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Theatre Feature: Days of Wine and Roses

Michael Cox speaks with Keith Fleming and Sally Reid about Theatre Jezebel's latest production.

‘I think Britain has a really fucked up immature attitude to booze.’ So says Keith Fleming, one of the stars of Theatre Jezebel’s latest production, Days of Wine and Roses. ‘We can all be guilty of it. There’s just something wrong, on a fundamental basic intelligence level.’

The play takes a harrowing look at alcoholism. Owen McCafferty’s script is based on a novel by JP Miller, which had been previously adapted into the celebrated film by Blake Edwards starring Jack Lemmon. McCafferty has moved the dramatic action to the UK, making the leads natives of Belfast and setting most of the action in London.

Fleming plays Donal, a bookie’s clerk who has a passion for horses and finds himself in many social settings where alcohol flows freely. Fleming shares the stage with actress Sally Reid, who plays Mona, a young woman moving to London in search of an exciting life.

In describing the play, Reid says that it’s ‘a kind of relationship story. A love story. Maybe not “love story”—that seems wrong---but like-you meet two people, and it’s a journey: an epic tale of these two people, where they’ve been and where they’re going. Literally in the beginning, because you meet them in an airport, so you meet them as they first meet.’ Reid also points out that McCafferty has set the story in the 60s, a time that not only saw great social change but progress in gender equality as well.

At the centre of the story is Donal and Mona’s downfall into alcoholism. ‘It’s a very emotional journey that they both go through,’ says Fleming. ‘You can’t get away from the drink; the influence that drink has on their relationship and on them as individuals and how that affects their life.’ Even though the play is set in the 60s, Fleming feels that the play is relevant today, particularly in Scotland. ‘We’ve got a huge, massive problem with alcoholism and drink culture. Not just in Scotland, even though we have a reputation for it.’ Fleming also observes that ‘the sad thing is that, a lot of the time, the people who are immersed in it; it’s the perception of themselves and how others see themselves is quite different.’

In preparing for the production, Reid did a lot of research, not only on alcoholism but on the effect it has, and was left with a lot of questions. ‘I wondered why they go down that road. Essentially [Donal and Mona] have a nice life in London that’s not marked by any tragedy. Why does it happen? Is it an addiction, or is it personality or social?’

Playing Donal and Mona have set different challenges for Fleming and Reid. Fleming has played drunks in the past, including performances in such recent noted productions like Barflies and Peer Gynt, but he’s found Donal to be completely different. Reid, however, is mostly known as a quirky actress who plays teenagers. Playing Mona has proven to be a unique opportunity. ‘This is the first thing I’ve ever done that’s playing my age and something really really really meaty and exciting, to get your teeth into. And [director Kenny Miller] said he wanted us to read it and for us to do it. And it was really flattering that Kenny saw me like that.’

Both are also quick to point out that Theatre Jezebel has gone from strength to strength. They have appeared in all three of the company’s productions (both also appearing in Autobahn and Doubt) and are proud that this is a co-production with the Tron Theatre Company. ‘I think it’s a fantastic piece for Jezebel to do,’ says Fleming. ‘Kenny is wonderful to work with. The company as a whole are going in the right direction, and I think…hope that we do it justice.’

Days of Wine and Roses performs at Tron Theatre until October 29.

Tags: theatre

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