News 5 Aug 2019

[5 minute read]

Honest, brave and hard-hitting, Spliced is a visceral account of Timmy Creed's struggle to become an individual outside of the sporting institution that raised him. He wants to talk about identity, masculinity and mental health in a sports club.

Writer and performer Timmy Creed takes on our 10 Questions, explaining more about Hurling, the fastest field game in the world and reveals what it is like to transition from the sporting world to the world of acting and theatre making.

1.How would you describe Spliced and why did you have to write it?

Spliced is my love letter to hurling; the national sport of Ireland which I played at club level for the best part of my life. Before I became an actor I gave every moment of my free time to the game and I wrote this show as a response to two questions I started asking myself in my mid 20's; what has hurling given back to me and who am I outside of this? The more I reflected on my history with the culture around the sport the more I needed to start a conversation about it. That conversation is about the behaviours and attitude it nurtures in the young men of Ireland. I realised what was normal to me in the sporting world was completely shocking to anyone outside of it. Early in the shows life I remember sharing stories which I had no intention of using in the show with our designers and Gina Moxley, our director. They were absolutely horrified by the things I had accepted as ‘normal’ in my sporting life. That's when I knew this conversation had to take place in hurling alleys, three walled outdoor concrete structures, to bring the openness and freedom of theatre to the sports arena and have the conversations out in the air, literally.

2. Can you give us a brief rundown of what hurling is?

Hurling is the fastest field game in the world. It is played using a stick called a camán and a ball called a sliotar. Two teams of 15 are pitted against each other to achieve the highest score of points and goals in a 60/70 minute game. Played at its best it is a wild, free and beautiful game that brings people together to celebrate and rejoice in what it is to be Irish. At its worst it is a high-pressured, brutal, violent game that pits communities against each other and creates a level of expectation amongst players that is beyond reason. It is the lifeblood of thousands of communities in Ireland. For context; Cork, the county I am from has a population of around 300,000 and we have over 265 clubs.

3. How did you find the writing process?

I found it challenging at first because as an athlete my language was a physical one, not a verbal one. Despite having very strong feelings about the game, and my relationship with it, the words refused to come out. That's when I realised that the culture of sport I had lived in my whole life only ever encouraged me to keep things bottled up. When I was ready to be honest with myself and about myself the words started to flow. I'm a flighty person by nature, and easily distracted, so I did a few writing retreats in west county Kerry. I would spend a week at a time on the side of a mountain in total isolation using every technique I could think of to get the words out, often recording and transcribing a stream of consciousness after ritualistic mushroom ceremony. However, the most effective technique for writing was our masterful director Gina's steering mind and boot on the back of my neck three days before the show debuted at the Dublin Fringe Festival. Her dramaturgy throughout the process really shaped the narrative and weeded out any of my bullshit writing. The end of the play still remains open and as the shows travels, more poignant stories may reveal themselves.

4. What do you want audience members to take away from Spliced?

I think the show has two distinct audiences; theatre people and sports people. I want the theatre people to walk away having shaken off the misconception that those heavily involved in team sports are one dimensional people, wholly represented by the culture of the sport they play. We all have the same frailty and struggle within ourselves as everyone else in the world and ,while our language of expression is different to what they are familiar with, it all has value. I want sports people to walk away more accepting of their struggle as athletes and to understand that who they are begins outside the sport and inside themselves.

5. What’s your favourite line or moment in the play?

'Thanks lads.' Not exactly prose but it is a moment in the play when I express my gratitude and appreciation to my former team mates for helping me develop strength of character, courage and confidence over the years and encouraging me to stand up and speak out on their behalf.

6. How did you find the transition from the sporting world into the world of acting and making theatre?

I think making Spliced is definitely the thing that has given me most confidence as a performer. It took me 8 years and many visits to the Edinburgh Fringe to feel like I had a story worth telling and the ability to tell it. One of the big challenges for me, in the transition from sport to theatre, was having a critical voice and not being afraid to speak it. I was used to blending in with a group, hiding under the surface of things and keeping thoughts and feelings to myself. Acting has really allowed me to activate that muscle, have an opinion and say what it is I want to say. There is reluctance as a team player to stand out vocally, ‘keep the head down’ as they, and as a performer this is the person who often gets rewarded and seen. Being in the arena and performing for an audience is definitely something I have enjoyed since a young age, and the transition in that sense is quite natural. I still feel like an imposter, a sportsman in an arts world, but making theatre now thankfully feels every bit as natural to me as holding a hurley does.

7. What do you think sport and theatre could learn from one another?

Sport focuses on the conquering of the physical and pushing the body’s performance levels above and beyond their capabilities. Theatre, on the other hand, focuses on using physical language to explore the body and its different states. This releasing of the bodies tensions, like in theatre, could really benefit athletes to relax and allow themselves to perform, without the physical and mental pressures and tensions. When the body is relaxed one can perform to a higher level of feeling and enjoyment. This tension can often inhabit dressing rooms and sports clubs, which can often block the energy in the space from flowing. Sport champions sport, where theatre champions vulnerability. Vulnerability in sport is an interesting concept I think. The sense of discussion in a rehearsal room and openness to another way of seeing is something that I would like to see more of in sports teams. It is not black and white andeverybody has something relevant to say. I would love to see more encouraging of people speaking their minds, and I think teams and sports clubs can act as places that open us up instead of close of down. Theatre is not about competition whereas sport has a win at all cost mentality. Fail, fail again, fail better as opposed to fail and you lose! The idea that you put the group ahead of yourself is a humbling experience that comes from sport which can be hard for artists and makers to do sometimes.

8. Who is your sporting hero?

A hurler by the name of Diarmuid Lyng, who I am lucky enough to also call a friend. At his peak he was the captain of the Wexford hurling team, and is renowned nationally for his gifted abilities with a hurl. As someone who played at the highest level from a young age he understands the game and all its beauty and faults and how the culture of sport starts at a very young age. Diarmuid is known for using his respected position in the sporting community of Ireland to effect positive change in attitudes and ways to see the game, bringing it back to its bare ancient simplicity. Spliced has been performed in secondary schools where Diarmuid has facilitated workshops with the students after performances. Observing him in the room as he facilitated a space for young people to speak freely and openly about respect identity as their peer, and not their elder, was a wonderful insight into what made him such a celebrated captain and team leader.

9. What has been your most memorable theatre experience – either as a member of the audience, or as part of the creative team?

I recently brought Spliced around West Cork for the West Cork Fit-Up festival. This is a truly special event, where rural communities are exposed to new writing in their local community centres, town halls or whatever space is suited to the incoming show. The show is fit-up and down every night in a different small town or island and we must improvise as to how we will perform it in the space and what materials are available when we arrive. We found ourselves scavenging in local sheds and yards and calling into local pubs to source suitable materials, for the show that was happening in a few hours time. Seat-of-the-pants stuff but community theatre at its best with a different show doing the rounds each week for six weeks. The appreciation shown by the audiences was astounding and the welcomes we received will stay with me for a long time.

10. What three words would you use to describe Spliced?

Goal-scoring, head-standing, arse-bearing.

Spliced runs at the Traverse from 2 – 25 Aug (ex. Mondays).

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