Content Warning: this article references abortion.
Haunted, a new play written and performed by Tara Flynn, follows on from the success of her 2018 play Not a Funny Word. Haunted explores grief and loss with her trademark style, and with huge heart, it promises to bring the audience on an incredible journey from her own mental health demons to finding her marbles again. Tara explained what inspired the new show.
Brave faces are gas, aren’t they? We all have them. We pop them on when we have to be somewhere we don’t want to be. When we end up having to talk to that person we bump into, wishing we’d ducked down the laneway beside the Thr-Olympia (that’s what it’s called now, right?) instead. When all we want to do is cry, curled up in a duvet ball watching 90 Day Fiancé, but it’s a cold October Tuesday and we have to work. So we pull our brave face out of our arse. It might not be smiling, but at least it’s not falling apart. At least it hides our true, private, crumbly face.
There’s an added layer when your work means you’re supposed to be cheery (even typing the word is exhausting). Then, you can’t give in to the gnawing in the pit of your stomach if you’re sad or scared or overwhelmed: the show must go on.
What happens if a clown’s dumped right before the circus (and her newly ex-girlfriend is about to knock it out of the park on the trapeze)? What if the person on ‘Returns’ at the department store just had a massive fight with their parents on their lunch break? What happens if you’re fame-adjacent, like me, and find yourself at the centre of a social media storm?
Well, nothing happens. Not initially. Because none of us is Richard Burton or Liz Taylor (I just listened to a podcast about them, so facts): we don’t have understudies/assistants. No one picks up the slack if we don’t show up – we get into trouble or worse, left behind. So we pop on the face and the clown shoes. One step. Two steps. Three.
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I’m fame-adjacent. An actor and writer who’s worked largely in comedy: you might know me, but from where? I campaigned for Repeal the 8th by sharing the most private bit of myself: I had an abortion. More than that, not a tragic one, but one I chose for myself because I didn’t want to be a parent.
Campaigns are tough; anyone who stood up for Marriage Equality will testify to that. But if you’re suddenly a face people can put to something they find distasteful, something they don’t like, and you’re unapologetic, and it’s all in public, the only way is pure stormy. On went my brave face. I toughed it out. Kept going as long as I could. But I cracked. Brave-facing has been my job for a very long time, but even this old-timer cracked.
Now, I’ve written a show called Haunted. “Haunted” in Cork means “really lucky, like”. Which I am. The support I got meant I’m still here. But “haunted” also means that darkness leaves a residue, that things stick around, familiar stories retold.
Brave faces, like armour, can keep us safe. But they’re not always airtight. They’re useful tools, but we can’t be tools all our lives. (Wait… Maybe… Can I?) No matter how strong someone seems, everyone has a breaking point. Be gentle with yourselves. Show someone who loves you your real face as soon as you’re ready. I bet they’ll love that one even more.
Tara Flynn premieres her latest play Haunted (staged as a double bill with Panti’s new play If These Wigs Could Talk) at the Abbey Theatre on the Peacock stage from November 11 to December 3, 2022. To book tickets, click here.
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