Richard Molloy: ‘Write what you’re afraid of . . . you have to upset people’

Divorce is a source of painful shame in Richard Molloy’s new play, ‘The Separation’

Carrie Crowley and David Murray in rehearsals for ‘The Separation’

Carrie Crowley and David Murray in rehearsals for ‘The Separation’

Thu, Jun 5, 2014, 01:00

In early 1990s Ireland, before divorce was accepted in a referendum by just the narrowest of margins, Dublin-born Richard Molloy grew up feeling different and ashamed as the son of separated parents.

Today, Molloy is a teacher and playwright in his early 30s. His first play, The Separation, which is now on at Project Arts Centre in Dublin, starring Carrie Crowley and David Murray, examines a disintegrating Dublin family.

The play is not autobiographical, he says, but it is personal. In school, a teacher had once made it clear to his mother, Mary, that her son would not have been accepted into the school if its management had known that she and her husband, Philip Molloy, had separated, “because marriage was sacred”.

“I was ashamed to tell my friends at school that my parents were separated,” he says. “I felt it was weird, I felt that I was an alien. I’m sure the other parents had their own troubles but I was ashamed of it . . . I don’t really want to write political plays, but this play came out of the shame that I felt as the child of a broken home.”

Now, Molloy worries about what his parents – his father, Philip Molloy, a former Irish Independent journalist who now reviews films for Newstalk, and mother, Mary Meyler – will think of his work.

“It isn’t an autobiographical play about something that happened, but it is informed by that shame that I felt. I am sure it will be upsetting for them. I am worried about how they will respond.

“Writers are told that you have to write about what you are afraid of and that is what I was afraid of. That was the first thing I had to write about. I hope it doesn’t upset them too much.”

Long time

He pauses for a long time. “But if it doesn’t then it is not a good enough play. That’s another thing they say; you have to upset people, too.”

Molloy wants his play, which has been three years in the making, to succeed but worries about the price to be paid. We meet in a London rehearsal hall, where the cast have been working on the play for three weeks. In it, an American character, a work colleague and potential lover of the husband, plays the foil, offering an outsider’s bemusement at witnessing Irish society in the days before divorce was introduced.

For Molloy, that bemusement represents his past: “My parents separated in 1982, I think. There was a sort of a weird situation, living apart for 15 years before they were able to get divorced. That obviously was a little strange.”

The first scene in The Separation was written five years ago, but the majority of the first draft did not emerge until the summer of 2011 when Molloy wrote “it over the course of the summer holidays” from his school in Stanmore in North London. “I was living with three people, who probably found me very anti-social. I just sort of stayed in my room all summer and wrote.”

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