Dublin Fringe Festival, Mermaid Arts Centre, Belfast International Arts Festival
Soldier Still is about violence. A new dance theatre work that blends movement, text, music, real stories and real people, creating a harrowing tale of beauty and brutality. A cast of Irish and international dancers and former soldiers collaborate with an exceptional creative team to explore the viciousness, the vulnerability and the trauma of violence. Previous Artists-in-Residence at Tate Britain, award-winning Junk Ensemble have built a reputation in Ireland as dance innovators.
Concept, direction and choreography: Jessica Kennedy, Megan Kennedy in collaboration with the cast. Set Design: Sabine Dargent. Lighting Design: Sarah Jane Shiels. Composition: Denis Clohessy. Costume Design: Sarah Foley. Dramaturgy: Gary Keegan. Performers: Dr Tom Clonan, Geir Hytten, Lucia Kickham, Julie Koenig, Fernando Balsera Pita. Producer: Michelle Cahill. Production Manager: Adrian Mullan. Stage Manager: Barry O’Donovan. Design for Dance Intern: Félicie Barbey. Funded by The Arts Council / An Chomhairle Ealaíon. A co-production with Mermaid Arts Centre and Project Arts Centre. Supported by Dance Ireland and Dance Base Edinburgh. Junk Ensemble are Project Artists at Project Arts Centre.
I was recently a guest blogger for the Arts in Education Portal, where I discussed the research and development period for Peat, including workshops at Sacred Heart National School, Portlaoise.
You can read the first post here and the second one here.
The Arts in Education Portal is the key national digital resource of arts and education practice in Ireland. The ethos for the portal is about building a community of practice within arts and education, and providing a space where both artists and teachers can be supported and inspired. It provides a platform through which good collaboration practice in arts-in-education and arts education will be supported, developed and enhanced.
Give Me Your Skin by Tom Ross-Williams and Oonagh Murphy.
Queer performance makers Tom and Oonagh offer an alternate vision of gender and posit concrete solutions that liberate boys and men.
Give Me Your Skin is a participatory show where parlour games meet feminism in quest to resist masculinity at its most toxic.
Written and performed by the pair who met over a decade ago, this is a playful and intimate performance about solidarity, coming out, finding your voice, and, in the face of mass global turmoil, being kind to one another as a radical act.
Since 2014, I have been exploring the layered history of The Montague.
The Montague Hotel is a real hotel – was a real hotel. On the far reaches of the rural town I grew up in, on the flat plains of Ireland’s midsection, my parents celebrated their wedding there in 1975. The Montague was the centre of things, where people celebrated everything, all of life and death – christenings to funerals and everything in between. It was a hitching-post on the Country–and–Western touring circuit, filled with the music of outsiders: frontier ballads of exile and emigration, outlaws and open plains, heartbreak, loneliness, loss. Closing its doors in 2000, it reopened in 2008. But not as a hotel. Taken over by the Reception and Integration Agency, it was now a detention centre for asylum seekers.
The Montague is a weird place: its disjointed narratives seem to be trapped like air bubbles between the layers of old wallpaper in the hotel ballroom. Preoccupied with the complexity of culture, society, history, I have been less interested in telling the real stories of this Montague than in taking a sideways glance at it, exploring how a refracted, fictionalised Montague could exist next to the real thing, whose political situation is present and pressing. In a weird confluence of real and unreal, in the clash between past and present, I’ve been searching for this story and a form for its telling.
In the early stages of development, I was supported by mentor Tim Crouch through Pan Pan’s excellent mentorship programme (listen to Tim and I talk about the early genesis of Montague on RTÉ Radio 1 here). Montague was then commissioned by Mermaid County Wicklow Arts Centre, and in November, with the support of Mermaid and an Arts Council Project Award, we began a 2-week research and development period with a full team of collaborators. During this fortnight of exploration, my initial text became a backbone. Exploring character, sound, set, lighting, movement, costume, texture, we worked together to explore the possibilities of form, to tell the imagined story of this real place – a story that began like this:
A band return to a hotel in the Irish midlands that they’ve been performing at since 1975, finding it transformed. In place of ticket holders for their 40th anniversary tour, an audience of asylum seekers. The four musicians are greeted by current resident Joyce and her young son, and she encourages them to stay and play.
In this imagined encounter, in the clash between past and present, the band are forced to confront the urgent reality of the stage they have just stepped onto. In a political situation that is present and pressing, the story and performance unfolds in the form of a sound check.
Writer: Kate Heffernan. Director: Gary Keegan. Perfomers: Sallay Garnett, Pat Laffan, Gina Moxley, John Olohan, Raymond Scannell. Choreographer: Megan Kennedy. Lighting and Set Designer: Ciaran O’Melia. Costumer Designer: James David Seaver. Sound Designer Jack Cawley. Sound Engineer: Eoin Murphy. Produced by Niamh O’Donnell for Mermaid Centre.
As part of this publication to celebrate the 2012 exhibition Panto Collapsar at Project Arts Centre, I was commissioned by Project to conduct an interview with renowned Australian artist Mikala Dwyer. The volume also contains essays on Mikala’s work by Tessa Giblin and Declan Long.
Mikala and I met in January 2015 at the Irish Museum of Modern Art, while Mikala was in residence there. What followed was a nconversation about art and materiality and imperfection and audience – you can read the full interview here.
Panto Collapsar (2010) was one of those really special exhibitions at Project while I was Assistant Producer there. After its premiere, we then toured the show nationally to West Cork Arts Centre, Wexford Arts Centre, Ballina Arts Centre, Riverbank Arts Centre, Droichead Arts Centre and Mermaid County Wicklow Arts Centre.
This slim volume bursts at the seams with this big life.
“A real lesson in producing a programme, particularly for children” Lyn Gardner, The Guardian
Whether writing or designing, I have always been inspired by an attention to detail in production: the subversion of things we take for granted – the double-take.
My work on Theatre Lovett’s show programmes is dominated by this interest: taking something throw-away and turning the tables on it, subverting the audience’s expectation in terms of the aesthetic and the content.
This is particularly rewarding when working with the rich tapestries woven for young audiences by Theatre Lovett.
Working initially with company directors Muireann Ahern-Lovett and Louis Lovett, I then sit down with the script and, with the production design aesthetic in mind, I imagine each world to its fullest. From this I write a full text before designing it into a programme-sized publication.
Taking a sideways glance at what is happening on stage, the articles, fake ads, and interviews riff and expand upon the play’s imagined universe. I try to pack in as much content as possible, filling each page to the last, offering as many moments of recognition and reminder as possible for the young audiences.
I try to give a sly voice to voiceless and minor characters, while poking gentle fun at the format of show programmes – and at Theatre Lovett’s leading star (sorry, Louis!).
Originally called The Trumpeter, the series for Theatre Lovett began with an edition for The House That Jack Filled by Finegan Kruckemeyer. The story of an old hotel, Louis played every one of its vast cast of characters. The programme included an interview with Harrison the Housecat, Mr Truro’s Spectacular Guide to Playing the Spoons, a recipe for Crepes Suzette by mischievous twins Charlotte and Brian and a series of unusual hotel facts (including the mysterious story of the train on Track 61 and New York’s Waldorf Astoria hotel).
The Girl Who Forgot to Sing Badly (also by Finegan Kruckemeyer) has been performed at theatres and festivals all over the world. Its Peggy O’Hegarty comes from a family of packers, and the programme was thus pitched as a special edition packing manual. It included Peggy’s Packing Particulars, a series of facts about packing, Louis Lovett on Packing a Play, instructions for how to play a game called Packed Like Sardines and, lastly, sadly, an obituary for Hildegaard the mouse.
The latest was for A Feast of Bones. Originally produced for Dublin Theatre Festival in 2013, the edition was updated for its run at On the Edge Festival Birmingham and Baboró Galway in 2016. A Feast of Bones was set in a restaurant called Le Monde Bouleversé in the wake of World War I, and so its programme became a menu.
“In its mix of wit and wisdom, Theatre Lovett’s show programme series is a beauty, capturing the humour, logical absurdity and intelligent detailing of Kate’s writing”Louis Lovett and Muireann Ahern, Theatre Lovett
#WakingtheFeminists was a grassroots campaign calling for equality for women across the Irish theatre sector that ran from November 2015 to November 2016. It was comprised of women and men who spoke out for equality for women in the theatre in Ireland. They were writers, directors, managers, actors, designers, choreographers, technicians, programmers, producers, artists and audience members.
I created a Waking the Feminists identity for the initial public meeting on the Abbey Stage in 2015. And from that I designed a number of badge designs, a tote bag and a mug, and these were sold at the public meetings in order to raise awareness of the campaign. This FEM-IN-IST bag remains my own favourite!
Peat began life as Elk, an exploration of the Great Irish Elk. On the east coast, right on the edge of Ireland, there is a place known as The Elk Graveyard. Here hundreds and hundreds of ancient elk skeletons were dug from the bog. Megaloceros Giganteus. Giant Irish Deer. The last megafauna on an island of, well, non–megafauna.
Twelve feet tall from tip of toe to top of antler, it disappeared about 10,500 years ago, the reasons uncertain: it became too big; its antlers grew too heavy; it was over-hunted; its food sources disappeared as the world grew colder. The Great Irish Elk lived across Europe and Asia, its continental cousins drifting eastward, sunward, in search of a better life. As the Ice Age descended, the ones who lived on this island were the first to disappear. Trapped, with nowhere to go as the snow stopped melting.
In June, I spent a week at The Ark developing the text with director Maisie Lee and performers Nyree Yergainharsian and Lloyd Cooney. We shared our findings with The Ark’s Children’s Council at the end of the week and, the following month, we presented a work-in-progress showing at On the Edge World Festival of Theatre for Young Audiences in Birmingham to an audiences of artists, producers and presenters. Sharing our ideas and listening to the feedback of audiences young and experienced has been invaluable.
As development progresses, the elk itself started to take a back seat, as bigger ideas began to emerge – ideas of preservation, migration, extinction, life, death and mortality. The text which is now emerging is something of a slant on Hamlet’s gravediggers for young audiences – a metaphysical conversation rooted in the world and perspective of two 12 year olds.