Each week, Stage Door Live’s Associate Producer Janice de Bróithe takes a look at theatre Beyond The Pale.
This week has been particularly challenging for many of us in the arts world. The frustration, anger and hurt has been very real as our sector has felt ignored, patronised, dismissed and forgotten about. No one likes to be an afterthought and with constantly shifting goal posts, lack of clarity and communication, those of us who are working our backsides off to keep the industry on life-support are justified in their anger and exasperation. I don’t think any of us are questioning the gravity of the rising numbers, however the flailing and flapping and lack of clarity in terms of the guidelines and what we are and are not allowed to do is infuriating.
My sojourn to the West therefore, could not have come at a better time. As any of you who follow TheatreMaker IE on Instagram will know last Wednesday I travelled (in real life) to one of my favourite places in the world, Connemara. You may remember that the second blog I wrote for theatremaker.ie was all about Fibín and their announcement that they would be staging a ‘drive-in dráma’ in August. I made a promise at the end of that blog post that I would make my way there, come hell or high water. I am not one for breaking a promise. The ticket was bought, the car was packed, my friend Tara was abducted for company and off we went.
Though I was half terrified on Wednesday morning that I would get there to find it cancelled in light of new clear as mud guidelines, I was determined we would make an adventure of it whatever happened. Mar is eol daoibh, tá grá mór agam don áit, I have a great love for the place, and will take any excuse to go for a visit. Though the journey was a little more adventurous than I had anticipated due to all the roadworks in the country apparently being carried out at the same time (sure who doesn’t love a good diversion down a dirt track in the rain?). We arrived safe and sound to Indreabhán with plenty of time for a swim in the sea.
Now, readers, I do love a swim in the sea, but it must be said here that the weather was less than desirable. It was lashing rain. However, my friend Tara is an experienced sea swimmer and was determined that nothing except rough waves and any actual danger was going to get in our way. A bit of rain does not suffice as ‘actual danger’ apparently and by the time we got to the beach it had settled to a light mist so in we went. To be fair, getting in was the worst part (it was BALTIC) but once we were in, it actually lovely and really energising.
With the swim ticked off our list, our thoughts turned to the show ahead of us and we began to get really excited. We were going to an actual show with real live actors! I was so curious to see how it would work and what it would look like. This was not a show that was adapted for the times we are living in, it was written and designed specifically for these times and I was dying to see just how that was achieved. I had no idea what to expect, but my expectations were high. As the show wasn’t until 10pm, we had a bit of time to discuss and ponder how the show might work and I kept my eyes glued to Fibín’s twitter in case the weather warning decided to get in the way.
The time came and off we went. I wore my biggest sparkly star earrings in celebration. I’m not sure I can accurately articulate the joy getting into a queue and showing my ticket to someone actually felt, but I do know that I was not alone. There was such an air of giddiness and delight – everyone was smiling and laughing and it was downright iontach to exchange words with humans. Bhí mé ar bís! We were shown to our place and parked up. I reflected how relieved I was to be in my mini which can manoeuvre in the smallest of spaces without too much effort and we settled in.
There was a stage, a big screen and lights. The sound was tuned through a radio frequency in the car and a whatsapp number provided if you needed any assistance. The car lights all went off, and the stage lights came on.
Comhgairdeas Fibín. I was transported. From the opening safety announcement to the final moment, I was on that road with those characters, utterly lost in the world of the play. I laughed, I cried, I gasped in shock and I sighed with relief. More than that, to be sharing that with others, to hear the laughs and the gasps in the cars around me, to know that I really was there living this experience with others and not sat at home watching on a laptop was extraordinary.
As the play ended, I naturally started clapping only to jump out of my skin at the thunderous sound of all the car horns blaring and beeping, accompanied by flashing headlights. Of course I joined in with all the enthusiasm of a three year old pretending to drive. It was deafening, but oh so joyful, and no more than the incredible cast and team behind ‘Fiach’ deserved.
Incredibly, the joy did not stop there. ‘Fiach’ had a brilliant soundtrack. Every song choice was inspired and perfectly matched the moment. Being very cliste ar fad, they have made it available as a playlist on Spotify which you can check out HERE. We listened to it the whole way home to Carlow and even if you haven’t seen the play – I promise you it is an epic driving playlist. It certainly made the miles of diversions a lot easier to bear!
In truth, it was all quite overwhelming, and it was a day or two before I was able to process it all. I can honestly say now that it was worth every second of the three hour drive and I would do it all again in a heartbeat. It was an exceptional experience, and it repaired a piece of my soul I didn’t know was quite so broken.
Quite simply: nothing can compare to the live experience. It just can’t. We may need to digitise and film and adapt for the moment, but don’t forget that this is just that: a moment. It will pass eventually and when it does, we must be here. As frustrating and downright infuriating and utterly exhausting as everything is right now, we cannot give up the ghost, we must keep fighting as hard as we can and make ourselves heard.
Go raibh maith agaibh arís Fibín. Oíche den scoth a bhí ann, agus táim an-bhuíoch as. Comhgairdeas don foireann ar fad.
Thank you again Fibín. It was an exceptional night and I’m so grateful for it. Congratulations to the whole team.
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.