Dealing with mental illness at the core of O’Rourkes indigestion

This play has been described as sensitive, hilarious, intelligent, absolutely compelling and refreshingly forthright. A man, whose name we never hear, tells us his story of a life, always slightly out of his control…

By Ger Cody

Earlier this year, I travelled to Smock Alley theatre in Dublin to see Seamus O’Rourke in his one man show ‘Eclipsed’

O’Rourke is an award-winning actor, writer and director, and following his performance at the Dublin venue it is very easy to see why.

One man shows (or one woman shows for that matter) are not everyone’s cup of tea and people have a fear that they may not have the same pizazz as a show with a bigger cast.

Most theatre people will have memories of going to see one person shows, with varying degrees of praise.

My own stand out one man shows include ‘The man in the woman’s shoes’ performed by Mikel Murfi; ‘Catalpa’ with Donal O’Kelly, ‘Silent’ by Pat Kinevane, and Tom Crean with Aidan Dooley.

Locally it would be remiss not to mention Donal O’ Brien in ‘The Brother’, Ann Hurley in Red Biddy and more recently Jimmy Rhatigan in ‘Where Old Ghosts meet’.

All aforementioned were class.

Now Leitrim man Seamus O’Rourke can proudly stand with others presenting a top one man show with his production of ‘Indigestion’.

He brings his new one man show Indigestion to the Barnstorm theatre venue at The Home Rule Club, Kilkenny on October 6th.

Although it is a story that can frequently be funny, it is a story with mental health and serious topics under the surface.

The show depicts a man, whose name we never hear, telling the story of a life always slightly out of his control.

It is the story of a simple rural man who is shipped off to London at the age of 17, who goes through bouts of depression, obesity and anger issues, who finds and loses love, comes back to Ireland to more misfortune and mayhem but in spite of everything it shows: ‘There is hope for all of us, no matter how bleak things might seem’.

“It’s basically about a man who has some anger issues. He doesn’t drink but he has a problem with food and becomes very overweight when he’s over there (in London) so he has all these demons and he’s trying to sort them out and he eventually gets sacked and has to come back to Ireland.

Speaking prior to his visit to Kilkenny O’Rourke said: ”It’s a thin line going between humour and the subjects that I’m dealing with because people watch it on different levels.

Some people find the humour and craic of it great and that’s okay, and then other people see the other side of it, a man dealing with all sorts of mental issues and depression. People don’t want to go to a play about depression but they have no problem going to a play that has lots of fun.”

“It’s a strange time and this (Indigestion) character doesn’t have any inkling of being PC or saying the right thing, he’s just saying what is in his head which a lot of people have said is very refreshing because we’ve all become so clean and trying to say the right thing which means saying very little.

“Nobody’s going out to offend anybody or any of that, we want to tell a story but I want to have a reality about it. Pretending that we are all squeaky clean is not going to do anybody any good. Within the character I can say certain things that wouldn’t be PC but I’m not saying them, the character is saying them.

“The character that I play is not aware of all of that so he may say things that may not be the proper way to say it but that’s the character.

“The problem with mental illness and any subject with our mental health is that we end up coming up with this clichés like ‘it’s okay not to be okay’ and ‘it’s good to talk’ and we love to throw these clichés out there and then leave it alone.

“But I suppose what I’m trying to say is that it’s not that easy and you just have to depend on a little bit of luck along the way and certain people and work your way out of it but the hope is you can get out of it, you can get back to some sense of normality and that fun and laughter and friendships are all part of that.”


“At least when you’re physically sick you can point to the spot and say ‘that’s what’s wrong with me’ but mental illness, some people aren’t happy with the way they look or not happy with loads of different things,

“For me I always had a problem- you might laugh but- I was never very comfortable in social circumstances and then I get up in front of 300 people and bare my soul for an hour which seems a very strange thing but sometimes it’s probably easier to do that as a character than to actually talk about yourself.

“I try to channel that into theatre and plays, I suppose there’s a personal story there as well.”

The show will be performed at The Home Rule Club on October 6th and December 1st

October 6th is sold out.

Seamus O’Rourke is an award-winning writer, director and actor from County Leitrim. He tours Ireland regularly with his own self-penned shows. Seamus has over two million hits on YouTube and Social Media with his collection of short stories, recitations and sketches.


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