Alice Malseed’s latest play has a social conscience. It’s Getting Harder and Harder for Me is the amalgamation of a variety of issues affecting the inhabitants of Belfast as well as Dublin. The play premiered last night at Smock Alley Theatre and was created in tandem with director Sarah Baxter, Malseed’s creative partner, the one who encourages her to ‘get her shit together’.
“So it’s about three women who live in South Belfast and they live quite isolated lives,” Malseed explains to me outside an office building over Skype. “One of them is a kind of millennial hedonist trying to find her way. One of them is an older woman, she’s a housewife, and the other is a pharmacist. Their lives all interlink through a car accident one Friday evening. But beneath all of this is another narrative about diazepam addiction, which is a real problem in Belfast and in Dublin.”
It’s a layered production with the main theme being how cities can leave their inhabitants feeling unloved. “I’m interested in how the subtle changes in Belfast affect people,” she continues. “As in, there’s so much gentrification in Belfast, there are cranes everywhere. You can’t look at the skyline without seeing cranes. In some ways, that’s really exciting, but it also leaves people behind, people who can’t afford to be here anymore, people who thought the city was one thing but see it turn into a sort of chrome, sleek masterpiece. I’m really inspired by that.”
Told with a dry wit, Malseed attempts to paint a portrait of a city through the three leads. Baxter is a ‘master of delicacy on stage’ and it’s resulted in a really lyrical, poetic story. The duo was behind Jellyfish in 2015, which won the Fringe’s Wild Card award that year. Malseed then spent time in Sri Lanka writing about gentrification in Colombo and Belfast. She was most recently in India penning a play about two goddesses who in post-apocalyptic Belfast. “They’re really into misandry like they cut off men’s tongues and stuff,” she laughs.
Given the homeless crisis in Dublin in recent years, it’s surprising that there haven’t been more plays about addiction and dependency of late. Malseed claims she’s a magpie for drug litter when she walks through Belfast, that she can’t go anywhere without seeing discarded drug packets. “I guess I want to give a voice to people who leave their drug packets all over Ormeau or all over North Dublin city centre. I want people to think about why we let our cities do this to people. I want people to think about those who they pass every day who look like they’re clutching at life.”
It’s Getting Harder and Harder for Me runs in Smock Alley Theatre until September 14th. Book tickets here. Surprise a friend and get them a ticket. Whose birthday is it? Check Facebook there.