Michaela Courtney - Writer, director & actor in Clondalkin Drama’s Annual Panto

By Hayden Moore

CLONDALKIN Drama Group is putting the final touches on their annual pantomime, that is set for seven shows starting on Saturday, January 12.

This year’s show is called ‘Happily Ever After’, and it is set to bring together all of your favourite fairy tales in an epic adventure of laughs, revenge and most importantly, fun!

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Clondalkin native, Michaela Courtney (left)

Clondalkin native, Michaela Courtney spent much of her life resenting the theatre until she stumbled across a little play called ‘The Lion King’ a number of years ago, and now can’t get enough of the stage.

The former Colaiste Bride student currently studies performance in the Gaiety School of Acting, and she took some time out of her busy rehearsal schedule to tell us all about CDG’s fresh take on the tried and proven classical fairy tales.

What is ‘Happily Ever After’ all about?

‘Happily Ever After’ is set in a book of fairy tales and follows the characters in their endeavour to host a ball celebrating the book’s 200th year of publication.

The main conflict comes from the book’s villains, led by the Evil Queen, feeling unhappy that they are all portrayed as the “losers” in their respective stories and coming up with a scheme to rewrite the book to flip that narrative onto the goodies.

It’s then a race for some of the stories’ protagonists, like Snow White, Dopey, Red Riding Hood etc., to put a stop to the plot and ensure that the ball can go ahead for everyone to celebrate... including the baddies.

What makes the show different from other classic Pantomimes?

We wrote this show ourselves so we were able to play to our strengths a lot with the script. There are of course elements of classic pantomimes but the fact that the story is an original creation helps to set this show apart from other pantos.

We’re not limited to one fairytale, this show gets to play around with characters and jokes from multiple stories and I think that aspect makes the show a lot of fun to watch.

It’s definitely a lot of fun to work on! I think audiences always love to see crossovers with well-known characters – just look at the recent ‘Wreck It Ralph’ film featuring all the princesses.

We’re giving the audience a similar thing, a chance to see some well-known characters interact and adventure together, as well as some original characters like our Dame and the King and Queen of the book.

With most people having first met Snow White over 80 years ago and considering the changing world, are you surprised that the character still resonates with audiences today?

Snow White is definitely considered to be the “classic princess”. Everybody knows who she is and in most depictions of her she’s very sweet and demure.

Our Snow White comes across as more of a leader, someone who isn’t afraid of anything and is happy to take charge of a situation when needed.

I think this is a good aspect to add to her character, especially in these modern times where we know that princesses don’t necessarily need to be the damsels in distress.

How are the rehearsals going?

They’re going really well. The cast are all really excited about the show and we’re all having great fun with it.

We’ve been doing rehearsals with our kids and adults the past few weeks to get everyone used to working together. The kids learn their lines faster than the rest of us do!

You’re playing ‘Little Red’, as well as writing and co-directing. Is it difficult to balance it all?

I’m actually having great fun! It can be a little stressful at times but I’m lucky that I’m not directing on my own. Alan and I wrote it together and are co-directing and we make a great team.

Even though we’re both in it, we’ve been fine with directing each other and the rest of the cast. ‘Little Red’ is a fun character and while she is part of the group of protagonists, she doesn’t have any more to do than the other characters.

They all get fairly equal stage time, otherwise this would end up a one woman show.

Have you directed many other shows?

I only made my directorial debut in September with one of the one-act shows we did, ‘More Sinned Against Than Sinning’. I’m also due to direct our production of ‘Sive’ this coming May.

What inspired you to want to direct?

Pure curiosity. I had great fun directing my first show and wanted to try out a pantomime, because it’s a very different kind of show. I’m also the type of person who likes to dip my toes into every aspect of putting on a show, from acting to writing to directing to painting all the sets.

If I do a decent job maybe I’ll volunteer again.

Can you remember the first time you went to the theatre?

I actually used to be terrified of going to the theatre when I was a kid, which seems hilarious now. I remember going to pantomimes and being so scared of the crowds and the loud noises that I started to refuse to go.

I got into drama in a big way when I was a pre-teen and decided to give theatre a chance again. I went to see ‘The Lion King’ in the Bord Gais theatre and I’ve been hooked on anything to do with theatre ever since.

What can the audience expect from 'Happily Ever After'? 

They can expect a great big fun-filled pantomime which celebrates the classic fairytales that everyone knows and loves, as well as showcasing some of the wonderful talent that Clondalkin has to offer.

I’m hoping the audience will laugh their socks off, boo for the baddies, cheer for the goodies, and maybe even sing along if they know any of the words to the musical numbers.

Mostly though, they should expect a big, funny, cheesy ending where everyone does indeed end up, living Happily Ever After!

‘Happily Ever After’ is set for seven shows on January 12, 13, 18, 19 and 20 in Moyle Park Secondary School, with tickets available from Clondalkin Village Hardware from €10 for Adults and €5 for Children.

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