Peat > Work in Progress Showing (On the Edge Festival Birmingham)
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.