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Mad About Acting

I established calipo in 1994. It was set up by myself and few other members of a youth theatre at the time. I would have been about 19 or 20, and we set it up because we were too old for youth theatre and we wanted to create opportunities for ourselves to continue making theatre and performing. It was profit-share and we did whatever shows we liked -- if there was a play we really wanted to do, we just put it on. The profits of one show would pay for the production of the next.

The major turning points were when we started to introduce video. At the time, I was studying television in college and I brought the people I was meeting in college into the theatre company. We started to introduce filmic elements into the theatre work -- and that was the nucleus of what we were going to become.

Our interest grew, and we started working in film and television as well as working in theatre, so now we tend to do theatre that doesn't involve multimedia.

The show we're doing at the minute is a straightforward theatre piece, Ten Dates with Mad Mary. The Mad Mary of the title is a character that we used to use to blog. Yasmine Akram, the writer, is a founding member of Calipo; she went to RADA to train. When she came back, she blogged for us, in the guise of an intern who worked for us. Mary was quite eccentric, and she had been in jail, and she was constantly getting in trouble. It was a witty and different way for us to tell people what was going on with us.

I never knew if the blog was reaching people, and I thought the stuff Yaz was doing was really funny, so we started talking ideas. We both liked doing what was, in essence, a romantic comedy. We hated the ones out there: the central characters are always people you can't identify with and one-dimensional. Mary would be an interesting person to put in that context, someone who you want to see succeed.

She's out of jail after a short stretch, and everything is stacked against her. She's coming home to her best friend's wedding; this is a big deal for her, so she needs to find a date for the wedding to prove she's normal.

This leads her into meeting various misfits around town while she tries to find someone suitable for the wedding. But it's really about a girl trying to come to terms with herself, and that she's worthy of being in something meaningful with someone else.

When we weren't subsidised that well, not everybody was getting paid in the proper way, and at this point in our careers we can't do that anymore. But with that comes the sacrifice of not always being able to hit the zeitgeist. Funding is a real juggling act, but we always manage in some way. We'll keep going and producing.

The most important thing is the play, and not the lavishness of the production. Ten Dates with Mad Mary is a stripped-back show, but it's a good piece of writing; when we ran it in Drogheda, the audience really connected with it. It just goes to show you that you can create a really amazing, moving piece of theatre with a limited amount of resources.

Ten Dates with Mad Mary runs 'til Saturday in Project Cube. See www.projectartscentre.ie for information