Cork Midsummer

October 23, 2013

Berlin Love Tour

There’s a belief that Tom Creed, director of the Midsummer Festival, has the ability to be in two places at once, something that will be put to the test this festival season when he mounts three shows around the country. His production of Samuel Beckett’s Watt is to be revived at the Galway Arts Festival in July before he makes his debut at the National Theatre directing a new play by Gary Duggan (Monged). “I’m very excited because it features three Irish characters and three foreigners- a Japanese, a Black English and a Romanian character, which is the first time we’ve seen this sort of contemporary multicultural Dublin represented in a play that’s not really about that.”

First is the return of Berlin Love Tour, a walking tour of Berlin, via the streets of Cork, where tour guide Hilary O’Shaughnessy attempts to build a monument to something in her life that she would rather forget but has a duty to remember- a parallel with what the German people went through after the Second World War. “As we made the work, the key ideas emerged that we carry all the places we’ve been inside of us” he says. “ So we wanted to add the principles of a guided tour to a persons own life, using the landscape and history of Berlin as a backdrop.”

It draws on real life experience- O’Shaughnessy had a failed love affair in Berlin, she did not work as a tour guide, and pushes an audience to take massive leaps of imagination (during the Dublin run Meeting House Square became The Brandenburg Gate; the back of the Olympia was Hitler’s bunker) paying massive emotional dividends to those who go with O’Shaughnessy’s mediations, where innocuous structures suddenly become loaded with meaning and the lines between reality and theatricality become increasingly blurred.

“We’ve had an extraordinary reaction from Germans who’ve come up to us in tears after the show, telling us they have never seen their country so affectionately portrayed. It’s a love letter to Berlin as much as anything else.”

Berlin Love Tour, Meet at the Triskel Arts Centre, 19 June – 30 June, 9PM, €18, €15,


When Dylan Tighe accessed his psychiatric records via the Freedom of Information Act he was not pleased by what he read. “I was diagnosed with Bipolar and depression eight or nine years ago and have seen a few different Doctors over that time,” he tells me. “I was interested in seeing how I was represented, clinically, in those notes and how different their take was to my own framing of the situation.” What he saw left him with an over-riding feeling of anger. “What I had described to the Doctors had been interpreted in a very narrow way, which they said could only be dealt with through medication, which caused me a lot of problems, a lot of side effects that were more detrimental to me than what I went in with.”

His response was to explore these issues through the release of an album which would be staged as a performance, both titled RECORD, so he could challenge the assumptions he felt were guiding how he was treated, looking at alternative ways of treating mental health issues outside of that narrow medical definition. “The album deals with the emotions in a rather immediate way, as it was written in and around that time” he says. “But there were a lot of layers to the experience that were left unsaid. So by staging it I could gather the material- research I’ve done with various thinkers, Doctors, activists in the field of mental health- plus my own medical records, and look at it from the outside.”

His melancholic songs have a rich uplifting soundscape with different styles of performance, from dramatic material to video material , autobiographical and fictional, all melding to create a new theatrical form for a new way of thinking.

“I find it a very liberating experience to be able to make sense of that journey, from having been medicated and dealt with in a system I was unhappy with to rejecting that psychiatric model. I hope to offer that journey to the audience as well so that it can be genuinely useful to other people who are looking for understanding within a very disempowering system.”


As that multi-legged behemoth Riverdance 1,2,3’s its way back onto the Gaiety stage next week, a younger model has been earning her own plaudits on the international stage. Fabulous Beast’s Rian, a collaboration between choreographer Michael Keegan-Dolan and Hothouse Flower Liam O Maonlai, was greeted by what can only be described as a riot of approval by German audiences when it debuted in Frankfurt. “They went completely bonkers,” Dolan tells me. “They wouldn’t let us stop. They kept clapping till we started again. Everything I cut from the show ended up back in and at least 30 of them hopped up on the stage and joined in with the dancers.” He’ll be hoping for similar reactions when the International tour starts next month playing Sydney to Salamanca and everywhere in between. Irish audiences can catch this celebration of Irish music, its global influences and the dances -both new and revived, that stemmed from it, at the Cork Midsummer Festival.

“I had a conversation with Declan Kiberd who made a comment about my previous work. He said ‘you need to reconsider your view of the Irish peasantry.’ He gave me a copy of Liam’s album (also called Rian), which was ins pired by Ó Riada’s 1969 concert album, Ó Riada Sa Gaiety.

“It really moved me how O Riada had been inspired by Irish music and seen an importance that went way beyond how people had perceived it. He connected it to identity and because he composed classically he recognised a biblical prowess and virtuosity and took it to a whole other level. I wanted to source that energy and make a choreographic parallel.”

It divided Irish audiences on its initial run at the Gaiety last year, with some bemoaning the lack of climax in the dance numbers. But then, that may have been Keegan-Dolan’s point. “I wanted the movement to come out of the dancers body, to be natural not flashy or superficial. I wanted it to have roots.

Rian, Cork Opera House, 21 June – 23 June, 8PM, €30, €27.50, €25


A human disco ball? An Eighties power ballad? Glitter, dancing and sing-alongs? Choreographer Fearghus Ó Conchúir seems to be going all out to make his show, Starlight, the most fun at the Cork Midsummer Festival. And in a way, that’s his point. “This is a real festival piece,” he tells me. “It’s not just about individual shows it’s about buzz created between the shows. It’s not just about sitting down but participating and walking around, in the dark and in the light.”

To that end he is taking audiences on a choreographed tour of Firkin Crane – Cork’s iconic home of dance, starting behind the curtains and moving around the building before plonking them in the auditorium. “The piece starts in darkness, behind the curtains, before the dancers lead you through the building, the hall of mirrors, getting brighter and brighter until eventually you end up in the auditorium, curtains open and you will have a big glamour moment, which makes you appreciate the light more as the darkness makes it stand out.”

The aim is to reveal to us the hard work that goes into wowing an audience night after night. “We see stars and we think they are superhuman, uncontainable, bright, shiny beings. But there is a lot of ordinary, daily hard work, practice and pain that goes into that performance. It’s not that they are a separate being, they could be just like us and therefore we too can be stars.”

Starlight,Firkin Crane, 21 June – 24 June ,
Th 21 @ 6pm, Fr 22 – Sa 23 6pm, 10pm, Su 24 11am, 3pm , €15, €12

Originally published in the Sunday Independent in July 2012


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