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Dublin: 14°C Sunday 20 September 2020

'Your 30s are a tricky time for women. The biological and social pressures to conform are immense'

Actor and playwright Christiane O’Mahony wonders if seahorses have the right idea about how to live.

Christiane O'Mahony

SEAHORSES ARE AWESOME. They mate for life but they don’t live with their partners, and the females take up more space than the males.

Best of all, the males have the babies.

My new play Seahorse, which premieres at the Dublin Fringe Festival this week, is about a woman named Mara who finds herself in an aquarium in the middle of the night, face-to-face with a pregnant male seahorse.

She promptly has an existential crisis as she imagines how much simpler her life would be if she were a seahorse.

Seahorse explores the anxiety of being female in modern Ireland. It’s tragicomic. Mara is a bit shit at feminism. She uses porn but feels guilty afterwards. She enjoys the comforts of being in a relationship with a higher earner, but wants it on her terms.

‘Your 30s are a tricky time’

I’m interested in creating real, flawed, funny women. I wasn’t getting the opportunity to play those roles so I have turned my hand at writing them for myself. 

Your 30s are a tricky time for women. The biological and social pressures to conform are immense. It can be hard to truly know yourself when the world so loudly dictates what you ought to be doing. Choosing the road less travelled becomes harder. The conventions of your parents generation might look more attractive.

These are human dilemmas of course, but age hits you harder as a woman biologically as well as socioculturally. Mara is a bit trapped by that.

We see Mara being selfish and a bit awful at times– all the things you’re usually told not to be. I’ve deliberately explored her darker, less attractive characteristics. It feels these days, especially with social media, that everyone is obsessed with appearing perfect and sorted – #livingmybestlife. I feel Mara is real, and hopefully, recognisable.

Making your own work

Seahorse Image 5 featuring Christiane O Mahony Photo Credit Enrique Carnicero Christiane O'Mahony in Seahorse. Source: Enrique Carnicero

A lot of women actors make their own work, whether it’s writing or producing because of the dearth of opportunities for us. The global #Metoo and local Waking the Feminist movements have created awareness and given voice to female makers.

Myself and my boyfriend Brian Mitchell decided to take matters into our own hands a few years ago and set up our own company, For the Birds. We produced our first play Sisters of the Rising in 2016 and we have also made three short films. It’s a lot of work but ultimately it’s very rewarding.

I love being a creator as well as an actor. I feel I’m giving myself permission to be part of this industry without needing to rely on gatekeepers. It also changes the dynamic too because you can offer something as opposed to just asking for something.

Making my own work, I feel happy, fulfilled and challenged in a way that I never did as an actor.

Seahorse runs at the Project Arts Centre, Cube in Dublin: Tuesday 18- Saturday 22 September 2018 at 6.30pm, and Saturday 22 September at 4.15pm, then  The Everyman, Cork from 6-8 March 2019. Meitherhood, written by and starring Christiane O’Mahony, will premiere at the Dublin International Short Film and Music Festival and Kerry Film Festival this October. For tickets and more information, visit the Dublin Fringe Festival website.

About the author:

Christiane O'Mahony

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