Masking the Obvious

October 23, 2013


Mask and movement are both in vogue at present with Carpet Theatre’s Pigeon and Brokentalkers The Blue Boy both opening at the Project Arts Centre this week. Inspired, in turn, by the recession and the Ryan Report, both pieces put the aforementioned forms under the theatrical spotlight in an attempt to get audiences engaged with topics they’ve become weary with. “It became clear to us very early that there seems to be a bit of fatigue with the subject of clerical abuse ” says Feidlim Cannon, co-director of the Blue Boy.” We figured to get people listening again we’d have to approach the subject a little differently.”

An urban legend from co-director Gary Keegan’s childhood, that of The Blue Boy said to haunt the grounds of Artane Industrial School, was their way in to the piece. “It’s a ghost story about the things from the past that are still haunting us today. We are bringing these ghosts back to life. So the aesthetic tries to find the beauty in that.”

In collaboration with choreographer Eddie Kay and composer Sean Miller they took 14 months of research and found the appropriate sound and movement to express it. The result being a chilling, sickening crescendo against a stark, clinical set, using the hallmarks of the horror genre-most noticeably mask, to stimulate the loss of innocence. “Survivors used to tell us that they had no identity,” says Cannon. “The masks express that uniformity. It makes the performers look like objects and, by blocking their face, the audience feel how they want to feel, rather than being steered in a particular emotional way.”

There is a similar thought behind the masks in Pigeon, the story of an ordinary man and the straw that breaks his back. “Without words or expression an audience can project their own experience on what they see,” says director Ciarán Taylor.” It allows them to get inside the characters head through the way his body interacts with the music.” The masks don’t actually move. “They are sculpture,” says Taylor. “It’s in the way they react to the light that gives them this capacity to change expression.”

Music is by Jack Cawley and Steve Wickham of The Waterboys who informs me that it has a different weight in this show to others he’s been involved in. “Because there is no dialogue, its kind of like a ballet, trying to figure out the characters movement to the music. Without words, actors depend on music to send information to the audience.”

First published in the Sunday Independent

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