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We spoke to Naoise O’ Cairealláin aka Móglaí Bap of Kneecap, ahead of his first play, Minimal Human Contact taking the stage as part of the Dublin Fringe Festival. Please note that the language may not be suitable for everyone.
This is your first foray into writing a drama, Naoise, and it’s a one-man play about a young man who becomes addicted to gambling in West Belfast. Would it be fair to say this character is an extension of you?
Carachtar atá ann ach meascán de mo thaithí féin ag fás aníos in Iarthar Bhéal Feirste, being raped and pillaged by the local bookmakers as a kid. Bhí an oiread taithí agam bhí sé fuarasta tarraingt ón tobar mar, ya know, we were preyed on as kids to start gambling and then we got addicted, ba ghnách linne agus mo chuid cairde f*cking ocht n-uair a chloig a chaitheamh sa bhookies, so, after a while you do find some inspiration.
He’s a character, but he is definitely influenced by own experiences growing in West Belfast, being raped and pillaged by the local bookmakers, as a kid. I had so much experience it wasn’t hard for me to write about it, because, we were preyed on as kids to start gambling and then we got addicted, myself and my friends used to spend f*cking eight hours a day in the books, so after a while you do find some inspiration.
Given that this play is based in the urban Gaeltacht of West Belfast and deals with issues that aren’t usually tackled in theatre circles, do you think that theatre is a place still reserved for middle-classed people?
Is dóiche gur mó seans go rachaidh siad mar go bhfuil an dráma seo ann. Meallfaidh sé daoine nach mbeadh ag dul chuig dráma, de ghnáth. Ní bhíonn drámaí really ann faoi chúrsaí reatha scríofa ag daoine óga, I can’t really think of anything except for culchies kissing in Trinity College, there’s nothing to do with a proper urban lifestyle being written, go háirithe i nGaeilge, fiú i mBéarla.
Bhí agus tá go fóill bookies ar achan choirneál de Iarthar Bhéal Feirste agus má théann tú go ceantar meánaicmeach is beag bookies a fheiceann tú ann, mar ní dhéanann siad airgead sna ceantair sin, mar they’re promising a rags to riches experience for people who live in economically disadvantaged areas, like West Belfast.
I think there’s more of a chance people from outside of the middle-class will go to this play. I hope it attracts people who wouldn’t usually go to the theatre. There aren’t really plays written by young people, in English or in Irish, except for culchies kissing in Trinity College, there’s nothing to do with a proper urban lifestyle being written.
There were and still are a bookies on every corner in West Belfast and if you go to a middle class area, you barely see any, because they don’t make money in those areas, they’re promising a rags to riches experience for people who live in economically disadvantaged areas, like West Belfast.
This play delves into the huge societal issue of gambling addiction and your own experience of it, do you see it as a part of the healing journey, or the end of that chapter of your life?
Tá fadhb ollmhór ann maidir le cearrbhachas sa tír seo nach labhrann muid faoi, tá sé greannta i gcultúr an lucht oibre, but now the bookies are creating these machines which are super addictive, using lights and sounds they know make it so easy to become addicted to and nuair a chuireann tú na rudaí seo in áiteanna a bhfuil bochtanas ann, you’re really preying on people. Is fadhb í fosta bhaineann le fir freisin, óg agus aosta, ní fheiceann tú mná ag dul dó, except bingo, which actually seems like fun, if I was addicted to bingo I would have had a very different childhood.
Thóg sé tamaill an-fhada orm teacht chugam féin, go leor leor comhairleoireachta agus tacaíochta ach ní dóigh liom go gcríochnóidh sé riamh. That’s the way, that’s the life of an addict, you never really get over it, funny enough.
There’s a huge problem in Ireland with gambling and it’s not talked about enough, it’s built into the working class culture, but now the now the bookies are creating these machines which are super addictive, using lights and sounds they know make it so easy to become addicted and when you put these things in economically disadvantaged areas, you’re really preying on people. It’s a very male problem too, young and old, you rarely see a woman in a bookies. They’re playing bingo which actually seems like fun, if I was addicted to bingo I would have had a very different childhood.
It took me a long time to recover and a lot of counselling and support and I don’t think I’ll ever fully recover from it. That’s the way, that’s the life of an addict, you never really get over it, funny enough.
You can buy tickets for Minimal Human Contact here
If you have been affected by issues raised in this story, please visit: www.rte.ie/helplines.
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