Wile Man may have retired but Eaman Craig admits that music will never leave him as he still likes to dabble in his first love from time to time. He is however now letting his creative juices flow through acting and writing.
This weekend the local actor will bring his one-man show home when he takes to the stage at The Playhouse theatre. Written and performed by Eaman, directed by Matt Jennings, EXiT is based on Eaman’s first-hand experience of the music industry and tells the story of Jonah Walker, a singer, who negotiates a recording contract with a music label before making the tough decision in the end to actually walk away from it.
Speaking about his inspiration for the play he told Derry Live List “Playwriting was something that I always wanted to do and I’ve always been a writer. It’s hard work but I love doing it. I came across the idea of writing EXiT basically through my own experiences and I have a natural interest in what the music industry is about.
“I have had my own experience with a music label when I was recording my own music and they basically wanted tried to veer me to a different direction and me being me and the person I was at the time, I didn’t like it. I possibly didn’t play it the way I could have or should have, but this is where the paradox is and where the conflict is and is the main theme of EXiT where, should you comprise your artistic vision for the sake of success or should you stick to what you feel is right. The flipside of that too is that without a label you are not going to get heard as much. Maybe there’s a grey area in between that I could have exploited a wee bit more.”
However EXiT is not where Eaman’s own story starts as he admits that his love of acting was building even during his early days as ‘Wile Man’. “Quite a few years ago I did a course at Magee with Matt Jennings who is the current director of EXiT, but I dropped out. I was easily distracted in those days. I loved it and had an absolute vibe for it straight away, but I was doing too much partying and ended up dropping out” he says with a contemplating smile.
“I then went on to do another course this time with Shauna Kelpie and from there I just did play after play and got more and more involved with different people and also performing in different plays. Whenever I gave up music I thought I needed to take acting more seriously because I always knew in the back of my mind that acting was what I had wanted to do.
“The reason that I didn’t want to come out and expose myself as an actor in the beginning was that I didn’t want to take away the life that I had and I thought that people would start to see me differently too.”
EXiT - Promo Video 2016
The hard grafting actor who works mainly out of the Republic of Ireland concedes that his initial view of the acting business changed over time. “My early opinions of breaking into acting would have been that I would get a lucky break, that I would be one of those cats but the way it has turned out is that I am actually the opposite, the hard working cat. I’m the guy that works a lot.”
Studying his craft seems to have given Eaman the determination and belief in order to succeed in such a tough profession. “I did a professional training course in Dublin with David Scott at the Gaiety Theatre and he basically gave me everything I needed to know for me tool kit and then I got to the stage where I felt that I was ready to really make the break through.”
EXiT made it’s Derry debut in June 2015 before going on the road to feature at the Edinburgh fringe where Eaman admits was an eye opener and one in which he had learnt a lot from. Performed in front of a packed Sandinos bar on a crisp summer’s evening, his one man show went down a storm.
“It was an amazing night in Sandinos. We were sold out, packed to the rafters and the buzz in the room was pretty electric which helps the performance in terms of the energy that it gives you.
“It gave us a lot of confidence to take it on the road and doing it in Edinburgh was a completely new experience for me and one which I learnt a lot from. The rigour and preparation from doing so many performances on the bounce and it also required a certain level of fitness too. I was promoting the performance all day, from the second I woke up until the minute I went out on stage.”
EXiT has changed slightly since debuting last year. The performances were initially directed by Colm S Herron, whereas this year, Matt Jenning has taking the helm of this latest production. “There are big changes to the new production. There are changes to the script and I have made it all one sequence whereas before it was separated into different sections. It is now a full stream in current time. Jonah dips into the past through memory recall but not like before and I’ve also change the starting point as the night before rather than the morning after.”
Eaman is very much looking forward to returning to his old stomping ground at The Playhouse with his new production. “I’m going to have to stop myself a wee bit and make sure I take it all in which is going to be hard to do because it’ll be so frantic. It is quite poignant, to have a piece that I have written myself and that I’ll be performing with a fantastic director on board and a great lighting team, I’ll be quite proud of that actually on the night.”
Not one for standing still, Eaman is already planning post EXiT. “I will write a sequel to EXiT eventually but we’ll see how things go. My ambition now is to make the break into TV and film. I still dabble in music, it’ll never leave me but I won’t be Wile Man anymore. All my creative output now is under the name ‘Air Drama’, that’s for both theatre and music. I actually have some new music which will be released soon too so keep an eye out for that.”
Air Drama Theatre’s ‘EXiT’ is written and performed by Eaman Craig, directed by Matt Jennings, Drama Lecturer at the University of Ulster and will be performed at The Playhouse on Friday 4th and Saturday 5th March at 8pm. Tickets are priced at £10/ £8 and are available from The Playhouse box office on (02871 268027) or online at www.derryplayhouse.co.uk