By Áilín Quinlan
For the past five years she’s wowed audiences in community halls and theatres all over County Cork – now a middle-aged, control-freak housewife from West Cork is the star of a new film.
Eileen O’Brien is a passive-aggressive, Tupperware-obsessed West Cork matron and Daniel O’Donnell fan.
She’s also the focus of a hugely popular string of cabaret comedies built around her turbulent relationship with her best friend and distant relative Marilyn, an elegant but needy blow-in from England who drinks too much.
The Eileen & Marilyn comedies, which have played onstage throughout Cork county for several years, are a creative collaboration between Karen Minihan from Schull, a former solicitor, now a theatre director and performer, who plays the role of Eileen, and her stage partner, actress Terri Leiber, who plays Marilyn.
In all, six successful comedies, built around this duo’s complex relationship and covering everything from family Christmases to a Greek holiday and a trip to New York, have been performed all over Cork and in Dublin since 2010.
‘People loved the plays – they really enjoyed them and kept talking about how they were sick from laughing. We got a fantastic response to every single one of them,’ Ms Minihan said.
One of those who loved the concept was London-based film director and former actress Helen Selka, who, after seeing a performance in Schull while on holiday there in 2014, decided to turn it into a film.
‘Helen really liked it. The Eileen Monologue was our 2014 production, and Helen saw it and decided she wanted to make a film of it,’ says Minihan.
Written by Minihan, Eileen, which was filmed at a friend’s house in Schull in October 2015, had its premiere on Thursday, (May 26th) at the Fastnet Film festival in Schull.
It will also be screened at the Organic Arts Festival on June 19th in Clonakilty and runs in Cork’s CAT club from June 29th to July 2nd. Its creators have also applied to have the film screened at the Galway and Cork Film festivals.
The theme of the film, however, is more serious than some of the stage plays, says Karen, who reveals that the movie focuses on the infertility experienced by Eileen and her husband Gerry, a farmer, and the resultant breakdown of their marriage.
‘Eileen is a bit of a control freak. She loves cleaning and sorting,’ she adds.
‘You love her and find her irritating in equal measure, but you have more sympathy for her in the film than in the other productions because of the difficult life events she is forced to endure.
‘She is passionate about order, cleanliness, Tupperware and Daniel O’Donnell music.
‘In the film, Eileen reminisces about the breakdown of her marriage and her relationship with her family and community,’ Minihan explains.
Next year, she says, audiences can expect a return to the popular stage format of the Eileen & Marilyn stories.
‘It is very much about two ordinary women. Both are quite difficult and complex women, whose own relationships have broken down,’ she explains.
Details of the Fastnet festival are available at fastnetfilmfestival.com