Stilt walker on beach

Learn to Stilt-walk!

Next month I will be running a short introductory course to stilt-walking for people aged 18+ in Galway Community Circus. It will run over three Thursday evenings 6:30-8pm, June 14th, 21st and 28th and cost €40. It’s open to adults who have never tried stilt-walking before.

Getty_Villa_-_Storage_Jar_with_a_chorus_of_Stilt_walkers_-_inv._VEX.2010.3.65Stilt-walking dates back as far as Ancient Greece and has uses for farming, fishing and plastering though now we mostly of it for entertainment purposes. Most people  can learn to walk on their own within a few hours, but like most things the hard part is making it look easy and graceful.

I’ve been stilting for about ten years and before that it amazed me when I saw people do it , mostly in the Macnas parades. I teach a weekly drop-in class for young people but had a lot of adults ask me about it so decided to run this course.

There are only eight places available on this short course and you can sign up through the GCC website: http://galwaycommunitycircus.com/circus-school/summer-camps/introduction-to-stilt-walking-for-adults.htm

Featured image taken at Silver Strand by Donal Kelly.

Fractal interviews from Galway Theatre Festival program launch

Interviews with festival director and theatre makers at Galway Theatre Festival program launch in Biteclub, March 26th 2018.

Starting with Máiréad Ní Chróinín, GTF Festival director, speaking about ten years of GTF.

Michelle Cahill talking about her piece ‘Thirteen Steps to the Attic’ at 3:09.

Kieron Smith recently launched a new company, WestWorks Theatre, 4:31.

Anne McCabe ag labhairt faoi forbairt an féile, 6:26

Jérémie Cyr-Cooke tells us about his GTF piece, ‘The Messiness of Human Relationships’, 7:47.

Debbie Wright and Orlagh De Bhaldraithe discuss the devising of their socially inspired GTF piece ‘Remnants’, 9:48.

What is an EJC?

The European Juggling Convention (EJC) is the largest juggling convention in the world. I mention it a lot and decided to explain it a bit. The EJC has been running since 1978, when it was held in Brighton and had only 11 attendees. Last year the 40th EJC was held in Lublin, Poland, and roughly 3000 people attended. Every year it welcomes circus people, not just jugglers, from all over the world. For the last ten years attendance has been between 1200-7200 (usually depending on how central it is).

The green space at EJC 2017 Lublin, Poland.

A sign suggesting you enjoy your coffee rather than taking it to go in a disposable cup.

Every year the EJC is held in a different European city. Independent teams, guided by the European Juggling Association, bring their proposals forward to the General Assembly of jugglers who vote on locations. These teams then voluntarily give up their time to organise an EJC including shows, venues, discussions with local councils, advertising and much more.

Currently the EJC is nine days, including arrival and departure days. Camping is included in the price of your ticket (though some people book accommodation, and some do both). Tickets are available online from four-to-seven months in advance and are sold in “Phases”. The earlier you buy, the cheaper your ticket is and it helps the EJC team in booking things. Arrival and departure days being the exceptions (but not always), there are workshops from 9am ’til 8pm (and more) which are voluntarily led by attendees, a major evening show (or two, if it’s an especially big EJC), and a renegade.

You can find a handy guide on what to pack for the EJC, compiled by the team of the 2014 EJC held in Millstreet, Ireland, here!

Standing ovation in circus tent

A renegade is a late-night show for jugglers, like open mic. Anyone can get up and do a trick, and it isn’t necessarily circus-related. If the crowd likes your trick you win a shot of alcohol or sweets.

A sculpture built of juggling clubs.While the days have some structure to them, which is worth keeping an eye on especially at your first EJC, there are lots of other things people like to do; juggling outside, touring locally, eating and drinking, building sculptures, making other art, napping, swimming, academic discussions, video projects… It is still vacation time and the EJC is a very open and welcoming environment which is a chance to live freely without having to do too much.

The EJC is open to everyone – EVEN if you can’t juggle [yet]. If you enjoy fun and shows, it’s a great way to spend a week and a bit late July/early August. The 2018 EJC will be held in the Atlantic Ocean in São Miguel, an Azores Island of Portugal, July 28th to 5th of August. If you have any specific questions you will find lots of information on their website, Facebook and the EJA Twitter. You can also find lots of groups on Facebook, some even for specific countries. Each European country also has its own country contact/representative who’s job it is to provide you with information about the EJC!

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View of Qlab file

‘Dún na mBan Trí Thine’ on tour

I arrived back in Ireland on the 5th of September after nearly seven weeks to find out ‘Dún na mBan Trí Thine’, the Taibdhhearc’s Galway International Arts Festival play from the summer, would be touring in November. I wouldn’t be operating the subtitles as the tour was of the Gaeltachtaí; Gaoth Dobhair, Ráth Cairn and Coirce Dhuibhne. Instead I was operating Qlab (Audiovisual), as our original operator had a new job.

I couldn’t be at the rehearsals leading up to the remount in Galway because the second #ABCirk exchange was taking place that week. Luckily the experience of operating subtitles put me in a good position to operate Qlab.

We had two shows in the Taibhdhearc, 8th and 9th. We packed up the van to travel after the show on the night. It took until 1am to de-rig everything, decide what to pack, and pack the other rentals away.

10th; We left at 9am to travel to Gaoth Dobhair, Dún na nGall. Amharclann Gaoth Dobhair was nice and had some staff on hand to help us. We did our get-in (literally getting all the stuff) – and then we got kicked out shortly after 7pm! They were showing a film. We decided to have family dinner in The Ivy. Everyone we spoke to had Irish and it was a fine evening! We stayed in Teaċ Campbell – a very nice B&B.

Our Lighting Designer and Stage Manager bring Alleen Babbejaan to dinner in The Ivy, Gaoth Dobhair, Co. Dún na nGall.

11th; Focus (directing and focussing lights), Q to Q (where the technicians go from each cue to the next to make sure everything looks and sounds right) then we had a few hours free before the show at 8pm. The technicians attended the local pub, which also proved to have very nice food (nice one, Gaoth Dobhair).  And show at 8pm! It all went well even though it was strange not to be in an enclosed control room.

A view of the beach in Gaoth Dobhair, Co. Donegall.

12th; The mostly free day. Found the beach! Show at 8pm. Which had some strange added heater noises! But went well otherwise. Then the get-out (like the get-in, but reverse), met some of the crew in Tí Sheáin-Óig again, and bed.

13th; Start the process all over again! Out of Gaoth Dobhair and on to Ráth Cairn at 9am. We arrived to find ourselves in a community Hall – which still had a set on stage!

Image of set-builder on-stage crying at the thought of having to take down a set before putting up our own touring theatre set, with ladder.

Set builder despairs at the thought of removing one set before even beginning our.

But our inventive touring set-builder deconstructed and reconstructed it to give us a great backdrop and masking (wings, for actors to hide behind before entering the stage). Here we weren’t kicked out until 8pm, which gave us enough time to rewire our 16Amp plugs to 15Amp plugs. Though we struggled to find food it Athboy, where we were staying in The Lawrence.

Arrived back after breakfast to find the bed made and Alleen Babbejaan stretched out in luxury.

14th; Focus, Q to Q and the show was well-attended in the evening! We enjoyed some refreshments in the bar next door, and got to hear some of the local musicians play.

15th; Found little to do in Athboy for the day other than stroll, nap and send postcards. Show again at 8pm and then the get-out.

16th; All aboard the bus again to leave for our last stop, Coirce Dhuibhne in Ciarraí. This was another lovely theatre space! We had some problems with sound because one of our cables (jack to XLR) got damaged, so we had to edit the file on Qlab to travel through one channel and rely on the one other jack to XLR we had. We stayed in Óstán Coirce Dhuibhne, which was beautifully located amongst the hills by the sea. I would have gone walking but the boots I had were letting in water sadly.

17th; Once got everything ready for the last time, and the show was well-attended in the evening.

A view from the control area we set up because the control room itself was too small for two of us.

18th; Our last night! Our touring lighting technician had a show in Dublin and our back-up joined us for the last show. We gathered everything up for the last time, checklist and all. Once again we had to rewire the 15Amp plugs we borrowed, and headed back to the hotel. Not only were we celebrating the last show and the end of the tour, but also the 70th birthday of one of our actors!

19th; A quiet bus ride back to Galway, rewiring 16Amp plugs on to cables, stopping in petrol stations, and we landed back to our home theatre for shortly after 5pm after completing the Taibhdhearc’s first national tour in over ten years.

‘Lights, Circus, Action’- the Galway Community Circus Cabaret show – 21.05.2014

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Walking into the main hall of St Joseph’s Community Centre would never be considered boring. Being perpetually rigged with aerial equipment and the weekly timetable nearly completely monopolized by the circus at this point, you’ll usually end up walking into a circus class at any time of day.

But last Wednesday was an especially good time for people wandering into the hall. The walls were decorated on opposite sides with circus’ tent walls, all seats were lined up ready-and-waiting, and a beautiful bake sale arranged.

Being best known for it’s eclectic collection of aerialists, the show unsurprisingly had a lot of trapeze acts – static, singles, doubles and triple – as well as silk and hoop. But if that wasn’t top of your wishlist to see, have no fear, because the manipulators are here! With plate spinning, hula hoop, gymnastics, juggling, and of course the grand acrobatic finale, there was something to satiate all tastes.

The unfortunate thing about circus shows is that it can be hard to fully appreciate how difficult it is to replicate what you’re seeing. Thankfully your circus-experienced reviewer is here to tell you that this show in fact had mad skills.

When you watch a circus performer, the piece you see is merely a minute glimpse into the months and years of training it’s taken to get to this point. The strength, flexibility, coordination and creativity are never gained in few days. But that’s the most impressive thing about it; they make it look easy.

I didn’t feel the time go by, as I intently watched jugglers manipulate objects or raised my gaze to the aerialists, before we came to the interval. Take your pick of sweet treats before you sit to watch the second act. Once again the time passes by without my noticing before we come to the finale. Death-defying heights were achieved in this acrobatic quintet, as two people crouch down, one person standing on either’s back, and the fifth person balanced on top. They even had a quintessential example of a simple story-line, four policemen chasing down a robber, which tied the act together.

If any mistakes were made they were revealed only by a performer’s own evident annoyance with themselves; something I trust to improve with time. Overall the evening was very enjoyable and the show was impressive, to say the least. If you can find any evening half as entertaining for just €5, I’ll eat my unicycle (no mean feat – trust me on that)!

‘Terminus’

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Mark O’Rowe, writer of Terminus, was born in Dublin, Ireland, in 1970. He grew up in the working-class-suburb Tallaght. This environment, as well as his avid watching of exceptionally violent films as a teen is what fuels the violence in his work, he states. O’Rowe is described in The Literary Encyclopedia as being someone who challenges “[Irish] drama’s traditional concern with rural life by focusing on urban stories, usually characterised by high-octane language and a surreal and violent sensibility”.

O’Rowe began writing because of both a desire and a need. Having nothing more than secondary school education, he had limited job options. He decided finally to write something thinking it would either go well, or he’d never try again.

O’Rowe wrote his first play, The Aspidistra Code, at age 26 in 1995, and has been steadily churning out plays and screenplays since. The Aspidistra Code never quite came to fruition as he hoped but he summoned the ability to carry on. Arguably his most popular play, ‘Howie the Rookie’, premiered in Bush Theatre, London, in 1999. This play may be considered as setting the bar for O’Rowe’s ever popular monologue-style.

Terminus, which premiered in The Abbey, 2007, is also written in a similar monologue style. Though it does have three very distinct characters in it and not just one like Howie the Rookie; (A) – ex-schoolteacher and mother, (B) – her estranged daughter who lives alone, and (C) – a psychotic singing serial killer in the form of a man. The narrative which is told from each character’s point of view aims to regale us with the events of a single night.

As you’re already thinking this play sounds absurd, it should be apparent that nothing but an abstract set would be appropriate. This becomes more obvious as the play moves from Samaritans’ office, to apartment, to bar, to alley, tram, arm of a crane, car chase, petrol station… and so on. It’s because of this variety in the setting that it’s so important for the actors, who are really storytellers, to be able to paint these pictures for us.

Thereisbear! Theatre performed Terminus in the Town Hall Theatre Studio, Galway, 26th of February until the 1st of March.

The flat stage area was marked by three wooden palettes, with bright back lamps behind. A long white sheet stretched out behind the performers which was lit pink or blue, by six Fresnel lamps with coloured gels. Finally, there were three LED spotlights behind them capable of a wide colour range. Though simple enough, it was quite effective in creating an atmosphere to match the events being regaled at particular moments. As it wasn’t in anyway cumbersome it seemed to match the simplicity of the overall portrayal of the story.

The actor-storytellers were all equally faced with the task of giving us an energetic account of their night. They did this very well with great use of their bodies, hand gestures, facial expressions, and the tone of their voice.

The pace and rhythm of the play was nothing short of delightful. I feel any experienced poet or spoken word artist would have appreciated that aspect of it. Some of the lines were so melodic that the jarring words describing a brutal murder almost seemed less devastating. There’s no fault in the description of even the most risqué events “nipples poking, evoking so prevailing a craving, I’m quaking”.

My only grievance really was the way it ended. Not wanting to give it away of course, I simply think it should have ended as it began, with (A), rather than (C). I left the studio the  with a vague sense of unease after the end. Though perhaps that was the intended effect.

Overall, Terminus makes for a very unique theatre experience, one I’m glad I had, and certainly one that will remain with me for quite some time.

‘Dig’

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Walking into Seamus O’Rourke’s Dig in the Town Hall Theatre the evening of the 19th of February, one couldn’t be blamed for having visions of A Skull in Connemara. Performed by Big Guerilla Productions, it was performed on the same stage as A Skull in Connemara was about one year previously; with it’s story based around death, oh-so-rural-Ireland references and a lazy young-lad, they did seem rather similar. Afraid it wouldn’t match up to these accidentendal and unfair standards, I was very pleasantly surprised.

The base plot is quickly revealed to be two neighbours digging a grave for their neighbour Smoky. Many strands of story begin to unravel themselves. Not often something is “edge of the seat stuff”, but this would be an accurate statement – literally. Not wanting to give too much away, because it is a fine example of high-standard production in many ways, I will say that the end of the first act has some rather affecting effects.

O’Rourke’s play has latched onto the ever-popular pressures of Irish society, and the seemingly massive gaping rift between generations; fathers’ whose sole interest lies in football and drinking, and their sons who have a more globalised view of life which encompasses options spanning more than just the length of the bar and the football field combined. It also engages the shocking rise in rates of suicide among young men.

The set verged on questionably detailed. It exhibited a steep incline with one open grave, a dividing wall, some barren trees, a stone entrance and some unsightly rubbish. I could perfectly imagine it being a particular graveyard that I knew personally.

Great use was made of lighting and sound effects. The passing of time during the day was very well depicted by the lights changing to yellow – orange – red. Most unusually I thought, the play was occasionally punctuated with sound effects suggesting birds, cars and even a tractor. But this technique was never overused.

As one of few production where I was so engaged I all but forgot I was a stage this story was unfolding. It was the best thing I’ve seen this year in the Town Hall Theatre and one of my favourite productions I’ve ever attended.

I’ll leave the link to their tour right here:
http://www.seamusorourke.com/dig-by-seamus-orourke/