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Monday, December 8, 2014

BAM blog Questionnaire:
Howie the Rookie's Mark O’Rowe

Mark O’Rowe is the writer and director of Howie the Rookie, a play chronicling the scabies-induced travails of two knuckleheads—the Howie Lee and the Rookie Lee—through a down-and-out Dublin. O’Rowe wrote the piece in 1999, inspired by Samuel Beckett’s novel Molloy. In this production, he teams up with acclaimed Irish actor Tom Vaughan-Lawlor, well-known to Irish audiences for starring in the crime drama Love/Hate. Vaughan-Lawlor plays both roles in a performance that called for the Irish Times to pronounce him “One of the most extraordinary actors of his generation.” O’Rowe also transitions fluently between stage and screen (one of his screenwriting credits is Intermission, starring Colin Farrell and Cillian Murphy). Here he responds to a few questions about bringing his unusual and refreshing production of Howie the Rookie to BAM.

Tom Vaughan-Lawlor and Mark O'Rowe. Photo: Ste Murray

Which artist do you admire from a field other than your own?

Bob Dylan.

Any advice you've gotten and ignored?

“Don’t direct your own work.”

What ritual or superstition do you have on performance days?

A whiskey right before the show. Sometimes a double.

Can you describe the collaboration process that you had with Tom Vaughan-Lawlor?
We just worked our way through it, really. We’d rehearse the Howie in the morning and the Rookie in the afternoon, then alternate from day to day. We were very detailed and very rigorous and we allowed each other a more or less equal amount of control, which made for an incredibly happy and relaxed process.

Tom Vaughan-Lawlor and Mark O'Rowe. Photo: Ste Murray

How did it come to be that he would play both roles in the piece?

When I was offered the opportunity to direct the play, I didn’t want to do an imitation of the original production, which I think is exactly what I would have done, since I was such a close part of that process. So I decided to try and find another way of coming at it. The challenge of one actor playing two roles appealed and the text felt like it would support, and perhaps even be enhanced by, that slightly more metatheatrical approach.

What was it like to revisit the story that you had written in 1999?

Interesting. It was nice to discover that the play still held up, although I can’t deny that there were one or two small things I tweaked, mostly due to my attitude to certain aspects of the material having changed with age. There were also a couple of lines I’d never been a hundred percent happy with, so it was nice to fix them too.

Do audiences react differently to the characters in each place the work is performed?

A little bit, yeah. Some audiences are more vocal, some quieter, more intently listening. It’ll be very interesting to see how BAM audiences react.

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