Beyond The Pale: Keeping The Light On in Waterford

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Each week, Stage Door Live’s Associate Producer Janice de Bróithe takes a look at theatre Beyond The Pale.

This past week has been a rather on the buzzy side of things. There is a definite feeling in the air that things may well be somewhat less grim than we imagined they would be. The announcement that restrictions are going to be lifted far sooner than anticipated has the nation rejoicing that finally, we can all get a decent haircut. Though I am anxious that it might be too soon (the virus has not gone away and I live in fear of the dreaded ‘second wave’ we’ve been warned about) I am cautiously optimistic that it might actually be all ok. Following months of doom and gloom, this tiny sliver of light is very, very welcome.

Amongst the positive tidings are the fact that some events will be allowed to go ahead soon: including sport and summer camps. With reduced numbers and extra measures in place of course. Cinemas will be allowed to reopen, and so to, according to these new guidelines, will theatres. With a maximum of 50 people inside while maintaining social distancing. We spoke on Wednesday’s show about audiences coming back, so though we still have a long way to go, at the very least we are on the right road now.

Speaking of roads, and dreaming of being back inside a theatre, I took a virtual wander to The Theatre Royal Waterford over the weekend. This theatre is an absolute gem and well worth a visit. It first opened in 1785 as Assembly Rooms, with the main play of the opening night being Shakespeare’s As You Like It and it became the social and cultural hub of the city. In 1876 it was renovated and upgraded to a beautiful, full theatre and became The Theatre Royal we know today. Aside from a brief stint in the 50’s when someone had the mad notion of turning it into council offices (a fate many a town theatre fell to) The Theatre Royal has remained the cultural centre for drama, dance, music in Waterford ever since.

Of course its doors have remained firmly closed since March, a slew of events and shows cancelled and postponed. Behind the scenes however, they have been working hard ‘keeping the light on’ for their dedicated audience. Last week, they released a wonderful short film – a collection of song and spoken word filmed in the theatre itself designed to remind us of all that is great about our wonderful theatres, and it absolutely succeeds.

KEEPING THE LIGHT ON

The stage is bare, save the ghost light. The red curtains open to the glorious Oatsie Jones performing I Shall Be Released by Bob Dylan. Immediately, you feel yourself relaxing into the performance and I couldn’t help but feel uplifted. As ever, Dylan’s lyrics perfectly encapsulating a moment more than fifty years after they were written.

The next performance is by Andrew Holden with excerpts from Hamlet. If ever there was a character who knew something about doing nothing, it’s him. We are treated, however, to Claudius. Holden gives us the public Claudius, mourning his brother’s death, full of charm, leading his country through this difficult time, and the private Claudius, ruminating on his ill deeds, searching for forgiveness or absolution from his crime. It made me think about the public and private faces we all have, especially with social media and especially now in the last few months. Finishing with a hopeful ‘all may be well’, though it certainly wasn’t for Claudius, I believe that for us, it will.

Greta Rochford takes to the stage next with Time Heals Everything in a stunning acapella performance. This hit me very hard. It is so simple, and the lyrics have a whole new layer of meaning right now. She is of course, singing about heartbreak, and we are all heartbroken right now, in a way, for our theatres. But, as the song says: though it’s hell [we’re] going through, some Tuesday, Thursday, Autumn, Winter, next year, some year, time heals everything and we will get back to our theatres.

We finish with Joe Meagher and Ghost Light. This, quite honestly, left me in a bit of a state. His words resonated so strongly that I had to sit quietly by myself for a while afterwards. I’m not even sure I was breathing throughout so glued was I to the stage. I don’t want to say too much about this as I think it is best left experienced in the moment.

All in all, the entire film is only fifteen minutes long, but it is fifteen minutes of perfect theatre. I must take a moment to congratulate the team who made it for us. It has been crafted for us, for right now to remind us that the theatres are still there, and will be there when this hell has passed.

Thank you Theatre Royal, for ‘keeping the light on’.

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About Author

Janice de Bróithe is a freelance theatre director, writer and facilitator hailing from Carlow. A self confessed nerd addicted to learning, she holds both a BA in Drama & English an MA in Theatre Performance from UCC. To top it off, she graduated with a PG Dip in Theatre Directing from LAMDA in 2013. Having cured herself of the notions of city living she now happily creates theatre in the wilds of the Irish countryside.

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