Abbie Spallen

Abbie is a multi-award-winning writer, actor and film producer. Her writing credits include the Stewart Parker Award, the Tony Doyle Award, the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize, the Clare McIntyre Bursary from The Royal Court, the Peggy Ramsay Award, the Dublin City Council Bursary for Literature and the HALMA Foundation Award for Excellence in the European Arts. In 2014 Abbie was awarded the Major Individual Artist Award by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland and in 2016 she was awarded the Windham Campbell Prize for Literature.

Her plays include: Poena 5×1 (2016, Underbelly, Edinburgh Fringe); Lally the Scut (2015, Tinderbox Theatre Company / The Mac); Abeyance (Druid Debut, Druid Theatre Company); Pumpgirl (Bush/Traverse/Manhattan Theatre Club) which won the 2007 Susan Smith Blackburn Award, the Stewart Parker award and was nominated for the Irish Times Best New Play; Strandline (Fishamble) which was shortlisted for the Susan Smith Blackburn Award and nominated for the Meyer Whitworth Award; and Bogwog (NPC, O’Neill Centre Connecticut). Her short plays include Thirteen (Women in Power and Politics,Tricycle Theatre), Shaving the Pickle (59E59 NYC) and Rubberfoot (Pentabus). Her work is published by Faber and Faber and has been translated into many languages and produced across Europe and the USA. She has completed one attachment to the Royal National Theatre and two to The Royal Court. In 2014 she was writer in residence in the Lyric Theatre Belfast. Her work for radio includes Rapture Frequency (The Wire R3) Live From The Palace (R4) and the forthcoming SNAKE OIL (R4). Film and television includes Pumpgirl (PG Films/NI Screen) Seacht (Stirling Productions) and Collusion (Sharp Focus for Calipo).

Abbie is currently under commission to The Traverse, The Lyric Belfast, The Abbey Theatre and Working Title. She is also part of the senior story room for Ros Na Rún.

Abbie Spallen on touring Pumpgirl

I am particularly excited about the prospect of this regional tour of Ireland. I believe that in this time of ‘toxic masculinity’ the play has much to say on the subject.

The fact that it does, is, in itself, both reassuring and saddening. I am personally reassured that the play still resonates and I am saddened for exactly the same reason: that we need to discuss these issues even after a decade. I remember doing a talk in Edinburgh when the play opened and the critic Joyce Macmillan asked if we were living in a ‘rape culture’. That the same question could be asked today, and without a moment’s hesitation AND answered in the affirmative is an absolute tragedy.

I live in Newry. I spend my days in a rural area, the same back roads and highways (and shopping centres!) in which the play is set. I firmly believe that director Andrew Flynn is right to take the play to similar areas. I also know how the play is received in those areas. I have sat in the audience, listened to people talking during the interval, and after the show. They took pride in the play, a sense of ownership. This was a play for them and about them. It didn’t think them stupid and it doesn’t allow them to ‘hide’. It is a play that straddles two things. It is gritty and demotic but also of literary worth. They, we loved it.

I also sat in the audience for a Finnish production in Jyvaskyla, a town not unlike Newry. The day before the play opened I read an article where a spokesperson from the local Rape Crisis Centre said they were expecting a rise in calls after the production. If one young girl can watch this play and dial that number then I have done something useful. As long as I live that is the highlight of my career. I say that as a victim of sexual assault myself (who isn’t?). They can keep the awards.

But let’s talk about the awards, ha! The awards and the performances from Broadway to Jyvaskyla. The satellite productions in Chicago, Washington, Philadelphia, and on and on. The play is studied on the US University curriculum. It won the Blackburn Prize, the Stewart Parker award, the Dublin Corporation Bursary for Literature and was, in combination with my more recent play Lally The Scut, responsible for my Windham Campbell Prize from Yale. Before this most recent revival it has played one night in the South of Ireland. It is not bitterness that makes me ask why that is. I believe the play is a valuable and necessary addition to the Irish cannon, and by a female playwright. But those are reasons possibly driven by ego. Basically I believe that the play deserves to go to where it belongs; to Irish venues where one girl might dial that number.

Abbie Spallen

DECADENT Productions

Pumpgirl poster of Decadent's production of Abbie Spallen's play

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