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Patrick Kealey in ‘The Life and Rhymes of Archy and Mehitabel’

The Life and Rhymes of Archy and Mehitabel

Director, actor, writer and local resident, Patrick Kealey – of local theatre company, Theatre Nation – is about to step out onto the stage in a solo show: The Life and Rhymes of Archy and Mehitabel. Kealey not only adapted the humourous, cult comic writings of Don Marquis (well-known for his highly satirical observations of the human race), he also deliciously embodies each of the fascinating characters, including both Archy and Mehitabel – and more. HOT’s Zelly Restorick tuned in to listen to Kealey’s recent conversation with actor and comedian, Ben Keaton and shares some highlights here. Photos by Peter Mould.

THE LIFE AND RHYMES OF ARCHY AND MEHITABEL

STABLES THEATRE, LONDON ROAD, HASTINGS.

Thursday 27 May – Friday 28 May

7.30pm: Curtain up! (One hour performance.)

BOOK TICKETS BY PHONE ONLY: 01424 423221

Ben Keaton (top left) and Patrick Kealey (bottom right). Poster for their conversation.

Ben: Good to see you, Patrick! So – theatre starting again! Live theatre. No more Zoom. How good is that?

Patrick: Yes, back on stage… Live theatre… Everybody I know around the world is Zoomed out. It’s been an incredible resource, but my god, do we miss being in a room with others!

Ben: And we can hug next week… Now it’s legal!

Patrick: Yes… we can hug people in the street!… Boris says it’s okay now.

Patrick Kealey of Theatre Nation

Ben: So, a solo show? How will it feel?

Patrick: Exciting, like coming home and bit scarey. Like getting back on the horse again…Asking myself: ‘Can I still do this?’! I am sure people will be very warm and supportive and appreciative of all the effort that’s gone into everything.

Ben: I know this is a performance you’ve done before. It’s an interesting play…you play Archy the cockroach…tell us something about it.

Patrick: I was working in the US about 20 years ago, teaching and directing – and I picked up Archy in a secondhand bookshop. Perfect for that time in America. Archy appealed to something in me. Don Marquis, creator of Archy – I feel it was his alter ego…That he poured all his wit and venom about the world into Archy the cockroach. A brilliant way to express your frustration and rage at the madness in the world.

Ben:  An insect’s perceptions of humanity.

Patrick: Yes, an insect’s view of the world…DMQ’s stroke of genius. It was the beginning of the 20th century, people were interested in spiritual movements, table tapping, ouija boards, other explorations…conventional religion was losing its power and influence and artists and writers were looking at esoteric things… Like satirists, Alexander Pope or Jonathan Swift…Archy is a free verse poet, trapped inside the body of the cockroach.

Ben: The play is a satire, a comedy…and one that is actually funny, might I add.

Patrick: Obviously I’m selling the show, but yes, it is very, very funny.

Ben: Doing comedy…  What’s it like for you?

Patrick: It’s my favourite. Like many people, I’m a frustrated clown who also wants to be serious actor, but comedy is my love – and it’s the biggest challenge. It’s live or die by the humour: it either works or it doesn’t.

Ben: Why now for a production?

Patrick: I have done it once before – and I wanted to revive it now as it feels more relevant than ever. It’s something you can come back to at different points in your life and it still lands.

Patrick Kealey of Theatre Nation

Ben: Here’s a listener’s question: As an actor, how do you decide how to play a cockroach?

Patrick (laughing): My best answer is: let go all vanity, be absolutely willing to look as idiotic and foolish and weird and crazed as you possibly can.

Ben: The play is based on poems, is that right?

Patrick: Yes, Archy first appeared in a newspaper column, which allowed him to be very contemporary and to comment on the themes of the day. And Don Marquis gave Archy a friend, Mehitabel, a cat, who thinks she’s Cleopatra. A great double act, very unlikely friends… great fun to pay both of them.

Ben: This is a solo show? Have you done many of these?

Patrick: I’m doing this one – and luckily, also a show that was very brilliantly written with me in mind – and I said I’d do it – by John Knowles – called Fiction Romance, Antonio the pirate and his unrequited love for Sebastien. Great unrequited love…I can plug into that. It feels the best way at this time of Covid and the logistics – a solo show – or two handers.

Patrick Kealey of Theatre Nation

Ben: Another question from a listener: The sets – how are they developed? And the costumes?

Patrick: I keep amalgamating things… finding stuff. There IS something slightly trash aesthetic about it…the listening bug has a weird cap, purloined from a friend… I see things in a shop window…I needed a fez and found one…Things accumulated over time. I worked with Sam Lewis as well, including M’s Egyption headpiece. And Neil Sellman, manager of The Stables Theatre, raided their props and furniture store for me and put together an amazing set – including a typewriter for Archy to write his poems, one key at a time – with his head!

And if you don’t live around here, we’re going to stream Archy – and we’re also going to the Prague Digital Fringe Festival, which is fantastic news.

Ben: But we want bums on seats! Support your local theatre, folks – and our actors and creatives!

Patrick: Thank you, Ben. Archy’s a very physical funny and verbally witty show. It was a success at Hastings Fringe Festival a couple of summers ago, as well as Barnstable Fringe Festival. We can learn a lot from taking an insect’s eye view of the world.

Patrick Kealey and Ben Keaton are due to perform together in the Theatre Nation/David Glass Ensemble performance of Waiting For Godot, previously cancelled due to Covid restrictions.

Links to: The Life and Rhymes of Archy and Mehibatel via

The Stables Theatre.co.uk

and

Theatre Nation.org

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Posted 08:59 Saturday, May 22, 2021 In: Performance

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