Cookies on Dublin People website
We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. We also use cookies to ensure we show you advertising that is relevant to you. If you continue without changing your settings, we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies on the Dublin People website. However, if you would like to, you can change your cookie settings at any time by amending your browser settings.
Hide Message
  • Northside West

Prison health no laughing matter

Thursday, 28th February, 2019 1:00pm
Prison health no laughing matter

Willa White

Prison health no laughing matter

Willa White

View More Images

Orla Dwyer

POPULAR Northside comedian Willa White knows being locked up is no laughing matter.

The Ballymun man has spent time as an inmate and he’s drawing on this experience in a fascinating new theatre performance about healthcare in prison that premieres this weekend.

The Examination is a two-man show written by renowned Dublin theatre company, Brokentalkers. It focuses on the personal accounts of current and former prisoners about their experiences of healthcare in the prison system. 

White will star alongside Brokentalkers’ co-writer Gary Keegan and he’s looking forward to stepping out of his comedy comfort zone for the role. 

“It’s actually something I was really interested in doing, something that I’m passionate about,” he told Northside People. 

“A lot of society has a different perception of prison thinking that it’s a holiday camp and a great place to be, when it is not.” 

White was approached by Brokentalkers to do the project after they saw some of his comedy shows and involvement in a podcast.

The production contains re-enactments of interviews with current and former prisoners in Mountjoy. 

The two performers will draw from different experiences in their roles, as Keegan was a victim of crime several years ago, while White has been on the other side of justice. 

“Those two different perspectives bring an interesting flashpoint on stage,” said Keegan.

“There is an interesting discord at the heart of the piece around whether or not prison works and who it does and doesn’t work for.” 

White got into comedy in 2005 after appearing on Joy In The Hood, a TV show in which Des Bishop ran stand-up workshops in marginalised communities across Ireland, including Ballymun.

He now regularly performs stand-up and has volunteered time to the Bohemian Foundation’s comedy workshops with writer and performer John Colleary in Mountjoy Prison.

The Examination is a new departure for White and it’s part of a wider project focusing on healthcare in the prison system from 1850 to present day funded by the Wellcome Trust in collaboration with the School of History in UCD

Associate Professor in UCD Catherine Cox is a historical researcher in the project. She wanted to extend the reach outside academia and bring the show to different audiences through theatre. 

“I think it is important that theatre is something that’s accessible to everyone and this is a play that is very accessible,” said Cox. 

Cox added that Brokentalkers are bringing a human element to the project alongside the statistics and facts about healthcare in prisons. 

“I am used to being the historian and the academic, so to meet someone who has experienced what you have studied is a very sobering moment,” Cox added. 

The show was originally written as a one-man production with Willa speaking back to previous recordings of himself, but it was later changed to include co-writer Gary Keegan as a second character. 

“The rapport between myself and myself was no good,” White laughed. 

“I am optimistic about it. If it’s a full house it’s a full house but even if there is only 40 or 50 people there they are going to get the same performance as if it was full.”

Willa has been involved in some informal shows in the past but said this is his first serious performance. 

“I am really looking forward to it and it has completely taken me out of my comfort zone,” he said.

“I am used to getting up on stage and making people laugh but this, for me, is something completely different.”

The Examination premieres in Space Upstairs, Project Arts Centre, on Friday and Saturday, March 1 & 2 at 7.30pm with a preview on Thursday, February 28. There’s also a Matinee on Saturday, March 2, at 2.30pm. Tickets from €14-€22.

The show then moves to Ballymun with a performance on Friday, March 8 at 8pm. Tickets cost €15 and €12 concession.

Gary Keegan and Ballymun Man Willie White who star in The Examination. Photo: Darren Kinsella

Read the digital editions of the Dublin People Northside East, Northside West & Southside here