Ahead of her show ‘Finem Respice’ in the Tiger Dublin Fringe this month, Vickey Curtis talks about her mother’s death and the grief that inspired her
Writer, actor, spoken word performer and all-round queer entertainer, Vickey Curtis premieres ‘Finem Respice’ at the Tiger Dublin Fringe this month, exploring what she calls the three phases of grief in a play that will make audiences both laugh and cry. Together with Irish Times colmunist Una Mullally, she is the co-creator of ‘Come Rhyme With Me’, a series of free queer spoken word events that combine poetry, storytelling and performance in support of Outhouse.
I was a bit mad as a child. I was always putting on shows with my friends. I was in an all-Irish speaking primary school until rst class and then a place came up in the English-speaking school beside our house. The speech and drama classes there fuelled my interest in doing plays.
My mum passed away when I was 19. My younger brother was 13 and my sister was only nine, so I had to take on a different role. It was dif cult because I was working, trying to keep an eye on my brother and sister and keep up with the housework.
I wasn’t dealing with being gay. I wasn’t dealing with my mum’s death. By the age of 26, I weighed 20 stone. I just went: this has got to stop. I turned my lifestyle around and changed my diet. When I got down to 13.5 stone I started exercising and I eventually lost another two and half stone.
I started volunteering for the Dublin Gay Theatre Festival and its Director, Brian Merriman encouraged me to write a short play. When I did, he said it was good and we put it on. I wrote three or four shorts for the festival’s shorts programmes, and I directed a couple of my friends’ ones.
In 2009 the playwright Una McKevitt suggested we do a play about our friendship. When I was growing up I was best friends with her sister. Then, when I came out, Una and I became very close. The play became Victor & Gord, which was a hit in the Fringe and toured.
Click below to read more.
By day I work in RTÉ. I’m a production department assistant so I’ve worked on loads of different departments, from Irish language programming to comedy like The Republic of Telly. I love it. It’s hard work, but it’s creative and I think I’m good at it.
We have been running Come Rhyme With Me for about four years now. It’s about engaging people on a different level, trying to be fun, to make people laugh and think about things in a different way. We’re pushing queer artists and queer agendas. It’s very popular.
Anger & Grief
I feel sad for queerness in Dublin sometimes. It’s a real gay city but I don’t know if queer culture is there the way it used to be. It’s very mainstream, very watered down.
Ten years after my mother died, my friend who I was living with committed suicide. I came home one day and she’d hanged herself. I did question myself, asking could I have done more, but you have to accept it. Then I got really angry with her, not for killing herself, but for taking the mourning I had for my own mum away from me, all of the healing I’d done.
My show at The Fringe is examining both of those griefs. Being okay with my mom dying because she’d been sick for so long, and then the absolute shock and tragedy of my friend’s passing. The show is about how we deal with grief, how we celebrate life, how we get through it.
It’s not a sob story. There are parts of it that are really funny and I do say some things that people will be shocked by. Funny things happen around death. I want people to cry, I want people to laugh.
I’ve learned that I’m resilient through writing this play. Maybe I wasn’t at the times that the deaths happened, but they’ve made me more equipped to deal with stupid shit, to not sweat the small stuff.
This article originally appeared in the September 2016 issue of GCN, which is available to read here.
(Image: Beta Bajgartova)
© 2016 GCN (Gay Community News). All rights reserved.