Lisa Carroll's play Cuckoo opens at the Soho Theatre next week and follows two teenagers escaping bullies and seeking a new identity in another country. Here she talks about the inspiration behind the play, determining what is funny and how she got started as a playwright.
Cuckoo’s two central characters want to leave Dublin for London and you are an Irish playwright living in London - how much is the play based on your own experiences?
I came up with the idea for Cuckoo shortly after I made the decision to move from Dublin to London. Emigration has always been a pertinent part of the Irish experience and I wanted to explore ideas of home and what it means to leave.
Particularly after the financial crash, there was an exodus of young people from Ireland, and I knew the play could speak to that.
I used to live near Crumlin, where the play is set, and had close friends from the area.
Crumlin sits outside Dublin city centre and is full of vibrant, sparky, fascinating people, and I wanted to try and capture that unique energy on the page.
The Crumlin dialect is fast, ferocious and nuanced. I feel strongly about writing Ireland as I see it, today, rather than the wistful, nostalgic and often fetishised version Ireland we often see represented on stage.
While the idea of what it means to leave Ireland is inspired by my own experience of doing so, beyond that the play is entirely fictional, from the heightened world to the characters and events.
All I knew when I started writing Cuckoo was that I wanted to create two compelling central characters: Iona, a boisterous, larger-than-life young woman, full of spark and potential, but who was seen as simply ‘too much’ by the people around her.
Cuckoo, Soho Theatre. Photo by David Gill.
And Pingu, who steadfastly identifies as non-binary in a highly gendered world. Pingu has made the decision not to speak, in order not to have to constantly advocate for their right just to be themselves.
It was around these two characters and their desire to find their tribe in London that I built the play.
The play explores themes of gender identity and a sense of belonging, do you think social media makes it harder for teenagers growing up?
Being a teenager has always been a trying time and I think it always will be.
I think in general social media hasn’t changed us as a species, so much as drawn out and exacerbated our already deeply flawed nature, only in new ways.
Being a teenager has always been a phase of uncertainty trying to carve out your identity.