Interview: Kate Brennan on RIOT! the Dublin Fringe Show Taking Melbourne by Storm

Kate Brennan is no stranger to the stage. The acclaimed Irish actress has performed in everything from a production of The White Devil at Shakespeare’s Globe, to appearing on the small screen on HBO’s The Tudors. Now, she is performing alongside a stellar ensemble of Irish performers in a one-of-a-kind show, RIOT! This celebration of Irish talent combines everything from drag performance, to circus stunts, and even throws in some Irish dancing for good measure.  We caught up with Kate to talk us through what to expect from this Dublin Fringe Festival smash hit.

First off, Welcome to Melbourne- apologies for the erratic weather! Tell us do you notice any differences between Aussie audiences and audiences back home in Ireland?

Thanks! Feeling very welcome in Melbourne, we are used to erratic weather at home also- but not so used to the sun- so I feel blessed to be out here at this time.

The Aussie audiences are great- I’ve toured to Melbourne before and I have found them to be really responsive, warm and on the ball in terms of whats going on. With RIOT, I was interested to see how it would translate here, and it has gone down a storm so far which is amazing. A lot of the themes in the show are universal so it travels very well. The show is so diverse -there is something in it for everyone to relate to.

Given the huge number of people involved in this project, can you tell us a bit about how you got involved.

I have known and worked with one of the creators of the show- the legendary Philip McMahon for years, and he asked me to come in to watch the show when it was on in Vicar Street in Dublin, with a view to possibly taking over from Emmet Kirwan who wrote and performed spoken word in RIOT. (Emmet was not available for this part of the tour). When I watched it I was completely blown away – this was a show I wanted to be a part of! A complete feast for the senses and the soul. Emmet’s writing is so moving , and his vocal gymnastics are off the chart. So I was a bit like… you want me to do that?!

But I’m always up for a challenge and I got into the room with Philip and the other half of THISISPOPBABY, the powerhouse Jenny Jennings and it all just worked- and now here I am- traveling the world with this incredible group of talented creations!

RIOT contains everything from drag to circus performance. What surprised you most about joining this talented ensemble? And be honest with us, did you give that aerial hoop a go? We know we would have!

Each act brings something special to the show – I am constantly astounded by each of them. It’s very interesting and rare you get to perform with so many different disciplines, and each piece of the jigsaw connects and is essential to create the extravaganza that is RIOT, led by the divine and powerful force that is Panti Bliss. I was surprised how well I slotted in, they have welcomed me into their circus family with open arms… and yes I should ask Ronan for a go of the aerial hoop- but may not be a good idea as they need me for the rest of the run!

This show really is a celebration of Irish performers and writers, and in it you get to perform an original spoken word piece by Emmet Kirwan. The piece was so successful that it went on to be made into a short film that has now been viewed over a million times. How do you feel about the success of ‘Heartbreak’ following the show’s Fringe run?  Is there any pressure while performing it now?

Heartbreak is a beautiful and powerful poem and I was so incredibly moved by it when I first heard Emmet performing it . It’s almost hard to believe a man has written it as it so delicately illustrates the story and feelings of a young teenage mother. I’m a friend of Emmet’s so it was no surprise to me as he is so clued in and sensitive to whats going on in the world right now. I suppose there was a certain level of pressure as he performs it so brilliantly, but I think it was an interesting and wise choice to get a female to perform it this time, as it changes when hearing those words come from a woman’s mouth.

Last year you wrote your first play, ‘Walk for Me’, for the Dublin Fringe. After this show, do you have any plans to turn your hand back to play writing?

I never thought I’d be able to write a play before I did Walk For Me. I had been writing songs as “Miss Kate” for so many years so I knew I could write lyrics, but a whole play is a completely different story. It was a huge learning curve and I am not done with it yet. I’m hopefully going to be putting it on in a theatre in Dublin later in the year with a view to touring, but I would like to develop it further first.

Then after that… who knows? I definitely have a few more stories to tell that’s for sure!

Finally, RIOT is so jam-packed full of acts that it’s hard to describe, so, if you could give Melbournians one reason to come and see this show, what would would it be?

This show will make you laugh, cry, elate you, activate you, inspire you and make your heart soar… and all only in 90 minutes! If you want to escape the world for a while and leave with a huge smile on your face and a fire in your belly then come join us in the RIOT.

RIOT is showing at the Fairfax Studio in the Arts Theatre, Melbourne until February 9th. Tickets are available here.