19 November 2021
By Mary Bermingham
Opening at the Everyman Theatre, Cork on Sunday 21 November
Riverbank Arts Centre presents the world premiere of Keith Walsh’s debut play, Pure Mental, on a national tour to 17 venues across the country from November 19 – December 17.
Having finished up a 5-year stint presenting, in the pressure cooker that is a breakfast show, on National Radio, Keith Walsh finally found a bit of time for himself. He decided to take a step back, to try and figure out what the hell was going on in his head.
What is Pure Mental about?
Keith started to go to therapy, he struggled to put a label on the way he was feeling. What was it? Midlife Crisis? Midlife awakening? Breakdown? Well his family thought he was going mad. What he did do was go on a journey to find and chat to his demons and to find the real person underneath the fuzzy mess of stress. What happened in his childhood that made him unable to access the emotions he needed to tackle life in his 40s?
Specific in that Keith is wrestling his own demons, Pure Mental also has an everyman quality and relevance, exploring the pressures and societal expectations of the 40-something Irish male. Keith’s autobiographical tale also contains a witty and very identifiable take on growing up in Midlands Ireland in the 1980s.
Pure Mental is Keith’s first work as a playwright, and he has risen to the challenge with the help of director, dramaturg and co-writer Janet Moran (A Holy Show, Swing, My Romantic History and Looking for America)
‘It’s been great to have the play to focus on at this time.’ Keith says. ‘ Working with Janet has been a dream, to be honest when I realised that what I was writing might work on stage, she was the first person I thought of. I sent her what I’d written and she was up for it. So here we are. No turning back now. To be honest…it’s all a bit mental!’
Also an acclaimed writer and performer, Janet has brought a wealth of staging expertise to Keith script. The pair have been working together over the last year honing the theatrical elements of Pure Mental and fine-tuning the comedic aspects of this funny, open-hearted new play.
‘Having known each other for 20 plus years, this is our first time collaborating. Janet says. ‘So far we’ve conducted script meetings and rehearsals over zoom with impatient children and coffee supplying partners making appearances. We’re looking forward to bring the show to a theatre and a live audience’
Alex Rosiak, Acting Director of Riverbank Arts Centre in Newbridge, is delighted to be supporting and presenting this tour of Pure Mental. ‘Supporting artists in the exploration of their practice and creation of new work is a core part of what we do at Riverbank Arts Centre. This project with Keith and Janet was a particularly exciting collaboration, as it marks Keith’s first step into theatre. When we presented a work in progress of Pure Mental in June, over 4,000 people tuned in online. Keith’s personal story will chime with a lot of people. Producing a National tour is a new departure for Riverbank too, though we are used to working with partner venues throughout the country. Audiences are really missing the thrill of live theatre and we’re proud that we can help deliver that thrill to venues across Ireland with this dynamic new play’
The Pure Mental nationwide tour starts in Keith’s hometown Newbridge at the Riverbank Arts Centre on 19th November and travels to Cork, Sligo, Kerry, Athlone, Limerick, Louth, Wicklow, Wexford, Mayo, Dublin, Laois, Clare Tipperary, Cavan Donegal and Kilkenny.
‘You will laugh, you might cry, the voices in my head are telling me that you might want to throw rotten fruit at me? Is that still a thing? In the end we’ll all feel a lot better. I hope.’ Keith Walsh
Pure Mental is written and performed by Keith Walsh, directed by Janet Moran, designed by Phil Jennings and produced by Riverbank Arts Centre with the support of the Arts Council, Creative Ireland and Kildare County Council, with additional support by Mermaid Arts Centre.
For more information or booking see: www.riverbank.ie