[00:00:00] Speaker A: And quiet in the studio. And Plastic podcast, episode 47, with extra.
[00:00:07] Speaker B: Surprise at the end. Five, four, three.
[00:00:32] Speaker A: How you doing? I'm Doug Devaney and you're listening to the Plastic podcast's tales of the Irish Diaspora. Well, October is upon us, friends. The last vestiges of summer fade and winter starts to make itself known. Time for extra layers, warm drinks and the Liverpool Irish Festival, now in its 20th year. Also marking a particular anniversary is Brendan Bean, novelist, playwright, poet and Republican, for whom this year marks the centenary of his birth. Already there's been a revival of Mother of all the Beans in Dublin. Starring Imelde May. And now Liverpool plays host to Brendan, son of Dublin. A play with music, or is it a musical play? At the Tongue Auditorium at the University of Liverpool on the 28th of the month, brendan has been written and composed by husband and wife duo John Merrigan and Danielle Morgan. We're going with professional names here who collectively call themselves Fat Dan. Why? We may well find out later, but first, let's ask Danielle and John.
How you doing?
[00:01:36] Speaker C: We're all right. Can't grumble. The sun is shining and no leads from the tax. And no brown ones. I get stressed when the brown ones turn up.
[00:01:45] Speaker D: And John, how are you doing?
[00:01:46] Speaker B: All right, thank you. Yeah, we've had a great weekend. Another week begins and yeah, busy, busy.
[00:01:54] Speaker D: So at the time of recording, although not at the time of broadcast, you're how long away from the Liverpool Irish Festival?
[00:02:00] Speaker B: Our date for the performance is on the 20 eigth of October, so we are 26 days away and counting.
[00:02:09] Speaker D: And how are rehearsals going?
[00:02:11] Speaker B: Going well. So what we'll be doing, it's a combination of over zoom and also then the sort of face to face rehearsals. But we've also been fortunate that we've performed Brendan Son of Dublin before and we've been able to retain most of the cast. So it's very fresh. We've got some great new cast in and we can't wait. So it'll all ramp up now over the next few weeks and then especially in the week before the show, and can't wait to get everyone together.
[00:02:49] Speaker D: And how dispersed are your cast, then?
[00:02:52] Speaker B: Well, we have cast coming in from Ireland, from London, from down on the south coast, graphically quite dispersed, but we managed to get everybody to communicate.
Cast also communicate directly with each other, especially when they're working on scenes one on one, et cetera. So it works really well, actually. And I suppose what I'd say is that all of this really came to the fore during COVID when we had another production and we really had to be very creative getting shows up and running. And I think everybody just became more used to working on zoom and working remotely. But there's nothing like the moment when everybody's in the room together and everyone's ready. And that's what it's all about. It's all about personal face to face contact between the cast. And of course, then with the performance, with the audience.
[00:04:02] Speaker D: Now we enter into the ares of $64,000 questions, which is, of course, is this a musical or is this a play with music?
[00:04:09] Speaker C: I'd say it's a play with music. Musicals.
There are some really very strong musicals that don't have big kick lines and dance numbers and stuff like that, but they've been so well established and a lot of them have a lot of music that takes the plot forward and the songs take the plot forward. Our way we're trying to do this is to try and take a different angle because with us, the script is what John's written is outstanding. So we've tried to take our writing like a film. So you've got the script and you've got the music that makes you know that something's coming. It could be funny, it could be sad, it could be stressful, it could be a love interest.
So the music sort of gives that away and then followed by a song that will make the audience think about the emotion they've just experienced at that part in the script, as opposed to a song informing you on what's going to happen next. So the music the way we've come from our angle is to enforce emotion. And we sort of take it like a boxer. It's sort of jab jab with script and bang with the right hand for a knockout with the emotion of the music just in case they didn't get it the first time round.
[00:05:34] Speaker B: Sometimes people have to get used to that in terms of a format. But when we're writing especially about true characters and historical things and everything else, we want to move beyond just presenting the facts. We want to talk about how people felt, what emotions they were undergoing at a particular time or a particular set of events or whatever. And we find the music really does that. And if you use the music to kind of stop the action, to let people absorb the action and the emotions, we found that the audiences really enjoy that so that they just have time to really be in the moment and the music draws them.
A it's a drama with music.
[00:06:30] Speaker C: I'm going to tell you a little confession here. John doesn't like what we call musicals.
He's not that type of guy. He loves Les Miz because it's serious.
But I like the whole kick line thing. I just love that. And John's like, we need to do musical theatre for people that don't like musical theater. And I'm like, that's a great idea. So we have found some new audiences, especially when we was doing our World War I projects that some of these people were not. I don't do musical theater. I just don't do it. And I'm like, Come and see this. It might change your mind.
So I'm gently working know, maybe project number five or six for four kick lines, Doug. But at this point, this is musical theatre for people that don't like musical theater.
[00:07:16] Speaker B: I think it's just trying to find another way of telling the story, because when you take a character like Brendan Bain or other work that we've done, their story has been told already before, and what you're always trying to do is to tell it in a different way, in an engaging way and an interesting way. And I think this combination of the action, the music and the drama and the emotions, plus we're also looking at Brendan Bean's story 100 years after his birth, and I think we're looking at it through a different lens. And to be fair, there hasn't been, certainly in the last ten years or so, there's hardly been any new work about his story.
And that's why this year, in the centenary year of his birth, but also beyond that, we took it as a challenge to try and tell his story in a fresh and interesting way.
[00:08:24] Speaker D: So what was the appeal of his story in the first place?
[00:08:27] Speaker B: Brendan Bean is one of these characters that I think we can all relate to.
My mother knew him growing up in Dublin, and he evoked very mixed opinions when he was alive, but he was a very important character in terms of literature and in Dublin, and obviously, me growing up in Dublin, he was never far away in terms of talking about him or people like Oscar Wilde or whatever. When you start to explore these know, Oscar Wilde, Brendan Bean, Sean O'Casey, the list goes on and on, you start to discover a thread that connects them all. There's so many themes that connects them all, and in particular, why did they die so young?
Oscar Wilde was 46, brendan Bean was 41. And I think that draws you in and the more you research, the more you want to understand and the more you want to explain and find out. And certainly that was the way in for me. But I think, Danny, you also had some interesting ideas about Brendan.
[00:09:53] Speaker C: Yeah, I mean, my family from Tipperary, and again, Brendan was one of those that was mentioned like lots of others when I was studying drama and stuff, I passed him in terms of his works, but I didn't get too deep into it.
And then when John mentioned it, I was like, Whoa, this is going to like John said, he gets so many emotions. I'm like, oh, I don't know. And the fact that I said that John's like, that's the emotion we want. The fact that you're like, oh means other people are like that. And it means that his story needs to be explored a little bit more than just what the common person thinks, that he's just a playwright that was drunk, that did a few plays in London. He was so much more than that and he was international and when you ask lots of people, when they go into his writing and his history and the amount the youngsters now know about him, it's incredible. So the more and more that I got into it, the more and more addicted to his story I became.
So we went on to develop Brendan.
It's just an incredible story and quite a few people have background of roots like that. But for him, he went on to become something extra special.
[00:11:29] Speaker D: When you talk about that all moment there, right at the very start.
[00:11:37] Speaker E: Can.
[00:11:38] Speaker D: You summarize what that feeling was? Was it like trepidation?
Was it excitement? Was it I'm not sure about this at all.
[00:11:46] Speaker C: Look, rightly or wrongly, right, there's a history that's gone before and people make bad judgments, they do stupid things, they say stupid things, but I don't think a person should be judged, I don't think their work should be judged on their personality.
So being argumentative, doing things that are criminal, it's not cool and I'd be a fool to say it was.
But I'm not judging him and his mistakes or his life choices. I wasn't there. I'm not judging jury, I'm there to help tell his story and mainly about his writing and his achievements. So the all was, I don't know if we can be this edgy, and Brendan was edgy, he had an edge, he took on the establishment, he wanted people to know his views and opinions. And I think that's interesting and I think as long as you do it with morals and ethics and you are telling a story without giving an opinion and you portray the facts as we know them, we wasn't there. We can only go by what's in the history books and family and friends that knew him. As long as you can do a fair representation, then I think you've got half a chance. So that's what that all means.
[00:13:29] Speaker A: You're listening to the Plastic podcasts. We all come from somewhere else. Find us on Facebook, X, Instagram and Threads.
It's a funny thing, every podcast, I utter that phrase as a call to action. But the fact that we do all come from somewhere else is remarkably appetite. In the case of John and Danielle and their work, their personal story is an international one, but so are the tales they choose to tell, both wild and been found fame away from their home country and in the context of certain kinds of Britishness. I wonder what their thought on this is.
[00:14:04] Speaker B: I think it's a very interesting aspect of their story, this sort of ambiguous relationship with England that they created their work and they ebbed and flowed in terms of their relationship with Ireland and in particular Dublin. And I think it's very interesting to explore because there are diaspora all over Irish, diaspora all over the world, and they have the same relationship, they have all sorts of perspectives on the relationship. They've left the country but they have roots there, they're proud all the different emotions that diaspora kind of experience. And from an artistic point of view, I think both Oscar Wilde and Brennan being understood that they had to go to a bigger stage, namely in London and beyond, for their work to prosper and to develop. And I think that's a very interesting thing to explore and it's very relevant.
[00:15:24] Speaker C: The my family came from Tipperary. Some of them are still there. Some of them had to they had to come to London.
They had a massive journey in terms of logistically and physically and emotionally.
I've grown up with that. I've seen the good and I've seen the bad, I've seen the discrimination, I've seen the racism, I've seen everything. And it's quite painful because you end up in a space where you neither belong in one place or the other. Because if you're in one place, then why did you leave? We wasn't good enough for you and all of that stereotypical thing. And then if you're in another place, then, well, what are you doing here?
How did you end up here? So it's odd. And our own children, funny enough, are expat children because we lived overseas for a very long time and they also experienced that. They experienced their own culture in terms of the Irish culture, in terms of England, in terms of when we lived in the Middle East, because some of them were born there and grew up there. And it's a bit of a massive question as to why people leave their home country or their birthplace or where their family originate from, I suppose. And it's quite a deep question and I've got my own sort of demons and answers to that. I'm sure John has.
Yeah. I think there's nothing wrong with wanting know if you've outgrown something or you need something or you're searching for something. There's nothing wrong with wanting more. It doesn't mean you're turning your back on your culture or your family. It just means you got one chance at this thing we call life. And as cliche as it is, it's a big world, go and explore it. It doesn't mean that you're better than people, it just means you're just inquisitive. You want to find a bit more. And I think this is what all these great people that left Ireland to explore and made their fame, wherever that may be, they too was experiencing those emotions, I guess. I don't know, but I'm guessing.
[00:17:40] Speaker D: Well, this brings us neatly ish onto questions of background. I suppose. So, Danny, as we were talking, your.
[00:17:47] Speaker C: Family came from Tipperary, yeah, my grandparents came from Tipperary and my mum was born in Liverpool.
My grandmother was not married and fell pregnant out of wedlock. So the same story as millions of others ended up making their way on the boat across to Liverpool and then from there they made their way.
And then eventually my mum reached an age where she met somebody. He happened to be English, because obviously he was in England at that time.
There wasn't many international people at that time and they lived in a place where really nobody else really wanted to live.
And then they made their way and my dad was English, he was from the East End of London and as they say, the rest is history. So that's how I became this person. Smack bang in the middle of two cultures in a changing world.
[00:18:45] Speaker D: And John, I grew up in Dublin.
[00:18:47] Speaker B: Born, bred and buttered in Dublin and grew up in the mid sixty s and really when I finished my education I went into a career in business and I left Ireland because of the economic situation I graduated in 1987. So many years in business, in a career, but also in working on music abroad in the Middle East and in the UK and other countries, but always was drawn and wanted to stay connected with Ireland, and I've really worked hard at that. But deep, deep down, because I grew up in a family where music and theatre and poetry and writing was really part of the everyday conversation, I never sort of lost touch with creativity and arts. And when I gave up a career in business and moved into writing and music, I've never been happier and I've never been more energized to explore the themes that we do and know really interesting figures like Oscar Wilde, like Brendan Bean and others that we're working on.
[00:20:16] Speaker D: I'm going to sound like Simon Bates in a second. So how did you meet?
[00:20:25] Speaker C: I actually auditioned for John's band, I was in a band and I saw an ad, somebody said to know there's another band looking for a singer, are you interested? And I got hold of John's telephone number, I give him a ring, spoke to him and he said look, come down to rehearsals. The job had already gone to another young man, but somebody else had sort of employed him. And I was ongoing to this audition. So they said, look, it's only polite to see her and let her come down and sing. Maybe the two of them could work together. And I came down and yeah, I'm glad I passed the audition.
[00:21:07] Speaker B: Well, I'm very glad you passed the.
[00:21:11] Speaker D: Audition too, that's definitely a euphemism, right?
[00:21:20] Speaker B: Don't be using words you can't spell.
[00:21:24] Speaker D: If I did that I'd never be so okay, first things first, name a band.
[00:21:31] Speaker C: So the band was called Suburban Voodoo and it was created by John and it was in Dubai. And we used to rehearse in the early days in a little factory that supplied all the sort of corner shops like cans of Coke and Bounty bars and Twixies and stuff.
And the fella used to have egg boxes on the walls to stop the sound. And then eventually, as the band got bigger, we just said, look, we need a bigger space. And then we found a more suitable music studio to rehearse in Dubai. In the sand pit, we call it. And we used to have a shawama on the way home for rehearsals. Pretty cool place, actually.
[00:22:14] Speaker D: So how did the pair of you individually end up in Dubai?
[00:22:19] Speaker C: So I went over there. I went over there, I wanted to travel. My dad wasn't very well and I needed some time, so I would travel to children. I had a job over there and then in my spare time I got back into music and I thought it was a great release. So once I joined John's band, it was pretty full on actually, in terms of the rehearsal schedules and the gigs that were booked. They used to do a lot of corporate gigs for Expats, so they'd do things like the race to Dubai and all the big things, the sevens that people would fly from England and Ireland over to. So that was pretty cool. And then one day John said to me, I bet you right, because I was messing around on the keyboard because I only ever sung, I didn't play keys. But we had a pianist and one day in the studio, I was just messing around on the keyboard and he went, didn't know you could play. And I was like, I can't because I didn't want to volunteer myself to play keys.
And he's like, I bet you write. Show me something you've written. And I was no, no. And then it just progressed like that and he said, Go and show me something. And then one day I showed him and he's like, that's pretty know, I've written a few things and and then John and I started writing together. We became sort of writing partners and we just developed the music. And then we reached a point where doing covers wasn't enough anymore, it just wasn't enough. So we wanted to write and we only had a few songs, so then we just wrote more and more and more till we got a lot of songs and then we took the same most the same band, and then we went across to original music.
That's all pretty it. John, anything to add to that?
[00:24:06] Speaker B: I think just the whole combination of circumstances, it just allowed us to get into the music. And that trigger of starting writing our own material really was the thing that sort of pushed us forward. And then at some point we realized that that wasn't going to work in Dubai for a whole number of reasons. And we decided to leave Dubai, move back to the UK on the south coast, here in the UK and really concentrate full time on music and all things connected to.
So since then, that decision, that's what we do.
We have the two main strands of our work. One is our normal music, which we write and compose. Over 400 songs we've written together mainly by Danny. And then on the other side, it was this wonderful opportunity we got to go into theater and we enjoy both of the strands and creatively. It's fantastic and we're very, very lucky.
[00:25:30] Speaker A: We'll be back with John and Danielle in a moment. But first, it's time for the plastic pedestal. That part of the podcast where I ask one of my interviewees to talk about a member of the diaspora of personal, cultural or political significance to them today. It's artist Emma O'Rourke with a particularly touching tribute, given the rest of Emma's interview was initially broadcast on July 27. The poignancy will soon become clear. By the way, this is a rather unusual plastic pedestal inasmuch as it includes an interjection from yours truly and SNL stands for Saturday Night Live.
Over to you, Emma.
[00:26:09] Speaker E: I've chosen Sinead O'Connor, as you know, who arguably is not on the plastic Pedestal because she was born in Ireland. But she did move over to England. So I've decided to choose her. And also no one's chosen her and I was really shocked by that. So I really wanted her to feature. So she came over to England in she was same year as my dad, I think it was 85.
She came to London. She was a little bit younger than him. I think I've chosen that. So I read her book over Christmas rememberings, and I watched the documentary by Catherine Ferguson. Have you seen it? No. Nothing Compares to you, which I thought was, it's really, really well done. And as a woman, I think she was greatly ahead of her time.
I think she was incredibly admirable from the perspective of being a mother in that she had kids across her whole career, which is not an easy thing to do. She just did it, and especially in the arts, I think that's really impressive that she just managed to do all of that alongside and ultimately she really spoke out for people that couldn't speak. I think that was her biggest thing. And she wasn't interested in commercial success as a pop star, she used her platform to get across important issues that she felt weren't being talked about and she did that ahead of her own commercial success.
She didn't sell out. I guess essentially she really reacted to the situation as she honestly would have, not from the perspective of I'm a pop star, I should be seen a certain way or I should be doing a certain thing. And I think that was really admirable. But yeah, as a woman, I find her really inspiring. I have a great amount of respect for her and really from reading her book as well, so much honesty and a real emphasis on her family and the dynamics there. And I think that was probably really what spoke to me. And there was a few bits that she wrote, especially about religion and her upbringing, that I really related to in a way, I couldn't even explain why I related to it or which bit. There was something it was, again, like I spoke before about memory. It was like a feeling and it felt like something reading. And I think, oh, I remember something that I remember that, and I remember how the way she talked about it and her family has very much shaped her whole life and continues to and I think that was almost ahead for her. Of a lot of people, I think assume a lot of her music is like a love story. Or as you do with pop music, it's very much like that traditional kind of love aspect where actually a lot of her songs were for members of her family, especially. Like, if you look at something like Croy, which I don't think she performed anymore, but that was she was singing to her mother. And I think that's obviously really hard for her to do now. But they got to a certain point where she didn't want to do that anymore. But you don't find many songs like that in that industry so directed in that way, as said to a family member.
And yeah, she really champions just family, I think, that we'd not seen before, not in the sense of like, this is my perfect 2.4 family in a very broad and honest way that I think a lot of people can relate to.
They are your family and you take all the good and all the bad. You take all of it and it shapes you. And it's not something that has really been explored. I think. I've not seen it done before in that way.
[00:30:21] Speaker D: There she was at the height of her fame, as it were. I mean, nothing compares to you had been an international hit. She's invited over onto SNL and she takes the opportunity then to almost knowing doubtless that she did self sabotage, that she would sabotage that part of her career.
[00:30:40] Speaker E: Yeah, she said that. You read about it in the book and she talked about how she went backstage and it was empty and all the doors were shut and no one spoke to her and her and her friend left out the back and they were egged. And it was so interesting actually thinking of it in terms of like, today and social media, and it reminded me of that thing where somebody can be so you can appear to be sort of at the height of success and everywhere and everyone's listening to you and everyone's talking about you. But the reality is for a lot of people in that situation, I'm sure, is that they're just in a hotel room on their own. And when she left the stage, everybody had gone and nobody would speak to her. So she did.
She really put herself out there for something she believed in.
And I think at the time it was really shocking and I think things came out in later years that a lot of people saw, I guess that there was a lot of truth in what she was saying.
It has always been, especially from my experience within my own family, women didn't lead the story. They were very much in child looking up for the children or cleaning. Cleaning was a big memory for me growing up. My NAN, which I think is quite common in working class households, my NAN was absolutely crazy about cleaning. It was literally her whole life and her four children. But she did everything she could, really, to just make sure everything was as perfect as possible all the time.
[00:32:18] Speaker C: And.
[00:32:20] Speaker E: That, for me, would have been my biggest sort of memory of women and women within the house.
So Sinead O'Connor would have especially as well, that would have so stacey's a few years younger than my dad.
She was massively ahead of her time to put herself out there like that. She wasn't credibly vulnerable to do that. And it wouldn't have been the same if it was a man. It wouldn't have been received the same.
I still don't think it would be now.
We've come forward from that. But I still think women have to do more to prove themselves than men and whether that's a lot of that as well can come from upbring and women kind of the idea of sort of being the good girl and how your place in society. And I think we're really seeing people turn against that now and younger generations and young girls not it's not the same. But I think from Sinead O'Connor's time, it would have been really shocking. But her hair was another example of that. Everyone told her not to do it. She was like, I'm going to do it anyway.
And really what carried her was her. She had incredible talent and nobody could deny that. And I think that was bigger, really, than anything they tried to place on her. It always came back to she was incredibly talented and she could do something nobody else could do, which I think part of that as well came from her extreme vulnerability, which she essentially gave to other people. It's like you give your own heartache and you give away your own experiences to other people as an artist, and people use that to help them get through whatever they were going through. But she went through a lot of pain herself with writing songs, performing to give that to people. She very much like. She lived the experience.
It obviously was a very controversial thing that she did, but everything she did, she believed in, and I think she would have had her very real reasons to do that.
[00:34:43] Speaker A: Emma O'Rourke there. And if you want to hear more of what Emma has to say, why not listen to the rest of that July interview? Go to our website, WW Plasticpodcasts.com, click on the Episodes page and look, there she is, near. The top of our register of Happy chatters. Also available on Spotify, Apple Podcasts and Audible with a subtitled version, complete with examples of Emma's artwork waiting for you on YouTube. But while you are at our website, WW plasticpodcasts.com, don't miss the chance to subscribe. Scroll down to the foot of our homepage, insert your email details in the box provided and one confirmatory click later. Yes, one confirmatory click later. The Plastic loop to the world is yours, Orson. Yours.
And now we're back to John and Danielle with more of their story or stories, because their lives have echoes of each other bouncing back and forth between the two. In particular, the way that he surrounded by music and literature in his Dublin youth and she an early graduate of the Brit Music School, both moved away from art only to come back to it and each other.
[00:35:54] Speaker C: 90% of the industry is business. There's 10% of creativity and talent.
And I think you have to be built a certain way to continue in that life where you are constantly either disappointed or rejected or skint.
And one of the conclusions that I made, I gave myself a little test. If I didn't get a certain thing or what I was going for, I was going to join the police.
And I did that and I built an amazing career for myself. It gave me independence, it gave me financial stability, it gave me everything I ever needed. And I always swore that if the time was right, one day I would go back to the music when the time was right.
And then when I was in Dubai and I was doing the music as a hobby, I wasn't financially dependent on it. I was able to create without the stress and the worry.
And I think the same for John. We had real jobs, we had to pay our bills, we had to put our kids through school. So then when we were financially secure, for want of a better word, and we knew we could make it work, that that's when we turned our hands to theater and music full time as a profession.
Without giving too much away, I don't know if from start to finish, if it's possible in the industry to stay with it for 45 years and make enough money to go and buy a house or have a nice car or have a nice life. I don't know. I've not met anybody yet. So, like anyone that builds a business or management, there's no shame in dipping in and dipping out.
So we dipped in and dipped out and we just happen to be dipping in right now.
[00:37:49] Speaker D: But this also brings us back round to, of course, being in particular but also wild, which is that sense of reinventing yourself. In both of their cases, of course, it's reinventing themselves in another country as well. They're kind of parallels there with the pair of mean.
[00:38:03] Speaker C: Once one person said to me, and I'm not going to mention the name, from a very massive organization, danny, you have to be really hungry. You have to be willing to steal your granny. You have to be hungry for this in your belly. And I said, I'm not hungry know, I don't have the fire in my belly. I'm not hungry enough to be that cutthroat. I want morals and ethics. And I walked away.
And by meeting John, I knew that he had such an amazing business brain and all of his career mixed with the music, that I thought that actually, we've got stuff to write about. Now I'm hungry, now I've got something to say. I didn't really have anything to say in terms of songwriting when I was in my early 20s, but now we've got stuff to say now we've got a bit of life experience.
We can relate to things, people can relate to us, and now we both have a fire in our belly and we're hungry. We're not going to sell our granny and we're not going to dance with the devil, but we're definitely hungry.
[00:39:06] Speaker B: Everyone's journey is not a straight line, and you are faced with circumstances, you're faced with basic requirements.
You're trying to bring up a family, you're trying to do many, many things, and you're trying to find the thing that makes you happy. And life teaches you many things and life takes you down many paths.
[00:39:29] Speaker D: You two meet in Dubai, you have a band, you stop doing cover versions and start doing your own material.
And then at some point, you decide that what you're going to do is theater.
How does that happen?
[00:39:45] Speaker C: That's my fault.
We were happily going along our way doing our band. We did loads of gigs in Brighton, we did a lot of radio live sessions in Brighton, and we were doing a live gig in Brighton one day, round about, I think it was around about Christmas time, but don't quote me.
And a guy, an Irish guy, and a few of his friends in the Brighton community that was Irish, that was into theater and music, come up and said, Love what you're doing, it's really great. They was on, having an interview, could we meet up for a coffee? Yeah, of course we could. So we finished our set, they finished their interview, we went for a coffee, great chat. Then he said, he's a playwright, but he really enjoyed our music. And then the word was, do you think you could put some music to my plays? And I was like, yeah, of course you can.
How hard can it be? To which this point, John is like, elbowing me. And nudge means please don't agree to stuff. Please don't agree to stuff. Without thinking this for it, I'm like, John, it's not going to be that hard, is it? We just swap some drums for know, other bits and pieces. We swap the bass for a double bass, we swap the lead guitar for a know, and we just crack on. No, it was a lie. It was really the most difficult thing I think we've ever agreed to, or I've ever agreed to, and dragged John along. Is that about right, John?
[00:41:15] Speaker B: I think you're right. But like what we did, eddie Alfred was the playwright, and he was a Dublin man like myself, and we just got drawn into this whole sort of world of theatre and trying to tell the story and so on. And it's a very different art form.
In a song, you have three minutes, three and a half minutes to tell a story or to explore emotions or make an impact on people. In a play, it's an hour, 2 hours, whatever. So we had to switch gears. But what we did was because the way we write our music is all about emotions. Every song we write, there's a reason or there's a connection to it, or there's an emotion. And we took the same approach, exploring theater, and then you start to get into you get into the characters and like that because we didn't have formal training in theater, I suppose we broke a lot of rules. We did things probably, that shouldn't be done, and we're constantly being told that, and that only makes us more determined to try and say, well, look, let's see how far we can follow this. At some point, what we do doesn't work, and fine, you fail quickly and you move on, but in other ways. And we've worked with a lot of very interesting senior theater people, respected theater people, and they've kind of jumped on board with us. And we have something a little bit different in the way that we tell our stories through theater, and we research the characters, and we want to find emotions. And when we present a play or a drama with music, we want to ask people, did you laugh? Did you cry? Did you start to ask questions? Did you find something new? And if people start to say yes to those questions, then we've done our job. And it doesn't matter if it's one person or 100 people or 500 people. If we've done it just for one person, then it's been worthwhile. And I think that's how we have just continued in theater, because it's very rewarding to get that feedback from people in an audience and you've shown them something or made them aware of something, be it a fact, an emotion, or whatever that they didn't know before, and you're just presenting them something, and then they can make up their own minds. And that's very rewarding. And that's why we keep doing it, really.
[00:44:10] Speaker D: So what was the first play you guys wrote?
[00:44:13] Speaker B: Well, we took a piece by Eddie Alford, which was called Love in the harbor, and the story was basically about two Irish fighters in the RAF in World War I. And it turns out, in actual reality, they were two of the leading fighter aces in the RAF during World War I. But because they were Irish, the people in the RAF really didn't accept them. And also in the same way, because they fought with the RAF on behalf of the Empire, the people back home didn't accept them. And so this story of their journey, one of them ended up, Mick Mannock ended up winning the Victoria Cross, and the other one, George McElroy, is probably the second or third most decorated fighter pilot in the Oreath at that time. And so that was the first thing. We collaborated with Eddie based on his book, on his play, and we did, I think it was about ten or twelve songs in that play. That was the first one.
And then we moved from there into the one that we did completely ourselves, which was the piece we call Vengeance, which is about the life of Oscar Wilde in particular, starting from 1895 when he had his infamous trial and what went on around those events. And that was completely just Danny and I collaborating, me mainly writing the book and Danny writing the music. I think we did about 20 songs for that piece. And now here we are on the piece about Brendan being and there's more in the pipeline.
[00:46:20] Speaker A: You're listening to the plastic podcasts Tales of the Irish Diaspora. Email us at [email protected]
as we reach the final section of our conversation, I realise there are so many questions I still need to ask my guests, John and Danielle, before they return to frantic rehearsal for Brendan, Son of Dublin. Most pressing of these is who or what is Fat Dan?
[00:46:45] Speaker C: Right, you want the true story or the official story?
[00:46:48] Speaker D: Yes.
[00:46:50] Speaker C: So the official story is Fat Dan's, a very cool name to have as a production.
The real story is that when we was in Dubai, takeaway food was very cheap to get delivered and everything, so we was constantly eating Domino's and McDonald's and whatever. And our son at the time was, I don't know, about twelve. And he said, Mum, if you keep eating burgers like that, you'll be known as Fat dad. And I was like, no, I won't. And then John went, that's a great name. And he's very geeky and into technical things. He went, Go on. The I don't know what you call it, the ether, and find that username and we're going to register it. And I think John got it and we didn't do anything with it for years and years and years. And then when people was asking us about our music and about the theater, have you got a production company? We was like, well, we don't have a name or nothing. And then John was like, why don't we use Fat Dan?
That's pretty cool. So that's where it became Fat Dan Productions. Everyone's asked that question.
Everybody's asked that question.
[00:48:05] Speaker D: So you based yourselves upon a twelve year old's insult yeah, correct.
[00:48:11] Speaker C: That twelve year old, though, is now touring with one of the biggest musicals going so going to keep taking his insults.
He's onto something.
[00:48:22] Speaker D: You talk about family and you talk about children and things like that. And obviously you shifted around hither and yon and so forth. I was just wondering how important the notion of home was to you.
[00:48:33] Speaker C: Home for me will always be where my family come from originally. And sleep, lemon and Tipperary are very special places for me. But home for me is where John and I are and where our children are and where their partners are and where our grandchildren are. So it doesn't matter where that is.
But home, we're not home unless we're cooked a home meal. They're all sitting around the table and we're sitting and breaking bread with them and chatting with them about their know the world changes and kids go off and they build their lives and they build their careers.
But home for us is when John and I and our kids now not all together because it's not always possible, but when we're there and we know even half of our kids are there, that's home. Certainly home for me anyway I don't know about John but that's home for me anywhere John and the children are that's home.
[00:49:36] Speaker B: Well I don't know if I can add any more I suppose what I would say is it's a great question and I've always sort of wrestled with that question and it was brought into, I suppose sharp relief. My dear old dad passed away last year in Dublin in his eighty s and he was a huge influence on my life and he's the last I have brothers and sisters there. But it was another interesting time to think about what is home because the family house was sold and we move on and the nice new family are there. And we're interested in that. And I think it does come back to what Danny's saying is home. Is a state of mind.
And I think even if you're a diaspora or you're living abroad or whatever, you can make a home. You can have your own little cocoon as long as you're lucky enough to be together. And I suppose that's the main thing about home. And then the other thing about home is this connection, this Irishness, and wrestling with the ebb and flow of your connection with Ireland and exploring that. And it's not a static thing. And it's not always an easy thing to address. And I suppose it comes back to what you were saying earlier, Doug. That's why you identify with people in the same boat you're drawn to people who have. The same emotions, the same thought process. And I suppose as you get a bit older, you think about that a bit more. And maybe exploring it through our music and our theater is a way of just trying to explore.
One of the things I say I wrote in the play about Brendan being one of the things that made him interesting was not that he was necessarily looking for answers. What was interesting about him, he was asking the right questions.
And I think that's a connection I have with him, and I think Danny has as well, is that when you're looking at family and asking yourself, what does family mean? I think what's interesting, a bit like Brendan, is to ask questions. What does that mean?
And to try and find the answers to it. And you keep coming back to we may not know all the answers or ever find all the answers, but as long know Danny and I are together and our family are together, then at least we know we're headed roughly in the right direction.
[00:52:41] Speaker D: So one of the things that strikes me is that in the three plays that you've both done together, your central characters are away from home. They are away from where they've been born and where they've been raised.
And in the case of both Bean and Wild, they die away from their adoptive home.
And I wonder if that's coincidence or there's something that calls to you about those kinds of stories.
[00:53:08] Speaker B: Well, I think it's a massive coincidence. And actually having researched Oscar Wilde's life and then researching Brendan Bean's life, you are just struck. It hits you like a train. The similarities in their life know the trajectory of their life, and then that leads on to another person that we really are very interested to explore his life. And that's the next piece of work we're working on. And this will end up being a kind of a trilogy, is the character of Bill Linnet or Philip Linet to do it correctly. And one, he hated being called Phil, and the correct pronunciation is Linet. And he is a very similar character. He passed away when he was 36 and again left Ireland again, was an outsider, again came to London to find his way and build his art. And so there's huge threads through this, and it's so rich and it's so relevant today, and it's so interesting because I think everybody can relate to these people in terms of their journey, in terms of what they were trying to do, et cetera. And it kind of brought forward now into almost today or this year, was the very sad passing away of Sinead O'Connor, where this was somebody who's in the same ilk in fact, she's the same age as me, and she had a very tortured, difficult life. And again, it's just this whole thing about how society treats people who are outsiders, how society treats these sensitive people.
And I think it's really important that we have these people because they make our lives richer. And I think what's really important is that we protect them so that you don't have to die young.
Just as an artist, think if we had had another 40 years of Brendan being, think what he might have added in terms of literature and works of art. And I think that's a very compelling thing about all these people's story, is to say, look, some people are artistic, they are sensitive, they're asking difficult questions, they're exploring. Let's be a bit kinder to them and encourage them and in some way protect them, because that's how we're going to get the best out of them. That's my take on it.
[00:56:09] Speaker D: I've only got a couple more minutes left, so it's a couple of quick fire questions. What was the song that you sang at the audition?
[00:56:16] Speaker C: Amy Winehouse.
[00:56:22] Speaker D: First song you played together as a band?
[00:56:25] Speaker C: Valerie. We played Valerie.
[00:56:26] Speaker B: Valerie, yeah.
[00:56:27] Speaker C: All right.
[00:56:28] Speaker D: Favorite piece of Brenda Bean's writing?
[00:56:31] Speaker B: Hostage, Hostage. And for me, a short bit Oudness, his poem about loneliness.
[00:56:39] Speaker D: I've got to ask the same question of Oscar Wilde.
[00:56:44] Speaker B: For me.
The critic as an artist or the artist as a critic. One of his essays. I love it.
[00:56:52] Speaker C: The importance of being earnest.
[00:56:54] Speaker D: Music first or lyrics first?
Music music best Song by Thin lizzie.
[00:57:04] Speaker C: Dancing the Moonlight Because you've said that.
[00:57:06] Speaker B: I'll say another one. Southbound.
[00:57:09] Speaker C: That's a great song.
[00:57:10] Speaker D: You mentioned that Brendan Bean asked the right questions. I get one each from you. What are the right questions of today?
[00:57:16] Speaker C: The right questions of today is, before you do an action, make sure you ask the question of what the consequences are going to be.
[00:57:29] Speaker B: And my question would be, why are we spending most time, too much time.
[00:57:35] Speaker D: On social media on behalf of a podcast? I'm not sure I'd like to thank you for that.
And finally, what does being a member of the Irish diaspora in Britain mean to you?
[00:57:47] Speaker C: To me, it means we're keeping what's gone before alive.
We're keeping all of the people that sacrificed and worked hard to bring culture and art and everything to do with what's gone before. And it's so vital that we keep doing that and that we teach our kids and our grandchildren and we keep that going.
And because it's important, it's just vital.
[00:58:19] Speaker B: Yeah, I think that's a great answer. And tying it back to Brendan Being, he is a great, great, important literary figure and our passion around this project is to get him on the map for people to know about and celebrate his work and tell his story.
[00:58:43] Speaker A: You've been listening to the Plastic podcasts with me, Doug Devaney, and my guests, John Merrigan and Danielle Morgan, aka fat Dan Productions. The plastic pedestal was provided by Emma O'Rourke and music by Jack Devani. Find us on Facebook, X, Instagram or Threads. Email us at [email protected]
or simply come visit us on our website www.plasticpodcasts.com. The Plastic Podcasts are a proud member of Irish in Britain.
[00:59:20] Speaker B: Very good studio. Very good. Stand down now and time for extra surprise. I'll be the one to change him. From Brendan, son of Dublin. Five, four, three.
[00:59:34] Speaker C: As long as I heard that sound, I knew we were safe.
Happy days before the fame.
I knew he wasn't going to be an easy man to control. But I always thought I'd be the one to change him.
How hard can it be?
I'll be the one told him.
He know he can depend on me.