Leper & Chip is a high octane, blackly comic love story – a fast paced modern day Romeo & Juliet, set in contemporary inner city Dublin.

The alternative new play by Lee Coffey, was first staged in Dublin in April 2014, directed by Karl Shiels and performed by Conall Keating and Amilia Stewart.

Hot after a month-long run at Assembly Roxy as part of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2015, Bitter Like a Lemon theatre company is performing in the Lyric from 27 – 29 October.

It tells the typical story of ‘boy meets girl’ – but set at breakneck speed.

Leper and Chip meet at a house party, which gets trashed, with both being on different sides; Leper and friends get chased by machete wielding maniac and love without madness isn’t love at all.

Fast, frantic, funny… Dublin at 100mph with leopard coated cougars, Pringle eating whales and your almost-midget mate chained inside a fridge.

“We’re delighted to be bringing Leper & Chip to Belfast,” says Conall Keating who plays Leper, “We’ve never performed in Belfast and to have the chance to perform at the Lyric is an honour.”

We sat down with up and coming actress and co-founder of Bitter Like a Lemon theatre company Amilia Stewart ahead of the play’s exciting Belfast debut…

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How did you go about starting the theatre company?

Well, during training in The Gaiety School of Acting we had a class manifesto where we were encouraged to not only write our own theatre – but also how to form a theatre company and produce theatre too.

A lot of really strong companies emerged from our class of 2013, but Conall and myself didn’t quite find our niche. I knew Lee (Coffey, writer) outside of college and knew he was writing theatre and he told me about one he was really excited about and that was Leper & Chip…

We read the play and we loved it and immediately thought of Karl Shiels, an actor and director who we all really looked up to and thought he might like to hear it. We worked with Karl Shiels and Laura Honan in Theatre Upstairs before on a production called, Gaslights, with The Cup Theatre Company and we knew the level of support the Theatre Upstairs team offered to up and coming theatre companies.

The guys had us in to do reading, and after the reading they asked us what was our theatre company called. The rest is history. We all fell into the exact company we needed to be in, ‘Bitter Like A Lemon’ – with our ethos being to attempt to lower the age demographic of the Irish Theatre Audience.

Almost two years on – we could not be happier with our BLAL family.

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How did you get into acting and writing?

When I was in school being an actor was not only unobtainable but also a financial failure, so after a meeting with my guidance counsellor it was laughed off as a daydreamer’s lunacy.

I had been attending The Gaiety School from a really young age part time and I studied and performed musical theatre and Classical music growing up in the Conservatory of Music and Drama and after school I went on to study a BA in Music Performance. But I enjoyed acting out the Musical theatre numbers way more than I enjoyed the German Lieder’s or Arias. My music teacher, Mary Pemberly said to me one day in class, “Have you ever thought about drama or acting?”, after that I never thought about anything else…

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What is the inspiration behind the play?

Talking to our Director, Karl Shiels about Leper & Chip before we got into rehearsal, Lee’s inspirations came from Mark O’Rowes work, True Romance, Romeo and Juliet and Disco Pigs, by Enda Walsh. Funnily they have morphed now into a style that is very much Lee Coffey’s own style after seeing his second play, Peruvian Voodoo, which we staged in May this year.  All Lee’s plays seem to exist in a parallel Dublin/Ireland.

It’s a modern-day Romeo & Juliet – set in Dublin. Was it difficult adapting the play into such a contemporary story with a modern day setting?

This was a happy accident, I think. We didn’t realise the similarities between Leper & Chip and Romeo and Juliet until we had the play up on its feet. The main similarity is that the two belong to different gangs who don’t really get on and the play is set over three days.
Unlike Romeo and Juliet they do try to not fall for each other – but they can’t help it…

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What’s the takeaway message of the play?

After the final reading with the production team we agreed on a quote: “Love without madness isn’t love at all.” That is something that has always stuck with me.

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Could you tell the audience what it’s about or describe it in three words?
Fast. Frantic. Funny.

What will audiences take away from it or is it just a good night out on stage?
How one encounter can change your life completely.

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Leper & Chip runs in the Naughton Studio until October 29. All tickets £10. Please note this play contains strong language and scenes of a sexual nature.

For more information on the Lyric’s season or to book, go to lyrictheatre.co.uk or contact the Box Office on 028 9038 1081.

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