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“We want a realness and rawness to it”: Ireland’s first post-watershed teen drama is here

We speak to its writer, former Misfits writer Mike O’Leary.

Image: A

IRELAND’S FIRST POST-watershed teen drama will hit TG4′s screens in early February, and its writer tells us we can expect that it’ll be gritty, authentic… and will have a touch of magic realism.

Set in the small and grim rural town of Dobhar, Eipic brings us five teenagers who band together to start their own musical revolution in an abandoned post office. It’s written by the London-based Corkonian Mike O’Leary, a former writer for Misfits on E4.

It being the centenary year, the show has echoes of 1916, as the teens make music to the background of the town’s Rising centenary celebrations.

We follow as one of the gang, Sully, hears about an online music video competition, and decides it could be his way of escaping his daily begrudgery. He assembles his own team and they set about getting a set together.

The series’ producer Ciara Nic Chormaic described Eipic as turning “all the usual stereotypes of Irish drama on their heads”.

It is the first post watershed teen drama to be broadcast on Irish television and was devised to capture contemporary Irish teenagers’ lives… with a hint of magic realism and big laughs thrown in for good measure.

Eipic-concert-5 Source: A

Penned by Flann O’Brien after Electric Picnic

As series writer, Mike O’Leary said that to him, “[Eipic] should look like TV drama penned by Flann O’Brien on the Monday after Electric Picnic”, so it’s no wonder, then, that the person who encourages the character Sully to take part in the music competition is a described as a ‘mysterious online friend with a resemblance to Michael Collins’.

O’Leary was approached by Magamedia, the Galway-based production company, to write the script.

“We knew we wanted to do a musical comedy drama,” he said. The aim was to explore the idea of how teens today living in rural towns ” straddle two worlds [because of] the internet and social media”, said O’Leary.

“On the one hand they’re stuck in the back of beyond, and on the other hand they’re plugged into this global network.”

CIAN O BAOILL as OISÍN Cian O Baoill as Oisín Source: A

A war of independence

The 1916 connection is also echoed in how the teens experience the world around them.

“I know it’s a different war, but your teenage years are all a long war of independence,” said O’Leary. “I think what a lot of the best youth dramas strive for is the relationship between the adult characters and the teenage characters, and a lot of our adult characters in the series are highly flawed kids.”

I totally related to it in my own experience. Growing up is a series of realising adults aren’t infallible and they are really like great, grown-up kids. And that’s the tough times – that you know that your parents or figures of authority are nearly as flawed as you, but [because of] some weird unspoken rule they have a voice and you don’t. I think that’s the frustrating thing about being a kid, and that’s what we tried to reflect.

Rebellion and music

They also felt that music had a large role to play in teenage rebellion. “Going back to the dawn of the teenager, music has always been the weapon of choice in rebelling, so it was very important to reflect that,” said O’Leary.

“That’s the one thing that many of us had growing up at our disposal, our musical taste, and that was how we stalked out our independence.”

There is no original music performed by the teens, but all the tracks –  like The Jam’s Town Called Malice, Frankly Mr Shankly by The Smiths and Video Girl by FKA Twigs - have been translated as gaeilge.

The soundtrack, however, does feature new Irish music, something that was important to the team.

From L-R- Róisín Ní Chéileachair as MONA and Fionnuala Gygax as BEA Róisín Ní Chéileachair as Mona and Fionnuala Gygax as Bea Source: A

A journey back to Irish

O’Leary’s script was written in English and translated into Irish, but he had a sense of what would and wouldn’t work when going from one language to another. “The fact we all have a rudimentary grasp of the language helped, so you knew to avoid portmanteaus, or certain tools that would usually be at your disposal weren’t.”

Working on an Irish series made O’Leary realise how much he regretted not engaging more with the language, and since filming he has started taking Irish classes in the Camden Irish centre in London.

He was full of praise for TG4, who he described as “great, because they allowed us to be completely batshit crazy with the content and the themes which we explored”.

O’Leary studied theatre in Trinity, joining a comedy group which included members of Dead Cat Bounce, and comedian Aisling Bea. He then went to London to undertake a Masters in TV.

FIONN FOLEY as SULLY Source: A

Though he described writing as something which “can be a real abject existence”, O’Leary is drawn to the craft.

“The whole process of world creation is very alluring,” he said. “I think I happened into TV at a very exciting time. It’s where it’s at at the moment in terms of prestige television.”

He started off writing online content for E4, before going on to write Misfit’s episodes. He’s currently working on another E4 production.

‘The stories we were trying to tell are important’

The fact that Eipic is on post-watershed meant that the content could be more adult than your average teen drama.

Róisín Ní Chéileachair as MONA and FIONN FOLEY as SULLY Róisín Ní Chéileachair as Mona and Fionn Foley as Sully Source: A

“It was strange because it started off as not post-watershed,” said O’Leary. “It was going to be 6pm for a younger audience, and I think my writing sensibilities naturally pulled it into that post-watershed timeslot.”

“The stories we were trying to tell necessitated a post-watershed time, and TG4 were amazing about that,” he said.

“The stories we were trying to tell are important and timely and really speak to that generation. The real kiss of death for writing about teens is to write from the point of view of an older person,” he cautioned. “The minute they can sniff that stuff out at 100 yards they won’t buy into it.”

They also didn’t want to shy away from the language these teenagers would use in everyday life.

“You want a realness and a rawness to it,” said O’Leary. “Authenticity – that was the big word we would really strive to reach.”

You can watch a clip of the resulting programme in the trailer below:

Source: magamedia/YouTube

Eipic airs on TG4 at 10pm for six weeks from Thursday 4 February. It was produced by Galway-based Magamedia with funding from TG4, the BAI and Section 481.

Read: Over 600,000 people watched the first episode of Rebellion last night>

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