m not laughing at them, and if I had been, they would have copped it pretty quickly.”After the performance, the inmates remained convinced the actors had served time in prison such was the authenticity of their performances.
While there is much humour in the play, Heylin also manages to get at the social causes and explanations for crime, without glorifying the lives some criminals lead. “People play out their lives at high levels of emotion in courtrooms,” he says. “It is a fantastic place for a writer interested in how people speak and express things. You hear how people lie, how they fool themselves and how they try to fool other people. It is already a form of theatre.”
Love, Peace and Robbery is at the Cork Arts Theatre from January 15th to 26th. corkartstheatre.com