Each week, Stage Door Live’s Associate Producer Janice de Bróithe takes a look at theatre Beyond The Pale.
This week, I am going Into the West.
Reader, I have a confession: Is Gaeilgeoir mé.
For those of you who aren’t natives/haven’t suffered the slings and arrows of an Irish class, let me translate: I am an Irish speaker, and proud of it too. Though my grammar (and certainly my spelling) has fallen well by the wayside due to lack of practice, my entire education, up until University, was through the language of Irish. Naíonra to Gaelscoil to Gaelcholáiste: Gaeilge, Gaeilge, Gaeilge and I loved it. To this day, there are certain words and phrases that come to me in Irish first. The sole reason this came to an end at University is because at the time I couldn’t study drama through Irish.
Over the years, since graduating, I have had the opportunity to marry my grá-teanga (love of my language) with my job: returning to my old schools to teach workshops and write and direct shows ‘as gaeilge’. (Highlights include ‘Mammy Mia!’ a version of the much-loved musical, except that it was set on the Aran Islands…) Indeed, one of my favourite stints in my yearly calendar is when I get to traverse this beautiful island to go work in the wilds of the Gaeltacht (Irish-speaking region) in Connemara, Galway. There is nowhere else like it on this planet, the landscape, the colours..it has to be seen to be believed. Trust me, if you haven’t been, go!
But this isn’t a travel blog, it’s a theatre blog, which brings me to Fibín.
This theatre company, whose home is in the very wilds of Connemara I’ve just been waxing lyrical about, is one of my favourite theatre companies on this island. If you have been to a secondary school in Ireland over the last number of years, I can bet you’ve been to one of their shows, if not more. Since their founding in 2003, they have produced over 40 productions at primary, secondary and third level. Their main aim is to revive and encourage the Irish language, and their highly visual approach, using puppets, masks, shadows, music and so on, is exciting and renders any language barriers irrelevant. I brought some students to see their production of An Trial a few years ago. The students (who, according to their Múinteoir Gaeilge, did nothing but give about the play in class) were positively glued to the stage. The masks were both captivating and slightly terrifying and I loved every second of it.
Their mode of storytelling, not only celebrates our language and culture, but brings it to life in new and exciting ways. Whether it’s new writing, or a re-worked classic, they always manage to capture your imagination, invoking a somewhat childlike awe and wonder. Quite frankly: it’s theatre at its most theatrical. The colourful logo kind of gives it away.
Unfortunately, like every single other theatre company in the land, they have fallen victim to the Covid shutdown, with shows and plans vanishing overnight. Fortunately, tá sámhlaíocht iontach acu amach ansin – they have a great imagination – and they have come up with what might be their most magnificent spectacle yet.
FIACH – Drive in Drama
Yes. You read that correctly. It will be a drive in drama. This new play, written by Philip Doherty, has been created especially for this upside-down Pandemic Age. It will be an outdoor spectacle with music, projection and special effects, the whole theatrical landscape viewed by the audience from the comfort of their own cars.
Only a few days ago, some of my colleagues were debating this very solution on Facebook. I’ll admit, I was dubious at the prospect. Yet here we are with Fibín blazing a trail ahead of us all to tell the story of a rebel Garda who chases a local hoodlum into the Underworld. It is inspired by the ancient myths of Orpheus and Eurydice and An Toraíocht (aka: The Pursuit of Diarmuid and Gráinne, your typical tragic love triangle, all a bit disastrous in the end) and we are promised a thrilling car chase in a blistering tale of love, passion and the power of the human spirit in what will be an amazing theatrical experience.
Fiach will take place in their own grounds, Baile na hAbhann, Conamara, Galway in August.
It certainly feels like a play for the times, partly because it feels a little like we’re all living in an Underworld right now, but mostly because it sounds like exactly the kind of magnificent spectacle I want to escape into and forget the real world for a while.
I think I’ll go ring my friend Gearóidín and see if she can get the spare room ready for me. Galway: I’ll be coming your way in August!
If you yourself are situated outside the ‘Pale’ and you have (or know of) some form of event or happening that you would like me to cover in this blog, please get in touch – I am interested in everything.