First Encounters: Lynne Parker and Hélène Montague
Lynne Parker is a director who co-founded Rough Magic Theatre Company in 1984. Over the past 30 years it has become one of Ireland’s leading theatre companies; involving artists such as Pauline McLynn, Arthur Riordan and Anne Enright. Niece of the late playwright Stewart Parker, she is originally from Belfast. She lives in Phibsborough, Dublin
I saw Hélène before she saw me: she was the musical director of [Kurt Weill’s] The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny, which was being done in Players in Trinity. That was the first thing I saw when I came to college in Dublin and it really blew me away. I thought she was terrifying because obviously she was so brilliant. I was deeply intimidated by how talented she was.
She’s an unusual person with quite an unusual background – it’s a ballet and music background at a very high level and she was training to be a concert pianist from the age of 12. She was home-
educated, had never been to school. She appeared to be quite fierce but was also quite vulnerable and I suppose part of why we became friends was because I really liked the two sides of her.
I got to know her much better working in Trapdoor, a company that was a kind of precursor to Rough Magic – she was one of its founders. We realised that despite our very different backgrounds we had a common language – we both had a strong sense of humour and melodrama and the whole electricity of live music in theatre was very important to both of us. She’s a wonderful actress as well. I remember her standing in the middle of a rehearsal room as Mrs Erlynne in Lady Windermere’s Fan, while barking out instructions to the musicians because she was also doing the score.
I don’t think we realised how lucky we were to have someone with that degree of proficiency in both areas – added to which, she’s an amazing cook. When we were on tour we’d come back to whatever house we were staying in with loads of chums and Hélène, from practically a bare cupboard, would feed everybody really well. I think her parents’ west Cork dance school catered for kids and she was used to catering en masse. She’s an amazing host, very warm, she just loves looking after people.
My dad’s an engineer, my mother was a civil servant. My interest in theatre came partly from Stewart but I’d been with the National Youth Theatre in London, just knew that I had the bug, that’s something Hélène and I share. We’ve never not been in contact: she’s an associate artist of Rough Magic, still works with the company.
Creatively we have a shared vision and there’s a shorthand we have in rehearsal, we finish each other’s sentences, don’t have to be polite to each other – we’re mutually bossy.
Rough Magic Theatre’s production of The Critic by Richard Brinsley Sheridan, directed by Lynne Parker, opens in The Culture Box in Temple Bar on October 4th, see dublintheatrefestival.com