On March 11, 2015 a loophole in Irish law made drugs legal for one day. This was the inspiration for the new show Yokes Night playing at the Pleasance Courtyard. I sat down with writer Scott Lyons and Zoe Forrester of Stay Up Late Collective who both star in the production.
How long have you been writing and performing? What’s your history with the Edinburgh Fringe?
Scott: I started writing this play around Easter time in 2015, around the time of the gay marriage vote in Ireland. At the time I felt like that was a big change for the people of Ireland. That’s what inspired me to write Yokes Night. From there, we got it put on at the Debut Festival, which is a festival we do in Acting and Contemporary Theatre at the East 15 Acting School. We did a thirty-minute preview there. It’s just been the two of us as well. In about March or April we decided to bring Jesse Briton in who has directed for National Theatre Wales. He started directing the show from that point on. We also got Dimitris Chimonas to direct, who was a year above us at East 15, and he’s worked with Marina Abramovic, so he’s very visual. So Jesse was very much directing from a traditional acting point of view, whereas Dimitris was very much directing on a visual level. Then we got our producer Isabella Javor involved as well. But this is our first Fringe and our first production as the company Stay Up Late Collective.
What’s the history behind Yokes Night? What does yokes night mean?
Zoe: Well, yokes is Irish slang for pills. It’s based off an event that happened last year, for real, in Ireland where there was a loophole in Irish law. The drug law needed to be renewed by the Irish government and they didn’t realize that it needed to be renewed, so there was a twenty-four hour gap where all drugs were legal. I’m guessing some really clever law student figured it out or something like that, put it on the internet, and then loads of people found out. It wasn’t really written about in the media there. They wrote an article on it in Vice Magazine and they wrote an article on it in New York Times.
Scott: If any Irish media outlets did talk about it, they only just touched on it, it wasn’t like blatantly out there. The reason I set it on that night, is that it’s such a good night to represent the youth of the Ireland today. Right now in Ireland, it’s not a great for young people because of the current economic situation. There was a big economic boom where people were just borrowing money from the banks, and the banks were letting people borrow as much as they want – they could get that big house, nice car – but then the economy crashed in 2008. That was the generation above us borrowing all that money, and now our generation is the one to pay for it. We’re seeing an increase in education fees, but there are no jobs for a lot of people. A lot of people have to emigrate. Suicide is a massive problem; it’s at a really high rate, especially for young men. And also the abortion laws in Ireland are a big issue today, and what inspired the story in Yokes Night. It’s illegal in a western country, which I think is just mental. That’s a really big deal, with the Repeal the 8th Amendment Movement going on. A lot of people are advocating the change for abortion in the cases of fatal fetal abnormalities, but a lot of religious groups don’t want that to happen. The Catholic Church has been in control of the country for years and years, but now the younger generation is saying, ‘no, we don’t want any part in this.’
Can you guys tell me a little bit about your experience with Yokes Night? What you did you see or experience?
Scott: To be honest—
Zoe: We weren’t there. We were studying in London at drama school.
Scott: It was only announced a few hours before it kicked off. But like, people could view it as any regular night, but all the drugs were legal, so people just went out like they normally would. The reason more people might have gone out was as a sort of ‘fuck you’ to authority. There were nightclubs letting people in— like there was a nightclub that had a ‘Legislation Pop-up Party’ event. And the picture they were using to promote on social media, Facebook and that, was the Prime Minister Enda Kenny. People were allowed to go into nightclubs to take any drugs they wanted.
What’s the attitude on legal restrictions on drugs, etc. in Ireland?
Scott: A lot of people are advocating that drugs should be legalized and stuff. But I’m not an advocate for legalizing hardcore drugs or anything like that.
Zoe: But if they did do any of that, at least the drugs would be clean in the way that they’re made. I mean, you have all these people – kids – who are going out in the street and buying drugs, and either way if you say ‘no,’ they’re going to go out and do it anyway. But legally, if you at least made it regulated and safe, and it’s what it says it is – because a lot of times when people go out and buy drugs they’re buying something that’s not what it says it is, it’s mixed with all of these horrible things – so if they did regulate drugs, they might be a safer thing. And they should teach about it in schools more – I didn’t learn about drugs in school really, I only got clued up about it on the internet and things like that.
Scott: I think right now in Ireland there’s a really bad addition problem. You can probably say that about a lot of places, but in Dublin especially there’s a really bad heroin addiction problem. And the government isn’t doing anything. A lot of people are advocating for that too, regulating it.
Zoe: I think it’s still a really taboo thing to even talk about. Even when we give the leaflets out and say, “It’s based on a night when drugs were legal,” people go like, “What?!” Educate yourself, come see the show, that’s why there’s a play about it. I think it does take people aback a little bit. The drugs thing is taboo, but I think it needs to be talked about more. That’s not just in Ireland – I’m English, and we have similar problems there – I think it’s in a lot of different places.
What’s next for you? Are working on any other shows? More plays, dramas? What are you looking forward to?
Scott: We just graduated from East 15 Acting School. The last play I did was at the Finborough Theatre on the life of James Connelly. For the moment really, my dream is to start up this company to house similar artwork. The goal for the next year or so is to work on Yokes Night and get it further established. The Fringe is kind of the first stepping-stone for us.
Zoe: After Yokes Night I’d like to do a film. Scott made an investment in a camera a few years ago. We’ve fiddling around with that. We’ve filmed bits and pieces of other people’s shows. I’m still not fantastic, but I’m getting used to it. I’d like to start working on more film. We’re a theatre and film company, so it would be good to started on the film side of things after Yokes Night gets more successful, which I think it will because it’s such a great piece that has a lot to say, and it’s so current. It gives a big voice to the people of our generation. Hopefully after that we can start working on film stuff.
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