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Glad To Be Green
COLM O HARE speaks to ANTHONY GOULDING, writer of Green, a play centreD around male prostitution in Dublin.
Colm O Hare, 15 Sep 1999
The recent furore over In Dublin massage parlour advertisements and the promised Garda crackdown on brothels has once again highlighted the murky business of sex for sale, in all its manifestations.
Now comes Green, a gritty, realistic play based around the secret world of rent boys operating in the Phoenix Park area of Dublin. Written by young Dubliner, Anthony Goulding, the play was first staged at the Dublin Fringe Festival in 1997 winning a nomination for Best New Play in the Irish Times/ESB Awards. This updated production, to be staged at Vicar St. for two weeks in September, features a totally new cast with a specially written soundtrack by Brian Mooney of The Idiots.
The story revolves around seven young inner city youths locked into a hopeless routine of drinking, petty crime and forlorn dreams of escape from their dreary lives. Their world is suddenly rocked when they discover one of their number is leading a double life working as a rent boy by night and hanging out with the gang during the day.
Goulding, who grew up in Devany Gardens, a large complex of flats near the Phoenix Park is more than familiar with the area and its reputation as a red light district.
I spent a lot of my time hanging out in the Park when I was younger, he explains. I became intrigued with what was going on around there, especially after dark. I already knew there was a lot of cruising happening. But one evening I was walking through the park with a mate and he pointed out another guy who we both knew. He told me he was working as a rent boy. It came as a bit of a shock at the time, as I knew that this guy was involved in queer bashing and had a girlfriend.
Though he d never written a play before Goulding was inspired to write a story loosely based on that incident. He set about researching the world of male prostitutes and the sub-culture they inhabit.
With my background I wasn t exactly prone to going to theatre, he says. But I was doing a performance course in Bull Alley in the Liberties and I thought I d have a go. So I wrote it and sent it to The Abbey. But they just said go back and re-write it without offering any help. I think the guy I spoke to thought it was me in the play and that I needed therapy more than anything else! Then Vanessa [Fielding, the director] read it and said she d like to do it.
Goulding s research shattered a number of misconceptions he d previously held about rent boys and the kind of person who gets involved in male prostitution.
I discovered that the majority of them have girlfriends, some of them actually like doing what they do, whether for the money or just for the thrill of it. Some of them are on drugs or drink and need the money, but most are quite normal.
According to Goulding, there are about a dozen rent boys plying their trade in the Phoenix Park with some as young as 14 and the oldest about 28.
The youngest guys, known as the chickens are in the greatest demand, he explains. Mostly the transactions take place in cars, but some of them are brought to hotels or restaurants by the punters. If they meet friends they introduce them as their nephew or something like that. It s a quite dangerous occupation and some of them get badly beaten and abused.
What amazes me about the Phoenix Park, he continues, is that it has so many prestigious high profile people living there The President s house, the American Ambassador s house, the Garda Headquarters and the army barracks are all there, yet at night it becomes such a devious place with lots of horrific stuff going on.
Goulding, who studied acting at the Manchester Met, is currently attending a film workshop under Professor Brendan Ward of Columbia University in New York. He eventually hopes to develop Green into a screenplay with a view to making it into a film.
There has been interest in it and there are some people coming over from London to look at the play so we ll see what happens, he says.
Green, presented by Vesuvians Theatre Company in association with Vicar St., will be staged as a promenade-style production in which the action dictates the position of the audience. As on a film set, the actors perform the play in different locations and the audience moves into each scene to be close to the experience.
This will be a much bigger production than it was the first time around, Goulding states. As far as I know it s also the first serious play to be staged at Vicar St., so I m looking forward to it. n
Green by Anthony Goulding runs from September 7th to 18th at Vicar St., Dublin.