Award-winning Belfast playwright Marie Jones has travelled across the world directing her play ‘Fly Me to the Moon,’ but this weekend she will bring the dark comedy to one of her first ever touring venues, the Ardhowen Theatre in Enniskillen, a place she remembers “so fondly.”

Ahead of the Ardhowen show, Marie spoke to this newspaper about her love for the Enniskillen theatre, why she transitioned from acting to writing and what makes her plays universal.

When asked about the inspiration behind ‘Fly Me to the Moon,’ a play about two care workers and a moral dilemma they face, Marie explained that it wasn’t the subject matter that came first, but the need for “good parts for women.” She said: “A couple of actresses came to me and said, ‘look there’s not a lot of work going around, we need really good parts for women.’ So it wasn’t the subject matter that inspired me, it was the fact that here were two really funny women and they weren’t doing much in the way of work, so we thought, ‘let’s find a subject that we could all respond to and get excited about and know something about.'”

She continued: “So we all went away for a weekend and we came up with the idea of care workers because at that stage my mother was in a care home, and the other actress, there were carers coming every day to her father. We were saying that they are amazing women that can be very funny.”

Marie added: “I mean, it’s hard hard work and they don’t get paid a lot of money so we started to talk about that and came up with a play about two care workers and a day in the life of. That’s how it came about.”

Before deciding to focus solely on writing plays, Marie was an actor and a founding member of the all-female theatre company Charabanc.

When asked if she writes characters that she would like to play herself, Marie said: “Not any more. Away in the early days when we started the theatre company I did, but I didn’t start the theatre company with these other women to write, I started it to act, but there was nobody else writing good parts so I ended up becoming the writer.”

After seven or eight years of writing parts and acting for Charabanc, Marie decided that it was more creative for her just to write and not to act. Marie commented: “I just want to write really good parts for women and plays that entertain people, and that are universal and can travel.”

Noting that it’s the universal nature of the subject matter of ‘Fly Me to the Moon’ that has enabled it to travel to Canada, America and all over Scandinavia, Marie said: “Carers are everywhere, it’s a story that people can identify with because everywhere people get old, and people need attention.”

On many occasions, the play ‘Fly Me to the Moon’ has been described as a dark comedy. When asked if she agrees with this description, Marie said:

“Yes, I always say to the actresses in the play, ‘you are in a drama, it’s the audience who are watching the comedy. You are in the drama, the more real you are, the more dark it is for you, the funnier it is for them.’”

Commenting on “the brilliant week” they recently had showing the darkly humorous play at the Grand Opera House, Belfast, Marie added: “It’s lovely to hear a lot of people laughing - at somebody else’s tragedy!”

“That’s so Irish,” she laughed.

When questioned if she thinks a dark sense of humour is a uniquely Irish trait, Marie disagreed, remarking that whilst travelling with the play, audiences in different countries responded just as well to the dark comedy.

However, she did note that when recently touring the play in Iceland, the translation of lines sometimes disrupted the comedy. She explained: “What’s frustrating is you’re not even sure if the translation is quite right, there are things that we say that don’t translate directly into their language, we have an alternative phrase.” She continued: “So therefore you’re looking at something and your thinking why are the audience not laughing? Then you realise it’s how we’re saying it is what’s funny opposed to it being funny.”

“And so therefore you’ve got to ask, ‘tell me what you’re actually saying there,’ and then they tell you and you go, ‘well that wouldn’t actually be funny in our language either, so let’s find a way that would make it funnier.’ That’s more the challenge than the premise because the premise you are finding funny anyway but just every now and again it’s a phrase that you just go, ‘I don’t know what they are saying there but it doesn’t sound right to my ear,’” she said.

As the play travels to Enniskillen this weekend, Marie shared her thoughts about the town’s theatre by the lake.

“I love the Ardhowen, I have very many happy memories there,” gushed Marie.

“One of our first touring venues when we were Charabanc was with the Ardhowen, we had a great time, we loved it.” “That dressing room over looking the lake and the restaurant and just all the characters that were there. We have great great memories of the Ardhowen and staying there and taking a boat up the lake, it was just idyllic,” she added.

‘Fly Me to the Moon’ will show at the Ardhowen on Friday February 8 and Saturday February 9 at 8pm.