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A new look at emigration

CORK playwright and actor Stefanie Preissner is bringing her one-woman show Solpadeine is my Boyfriend to Cultúrlann Sweeney in Kilkee on June 29.

Speaking to The Clare Champion, Stefanie outlined the production’s main themes, which are very contemporary.

“It’s about a girl who moves from Cork to Dublin and meets a guy just at the turn of the Celtic Tiger and then everything starts to dissolve; the economy, her relationship and her mental health.

“She turns to a daily dose of Solpadeine to numb a pain that she quickly starts to realise isn’t a physical pain that can be solved with Solpadeine. That’s kind of the premise of the play.”

She says the story is “kind of couched in that convention of talking to the audience and three stories of emigration, addiction and depression come from it”.

It’s something that is likely to strike a chord with audiences. “I’m not the only person writing about it but it’s kind of dicey in the sense that everyone who comes to see it has at least one person in their family or circle of friends who has had to emigrate.”

The central character isn’t particularly sympathetic to those, including her boyfriend, who decide to leave an economic wasteland.

“She’s quite accusatory of people who leave but I play more than one character in it and her boyfriend does give the side of the story of ‘why should I stay if there’s nothing here for me, I’m just costing the State money’. The two sides are in it but she is quite accusatory of people who leave.”

On a personal level, she has decided not to emigrate as many of her contemporaries have done, despite all the challenges here.

“Like the character, I did move from Cork to Dublin, which isn’t emigrating by any means but it is moving away from friends and family. It’s always difficult to be an actor and writer at any time but a lot of people would say the grass is greener in London or New York. It can be difficult to make that decision to stay but I’m one of the ones that’s going to stick it out here.”

She doesn’t believe far away hills are any greener anyway, despite offering more plentiful work.

“Maybe there are more jobs there but you don’t have the support structures. Once you weigh up the pros and cons, it’s not actually easier at all. It’s a much bigger pond, you’re a smaller fish and emigration brings its own problems.

“It’s easy to sit here and say it’d be much easier there but I see my friends who have left and it’s not easier. They put pictures on Facebook of lying in the sun and being drunk but they’re missing their family and friends, being a foreigner in another country. It’s not all putting shrimps on the barbecue.”

This is her second play, coming after Our Father, which tackled some of the same themes. “We’ve been really, really lucky. We started at the Dublin Fringe Festival last year and we’ve been on tour since the start of the year. We’re touring internationally as well. It’s been great.”

 

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