Set in 1920’s England, Charlotte Jones’s Airswimming, playing until Feb. 3 at the Irish Rep, is based on the true story of two women (Miss Kitson and Miss Baker), who have been incarcerated in a hospital for the “criminally insane” for having borne illegitimate children. Forgotten by their families and not released until the 1970’s, Dora and Persephone adoptalter-egos, Dorph and Porph, to enact their fantasies and survive the silence of incarceration. By turns very funny and moving, Airswimming reminds us of the forgotten women of these generations in both Britain and Ireland. Aedín Moloney and Rachel Pickup, seen in The Irish Rep’s 2011 revival of Brian Friel’s Dancing at Lughnasa, star as Dora and Persephone, respectively.
Q & A by Kathy Callahan
Aedin, please tell us your Airswimming backstory.
John Keating brought this play to my attention in 2004, asking me if i would be interested in playing the role of Dora and producing it with Fallen Angel Theatre Company. In 2011 we found our Persephone – actor Rachel Pickup. In September 2012 the final piece to our production came about, when the renowned Irish Repertory Theatre came on board to present the piece in association with Fallen Angel Theatre Company.
Aedin, I have heard you say that Airswimming is a woman’s play that everyone can relate to on some level.
Charlotte Jones has written a very brave piece that explores with effortless wit a topic (incarceration of women for having children out of wedlock) that many writers would shy away from. Charlotte Jones fearless humor and her complete lack of self-censorship in her writing, are more than reason enough to draw me to the challenges of the play.’
Men and boys never suffered the tragic fate of girls and woman who were ostracized, incarcerated and deemed socially and mentally unfit in London and in Ireland at that time. True enough. That is why we must never forget. The stage is a good place to bring their stories to life.
John, what is on the horizon after Airswimming?
I’m in rehearsals for Much Ado About Nothing at The Duke on 42nd Street, but I’m on the other side of the stage for this one, playing Verges and Friar Francis. We start previews on Feb 2 and it runs thru early April.
John, while I was watching Aedin Maloney and Rachel Pickup’s brilliant performance I couldn’t help but think about one of my all time favorite films about a complex and intriguing conversation between Andre Gregory and Wallis Shawn in -My Dinner With Andre…
Yes Kathy Air Swimming definitely has strong echoes of My Dinner with Andre and of course Waiting for Godot, someone the other evening also mentioned Shawshank Redemption, which I can see too! I’m excited about the Wallace Shawn mini-season this Spring in NYC and wish that My Dinner with Andre was part of it.
When and where were you when you decided to bring Air Swimming to NYC?
I first read Airswimming after picking it up by chance in Drama Bookshop as far back as 2004, I bought it after reading it there and then an hour later, showed it to Aedin that weekend, we decided to do it right away – and here we are nearly 9 years later!
I can see Air Swimming on the screen. Any plans for filming?
No plans to film it – wish we did as it would work so well, I would be surprised if the playwright Charlotte Jones hasn’t been approached over the years (the play was written in 1997) to adapt it for screen. I can see the pitch now – ‘Shawshank, but with two ladies in the Freeman and Robbins roles’! They should ask Aedin and Rachel to do the parts, they won’t find better to play them.
And if I might add, John, They should ask you to direct!