Category: Live at The Montague

Montague > Research + Development 2016

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. 

Development continues.

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. 

Montague is commissioned by Mermaid County Wicklow Arts Centre. Research and development period made possible by an Arts Council Project Award (Creation Strand). Early development supported by Pan Pan’s International Mentorship and Bursary Scheme

Photography by Ste Murray.


Montague > How to Dress A ‘Country-and-Irish’ Cowboy

Who invented The Rhinestone Cowboy?

Montague-Jacket-Yellow  Montague-Jacket-Blue  Montague-Jacket-Robert-Redford  Montague-Jacket-George-Jones  Montague-Jacket-Porter-Wagoner-2  Montague-Jacket-DanielRomano

Ukranian-born Nudie Cohn and his Rodeo Tailors made American country stars embrace embellishment in the 1940s, and the love affair still burns strong in Nashville. A music of outsiders, country is about exile and emigration, frontier ballads of outlaws and open plains, heartbreak, loneliness, loss. Country stars wear their hearts on their sleeves, and their stories along their lapels. Cacti, lassos, lone horses, tumbleweed, covered wagons, dry horizons, bare crucifixes – Nudie stitched the icons of their lonely lives into their breast pockets.

So what should an Irish cowboy wear?

Montague-Bog-Cotton-JacketFinding its feet in the late 1960s, the Country–and–Irish tradition of music fuses Irish folk with American country, all speeded up to a quick-step rhythm suitable for dancing – ballads of colonial exile sang with a cowboy twang while people jive. The Montague Hotel was a hitching-post on its touring circuit, a regular haunt for the stars of the Country–and–Irish music scene which was hugely popular in the midlands, a key venue through the 70s, 80s and 90s.

The bands traditionally wore matching jackets, but not in the elaborate Rodeo Tailor style.

I find it hard to separate The Montague from Country–and–Irish, and have been thinking about it in this sense – about how the 40-year history of a country is weirdly contained within its walls, the story of who we are, where we’ve been, where we’re going. What if a band was to wear its sense of history, it’s sense of place, its sense of itself on its sleeve? What would these jackets look like? Bog cotton rather than cactus flowers, green plains rather than dusty plateaus? Old wounds becoming scars becoming appliqué embellishments, hardened into a smile by a rhinestone outline?

Maybe. Maybe not.

But, as I sit here tonight, imagining the characters of a band like this, I’m imagining how they might dress.






Montague > Tim Crouch and I on RTÉ Radio 1

Listen to Tim and I on RTÉ Radio 1’s Arena . We chat with Sean Rocks about where ideas come from and about Pan Pan’s mentorship programme. Tim talks a little about his own work, and I mention the genesis of Montague