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Category Archives: Political Theatre

Moving toward a new ‘Theatre of Crisis’.

For the past few months world news has been dominated by sweeping revolution across the Arab world. It has been incredible to witness the youth of Egypt, Tunisia, Bahrain and most recently Lybia take to the streets in protest and in a unified voice declaring change is both wanted and needed. With these events in mind, it is interesting to note how and where theatre and the arts are responding to these seminal moments of political and social upheaval.

Throughout the Middle East and North Africa despotic regimes have been challenged and toppled by what has popularly become known as ‘Facebook Revolutions’. The disenfranchised and un-institutionalised youth took the stop forward to initiate change. Ideas and debates spread and were disseminated through social networks, beyond regional and national boundaries and it would be a natural reaction that revolution would be born. The key ingredient was information.  Now, in the instant wake of these events, it is the reactive agency of theatre that can assess and respond to these seismic social upheavals.

The power of theatre as a tool to astutely capture and represent social shifts is in its immediacy. It can capture the rawness, the tragic and the hope. The role of theatre as a conduit for independent thought and resulting change is not lost on the current crises the world has faced.

Seven Jewish Children by Caryl Churchill

Seven Jewish Children

Playwrights such as Caryl Churchill penned and saw produced her work Seven Jewish Children in the immediate wake of the 2008-2009 Israel military strike on Gaza. It was first performed at London’s Royal Court Theatre on 6th February 2009. This play was also staged at the Abbey Theatre in Dublin at a free performance in March 2009. The Abbey would again return to the barricades when it staged a season of works to reflect on the national crises of institutional abuse of Irish children. The Darkest Corner was a brave and also disturbing account of the torture these forgotten children endured. An interesting note is the play reflecting on the complex Gaza/Israel issue was staged almost immediately and in time with the conflict. The Darkest Corner would follow a full year after the publication of the report of “the Commission to Enquire into Child Abuse in Ireland”.

No Escape at the Peacock Theatre

No Escape, image courtesy of The Abbey Theatre

The question of timing such plays is tricky. Stage the work too soon and it can lose its focus and become overtly emotionally or politically aligned with a certain cause or side. Stage the work too late and the real immediacy and impact of a work will also be distorted. On the recent RTE documentary series From Stage to Street, Prof. Chris Morash made the point regarding the original staging of the Plough and the Stars at the Abbey Theatre in February 1926: The Plough and the Stars was written and staged ten years after the 1916 Rising and still provoked near riots. It is the equivalent, Morash said, of a play being staged today depicting the firemen of New York in the aftermath of 9/11 acting in a drunken stupor and cavorting with prostitutes in brothels. This incredibly astute observation opens up debate on when indeed are we as a society and audience ready to engage with the fall out of such global events.

This also raises another question. What form, should this ‘Theatre of Protest’ take? Mary Raftery’s No Escape, produced as part of The Darkest Corner series, took the form of ‘verbatim’ or documentary theatre. This form is possibly the purest in content as it is the words, and solely the words, of a particular group or viewpoint, retold verbatim. It is a hugely powerful form of theatre and engages an audience with the primary source rather than news stories or political spin.

Staging works as world events are unfolding does allow a unique viewpoint. Theatres become agents of debate and information but perhaps this is inevitably to the detriment of artistic and dramatic thought and creativity. The normal processes of creativity involve the gestation of an idea, reaction to thought, a play is written, a theatre is found to stage it, an audience witnesses it and reaction begins. Creating a play in reaction to a particular crisis and watching it gel with its cast, see its form change and keep up with world events is a radical departure from the traditional.

Closer to home, can we pinpoint a specific new play or work staged professionally or otherwise in Ireland that adequately tackles the demise of Irish society in the crash of our economic sovereignty? There are few.  Fewer works look at the involvement of the Irish in international conflict situations, such as, international peace keeping missions for which they have been highly commended for decades. Works such as Colin Teevan’s How Many Miles to Basra and others that comprised the Bearing Witness series at the Abbey Theatre commemorating the 60th anniversary of the Declaration of Human Rights in December 2008 are excellent and notable exceptions to the lack of debate, pushing the Abbey Theatre once more to the front of reaction to international conflict.

Love and  money at Project Arts Centre

Love and Money

Looking back on March 2008, The Project Arts Centre staged Dennis Kelly’s Love and Money which was a stylish and slick production that examined the high-capitalist, materialist classes emerging in London. At the very precipice of Irish and global financial crisis, the Project Arts Centre was critiquing and commenting on the very greed and fiscal incompetency that set forth to shatter our national sovereignty.

Internationally, works such as Black Watch by the Scottish National Theatre, produced at the 2008 Ulster Bank Dublin Theatre Festival and Tony Kushner’s Homebody read at the Abbey Theatre in March 2003 highlighted the impact and power these reactive works infused on their audiences. Conflict and immediate reaction to conflict has been relevant to the Irish stage and has been more than important and essential to understanding the global consequences of these actions.

Now, in North Africa and the Middle East, revolution has taken the form of Web 2.0.We have witnessed protests on stage. Is it now time for the crisis to be put on stage? This means engaging directly with the event and making a response relevant and which creates debate and understanding. If the highest role of theatre is citizenship then a new ‘Theatre of Crisis’ may be needed to match the experience of its audience. Theatre makers must keep up with the pace of this revolution. The thought, energy and emotions are palpable as the world looks on. If we keep looking without engaging, the real threat is that it can pass us by. The stakes are that high.

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Round up of the week’s news and events, 15 Oct 2010

Yet another busy week and here is a round-up of some goings on at home and abroad that came across the desk of Staged Reaction in the past week.

  • Two major exhibitions and archive events are taking place in Limerick. Photographs taken by Franz Sebastian Haselbeck, which went on display at the Museum Hunt include pictures of Home Rule meetings, farmers’ demonstrations and meetings of volunteers leading up to the War of Independence.
    In another ceremony in Limerick yesterday, the diaries and photographs of Cecil Mercier, a former manager at Ranks Mills for over 40 years were presented to the Limerick City Archives. Limerick City Archivist, Jacqui Hayes, said it was an important addition to the city archives because Ranks Mills had such an impact on the economic and social development of Limerick.  Read more: http://tinyurl.com/3xme87j

 

  • Corn Exchange Theatre Company are receiving sell out performances for their production of Freefall. Nothing new there you might rightly say. Well, these performances are in Mexico! Corn Exchange are taking part in the celebration of 200 years since Mexico’s independence and have set up residence in the city of Guanajuato. Reports so far from Corn Exchange say they are the first Irish company to perform in Mexico for forty years. Here is a video promo for Freefall. http://tinyurl.com/2wc4qm7 http://www.cornexchange.ie/index.php

 

  • This Saturday 16th October at 4pm the artist Gerard Mannix Flynn will give a talk about his work and practice at Dialogue Art Space, 43A Vyner Street, London E2 9DQ. Flynn’s talk will focus on the politics and culture of the ‘performance of inclusion’, a cause which he has championed through his art, his theatre and his work as a councillor. Always engaging and always powerful, Flynn commands his audience’s attention. http://tinyurl.com/35f5qwj

 

  • The Abbey Theatre will tour to New York early next year when Frank McGuinness’s John Gabriel Borkman will be staged at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. 12 Jan – 6 Feb 2011. McGuinness’s version of the cautionary tale by Henrik Ibsen is proving a huge success as part of the Dublin Theatre Festival and is proving a huge point of interest for eager audiences at the Brooklyn Academy. http://tinyurl.com/2wyfvny

 

  • Next week is Research Week at NUI Galway. Numerous events are taking place to mark this new event to promote new digital research resources and research and archive collection held by the NUIG James Hardiman Library and Archives. ARAN and RIAN are programmes that allow access to research at NUI Galway and a single portal for national research containing resources from the seven Irish universities and DIT. A series of talks and seminars are planned to help you maximise your research across all disciplines.

             http://www.library.nuigalway.ie/support/supportforresearchers/researchweek/

  • Irish Museum of modern Art (IMMA) will launch a new exhibition marking the contribution and works of Irish modernist artists and explore the development of modernity in Ireland through the visual arts in the period 1900 to 1975. Professor Luke Gibbons will hold a lecture to mark this event next Tuesday 19th October at IMMA, Peripheral Visions: Rethinking Irish Modernism, which explores the transformations of visual culture in relation to Irish modernism and the Revival. http://www.modernart.ie/en/page_212281.htm

 

  • A letter to The Irish Times this week highlighted the plight of the former residents of the Bethany Houses who suffered in these homes and suffered in their lives outside the homes. Exempt, like the Magdalene’s, from the 2002 Redress Board, a new resurgent call for all complete archives and records of these institutions and people be made available to scrutiny and research.

             http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/letters/2010/1014/1224281062031.html

  • Finally, a national broadcaster has recently used a song as a backing track on a programme advertisement. The 1970 track, The Revolution will not be Televised by Gill Scott Heron is an aptly timed use of a powerful call to a people to stand up and be heard. An anthem certainly for our time and certainly worth a listen.
 

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London to stage Farcry’s next performance

 Following on from Mannix Flynn’s and Farcry Production’s latest installations on Dublin’s  Ormond Quay, Padded Cell and Other Stories and Janes X at the Abbey’s Peacock Theatre, Loss is their next and new production. Focusing on the experiences of the women of Ireland’s Magdelene Laundries and their ongoing campaign for recognition and justice and presenting the experiences of those who resided in Ireland’s industrial schools, Loss, is an encounter with a past buried and a reality yet to be faced for a nation and people.

"LOSS" by Farcry Productions

There will be a preview for one night only on Thursday 2nd September between 6pm-9pm of the installation Padded Cell and Other Stories
Live Performances
James Xa live performance
There will be a performance of
James X  September 18th at 8pm at Dialogue at 43A Vyner Street.  

 

  

  

Email:      farcryproductionsltd@gmail.com to book 
This is a limited seating event.
Wheelchair accessible venue
 
http://farcryproductions.weebly.com/

 
 

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Staging Ireland’s Darkest Scenes

It is now over one year since the Commission to Enquire into Child Abuse in Ireland, under the direction of Justice Sean Ryan, delivered its report to the Irish state. Culturally and artistically, there has been an obvious dearth of reaction and interaction with the findings of the enquiry into child abuse in state care.  However, earlier this year the Abbey Theatre commissioned The Darkest Corner, a series to present and disseminate the words, testimony and to bear witness to the findings of what has become known as the ‘Ryan Report’. This series has long since concluded and the fallout from the National Theatre tackling these issues must be examined. What exactly did it achieve and what did it mean for this series to be on our national stage?

Combining docu-theatre, readings and discussions, the Darkest Corner at the Abbey takes its name from a statement issued by then Taoiseach Brian Cowen in describing where the enquiry and subsequent report now left Ireland, morally and socially – a dark corner indeed.

The Darkest Corner is, as Artistic Director of the Abbey Theatre, Fiach McConghail described, “the duty and necessity of a national theatre. The months following the publication of the Ryan Report were filled with anger, frustration and a choking realisation that the Abbey simply must respond. Months of discussion between myself and Aideen Howard (Literary Director at the Abbey Theatre) and with artists such as Mannix Flynn, and journalist Mary Raftery strengthened the Abbey’s resolve to respond. It become not a matter of will the Abbey respond, but in what format and how?” McConghail states how one result of The Darkest Corner is the realisation that the Ryan Report is not the be all and end all. “The report is merely one aspect of a nation taking ownership for a shameful past. It is hard to avoid the fact that the Report is fundamentally flawed.”

An effective and vital component of the Darkest Corner was the inclusion of talks and lectures with the artists involved and this allowed a public forum to debate critical issues. Vibrant and emotional comments and feedback were inherent, particularly from Bruce Arnold, who discussed the Politics of Abuse. Arnold likened the industrial school system in Ireland to the Gulags of Russia and stated how after Independence in Ireland, post 1920’s, the U.K. and Ireland fatally diverged in its treatment of these schools. Arnold described reports such as the Kennedy report into the state of Irish residential schools in 1970 as a “whitewash and an amazing piece of chicanery by Church and State and blatantly denied all culpability for abuse of countless innocent children”

Mary Raftery, in devising No Escape, utilised a docu-theatre format in a chilling fashion in bearing witness and in presenting the Ryan Report itself. The Report may have contributed subsequent actions towards dismantling and removing of abusive senior clerics, it was unable however, to dent in any form the political establishment. The Darkest Corner acutely picks up on this through Bruce Arnold, through No Escape and also through Mannix Flynn.

It was interesting and representative of what The Darkest Corner could achieve that Flynn’s first appearance on the Abbey stage was as a speaker and not as a performer. Flynn spoke candidly and personally about Issues of Institutionalisation. He described how as a society Ireland has been institutionalised by blind obedience and fear of anything ‘other’, with all true emotion and sense of love condemned to the point that a child represents only pure sin. There is and was no questioning, only fear. Now, Flynn evangelised, is the time for recourse and redress. Cultural means is but one aspect of this address.

Flynn’s performance of James X focused on a further result of The Darkest Corner, that being class issues. This distinction emphasises that the Ryan report was met with a more concerted and middle class response that the Murphy report was. The Abbey itself could be seen as a venue traditionally associated with middle-class theatre goers. Paddy Doyle, author of The God Squad, makes the point that The Darkest Corner or any of its parts did not essentially need the Abbey to stage these works. He or any group would have read the Ryan Report on any street in Ireland, claimed Doyle.  Doyle who is confined to a wheelchair felt betrayed as the Peacock theatre at the Abbey is not wheelchair accessible, thus negating his presence from any performance of his own testimony.

Doyle, speaking as a person who has submitted private testimony to the Commission was outraged at his story and the testimony of so many others being portrayed on stage, regardless of the intended message of resolution. It raises the question, is Irish theatre able to take on these issues and is it fair to do so? Whatever the answer, the work must be profound, it must focus on healing and must be inclusive to all.

Cultural representation and reflection has obvious roles to play in assisting a people come to terms with absorbing and processing the immense trauma that abuse can inflict on a child. It is crucial that any cultural and artistic address is relevant, accurate and with the expressed wishes of those whose words matter most – the survivors of abuse. The journey for Ireland and its people to truly address this issue is arduously long and the Abbey, as Flynn said, is not a bad place to begin it. All are agreed that we have not even begun to process or comprehend what has happened to generations of Irish children. The Abbey may have failed with regard to disabled access but it did succeed in refusing to continue living in shadows and talking in whispers. A national theatre must beat at the same pulse of its people. It must be at the front line and it must get over the barricades in order to get there and must act as a conduit for change and reform.

For The Darkest Corner to be really judged, it is up to the audience, as citizens, to accept the testimony as truth, act towards justice and forcefully deconstruct the collective amnesia, all the while remembering Paddy Doyle’s words of: “Nothing about us, without us.

 

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Behan’s “The Quare Fellow” at the New Theatre

The Quare Fellow, Image courtesy of the New Theatre

In a letter to Ernest Blythe, Director of the Abbey Theatre on 18 May 1946, Behan explains the theme of his new play, The Quare Fellow, “Two men are condemned to death and waiting for the rope – I would send it but better not scare the Department of Justice before we have anything done. There is nothing political in it of course”

The Quare Fellow opened at the Pike theatre on 19 November 1954. Blythe would not take Behan’s play, perhapsin fear of  provoking, as Behan warned, ‘The Department’. It turned out quite obviously that The Abbey’s rejection became the Pike Theatre’s gain. The Pike opened on 15 September 1953 and paved the way for Behan to be  recognised in an international capacity as playwright with the first staging of The Quare Fellow.

The Quare Fellow, provisionally called Casadh Sugain Eile or ‘The Twisting of Another Rope’  was intended to be a homage to Douglas Hyde and his Irish language play Casadh an tSugain or ‘The Twisting of the Rope’. Behan believed a play in recognition to Hyde’s work in title would stand a chance of getting in at the Abbey Theatre. That particular plan would not end in success.

Today the play finds itself in the New Theatre, which by all accounts is as near to the original Pike Theatre in size and fabric as one could imagine. The play is based on the last hanging permitted in Ireland in Mountjoy of prisonor Bernard Kirwan. The title character of Behan’s prison drama is never seen on stage but holds a deity-like presence over the other prisoners. The day in the life of the prisoners is distorted with the overhanging (no pun intended) death and the tense and overwrought expression of punishment through execution. The cast finds itself halved in numbers from the original twenty-eight, but the stage is far from empty and loses little of its intended image of cramped prison life.

Behan’s snappy, dark and at times often-humorous dialogue is handled and delivered well through a capable cast with fine performances turned in particularly from PJ Brady, Conor O’Riordan and the deadpan Luke Hayden whose warder Regan represents the humanist Christian element in the play. The Warder has overseen hanging after hanging and is stoical in his expressions and opinions on the sentence of death for a prisoner.

 Jer O’Leary’s rendition of the Auld Triangle tingles and amazes every audience member cramped into a full New Theatre. What should be revised for future production is the rather pointless interval that disrupts the flow of time, tension and intimacy leading up the eventual death of the Quare Fellow.

In 1954, the columnist for the Evening Press described viewing the first performance of The Quare Fellow, “When he (Behan) finds himself technically the Irish theatre will have another, and I believe, greater O’Casey”. The Irish Times wrote, “One of the positive qualities – and there are many – of Mr. Behan’s work is its power of provoking thought. Like a modern novel, it rounds off neither character nor situation but passes the buck, as it were, to the customer”.

Behan’s plays are O’Casey-esque in their sharp critique of idealism. The rejection by the Abbey was often been said to be for this very reason and also owing to its likeness to the modernist works of Beckett and Ionesco. The ‘idealism’ of serving in an Irish prison to that of a British prison where ‘hard time’ was as pleasurable as it sounded is also explored. Dunlavin, the elderly lag, experiences both in his time as a career prisoner:  “I smoked my way half-way through the book of Genesis and three inches of my mattress. When the Free State came in we were afraid of our life that they were going to change our mattresses for feather beds….but thanks be to God, the Free State didn’t change anythin’ more than the badges on the warders cap’.”

On the opening night of the play at the packed Pike theatre, Behan addressed the audience and said “I didn’t write this play, the lags wrote it”. The stage of the New Theatre mirrors in so many ways the original production in the intimate and miniscule Pike theatre. The stage though restricted in physical size is enlarged by Mark Wheatly’s inventive design which creates a space for the lags that seems to expand beyond the prison walls to the realms of their past experiences and imagination. This helped to bring out one of the play’s themes: The attempt by prisoners to create in words a sense of spaciousness and open possibility that is openly denied them in their daily routine.

As with all good theatre, which this undoubtedly is, its connection to the present time makes it all the more accessible and relevant as a production and to an audience. The last hanging in Ireland on 20 April 1954 added to the public reception of the play’s original production and its anti-hanging propaganda. Behan, who stated that this work was written for and by other inmates, created a damning critique of capital punishment and general observations on Irish prison sentences. This past week we witnessed one of the largest media frenzies regarding the release of a prisoner in Ireland. Larry Murphy served just ten and a half years of a fifteen year sentence for a brutal and horrific sexual assault. The case is but one example of many of late where the Irish prison and sentencing system failed in its duty to protect its citizens. In 1954, as the Pike stage belonged to Behan, Irish prisons were being critiqued and examined. The failure to prisoners, the failures to the public and the failures to the State were at critical levels then in 1954. Over a half century later, obvious failures still exist in our prison system. This is a powerful and evocative production of a highly charged and emotive piece that has for too long been absent from the Irish stage.

At the New Theatre until 4 September 2010.

http://www.thenewtheatre.com/tnt_php/scripts/page/home.php

 

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Who is Fergus Kilpatrick?

Who is Fergus Kilpatrick? Image courtesy of thecompanyireland.com

Following its award winning debut (Spirit of the Fringe award) at the Dublin Fringe festival in 2009, Who is Fergus Kilpatrick has returned to Dublin and set up residency in the Project Arts Centre. The faceless and rather elusive title character, in a work devised and produced by The Company, will leave you still questioning in fact who really is Fergus Kilpatrick, But it will also leave you questioning the reality of performance, the reality of theatre and even the validity of documented history. 

While being described by The Company as ‘non-theatre’ and  the piece having been created with the deliberate intention of avoiding theatre, you can already see the challenges and questions that this work throws out to an audience coming to see a ‘play’ in a theatre. The piece opens with a documentary being screened on the life of Fergus Kilpatrick, a rebel in early 19th century Kerry. The audience quickly realises the documentary is in fact a work of fiction and addresses questions of who we are, where our lineage has brought us and how our oral tradition of memories and storytelling has often left gaps and inaccuracies in the historical narrative of the story of our country and also of our families. 

Image courtesy of thecompanyireland.com

This work tightly embraces the aid of digital technology and painstaking video and sound editing and blatantly flaunts the presence of pre-recorded scenes and interviews with the cast as a tool for telling the story of how the Fergus documentary came to be. The audience is often left struggling to determine if it is the cast on stage speaking or in fact a video screening. It becomes apparent that the real direction of this work is to challenge what exactly is ‘live’ in theatre. 

Clever devices are implied, such as pre-recorded and humorous interviews with cast members describing their characters and the preparation in finding themselves in each character. The deliberately over-the-top and ham acted scenes, mimicking the rehearsals of this work are described as being devised by asking each cast member to act out one another’s character, thus resulting in a “heightened version of each cast member’s personality and traits.” 

Creator of this work and its director Jose Miguel Jimenez said “it challenges the continual presence of history and challenges the truth in history and in performance and challenges a prescribed present by removing the connection between history and truth by emphasising the role of who writes history. Everyone has a different view of history and different version of a story. Where is the definite truth in all this?” 

Scene from "Who is Fergus Kilpatrick". Image courtesy of Dublin Fringe Fest, Flickr.

The story of Who is Fergus Kilpatrick has strong base in a short story by Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges, entitled The Theme of the Traitor and the Hero published in 1944. Though this work by the Company is not a direct adaptation of the story by Borges, the story acted as a facilitator for the work Who is Fergus Kilpatrick. The framework of truth and believed conceptions of what we know to be reality are dismantled on stage before us. Again heavily influenced by the writing of philosopher Jacques Derrida and Jean Baudrilliard, one can also see the presence of French surrealist Antonin Artaud who wrote The Theatre and Its Double in the 1930s. Artaud argued that the act of performance and the presence of theatrical energy lies in the theatre space and with the audience as much as it does on stage.  The ‘double’ of theatre and its mirror image that Artaud mentions is the residual memory that remains in any production space and also with the audience members long after a performance and it is that history which forms a legacy and memory that can be altered or lost in each retelling of the story. 

Jimenez states that the views of Derrida, Baudrilliard et al on “the interaction between the real and illusory in contemporary societies created in us a new interest in theatre: we thought that the relationship between these two concepts relates to the very nature of theatre. We see theatre as the right medium to articulate the arguments between real and illusory since, without doubt, this is the base of any theatrical event.” 

This documentary of misinformation and questioning of history again asks us who we all are and questions our history and certainly leaves one particular questioning hanging over the audience, Who, exactly, is Fergus Kilpatrick? 

 Who is Fergus Kilpatrick runs at the Project Arts Centre until 24 Apr 2010. 

For details visit: http://www.projectartscentre.ie/programme/whats-on/908-who-is-fergus-kilpatrick

 

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“No Escape” – Documentary Theatre at the Peacock

No Escape, Peacock Theatre

What was on stage last night at the opening performance of No Escape was not drama. There was not a cast in the traditional sense, there was no true playwright.  It was truth and it was documentary. Award-winning journalist Mary Raftery was commissioned by the Abbey Theatre to write and produce a work in response to Justice Sean Ryan’s chilling report into child abuse in Ireland’s residential schools. Raftery, instead of ‘writing’ a piece in response gave the audience something different; she gave them the Ryan Report itself.  From the outset it is a unique and unsettling event at the National Theatre. The front of house welcome urges the nervous audience to “enjoy the show”, as unlikely as that is.

The first voice you hear is of Lorcan Cranitch, dressed in a neat and dark suit, he resembles a host of a prime time current affairs program, or perhaps an undertaker. In either guise, he has chilling news to deliver. The set is a maze of glass walls and mesh frames. Behind each those who were interviewed by the Commission to Enquire into Child Abuse in Ireland deliver accounts of their experiences of abuse and of outright fear at the hands of theses State and Church run schools. The dimly lit, obscurely visible and somewhat muted accounts resemble a feeling of being in the confession box. The mesh and lack of light protecting the anonymity of those speaking.

Cranitch delivers a roll-call of abuse, a litany of crimes perpetrated against innocent children. Weapons of every conceivable element were used to inflict pain, chastisement and fear into those who were already stripped of innocence or anything resembling a childhood. “If you cried you got worse, so I learned not to cry” recounts a trembling Michelle Forbes. Yard brushes, wooden spoons, horse tackle, garden tools, leather straps, chair legs, crucifixes, not to mention the foot, fist or worse as methods of delivering pain on a daily basis.

Elenor Methven is astounding and all too visceral in her portrayal as she visibly hurts in telling of beatings received and years lost as a child. Jane Brennan, Eamon Hunt, Jonathon White and Donal O’Kelly take on multiple roles from children to priests, nuns, Brothers, inspectors and keep a steady flow and rhythm to Raftery’s documentary account. Yet, one is always acutely aware that these are actors merely relaying words of the true victims. While the acting is never truly in question in this work, it is possibly beyond the repertoire of any actor to faithfully portray the stifling fear and horrific memories that haunt all survivors of abuse to this day. The words of the Ryan Report take centre stage here. “You couldn’t tell anyone, but who would believe you anyway”.

Archive boxes of case files are routinely dropped on stage with the files within exhumed and recounted by Cranitch. A back drop of archive boxes piled to the ceiling provide a sickening irony given that it is the very lack of documented evidence and cover up of cases of abuse that facilitated this climate of fear and culture of abuse.

It was an interesting point as the documentary, as it is not a play, drew to a close. Acts of kindness received by children in these institutions were recounted. However this ‘kindness’ was also tinged with a dark cloud. “That Brother would not shout or beat us as the others did, I’l always remember him for that.” The last action of this piece was an empty stage where Cranitch appeared and dropped the 2,700 page, 6 volume, Ryan Report onto the front and centre of the stage. The deafening thud and nervous silence that followed was a fitting end to this truly unique night at the National Theatre.

Mary Raftery, Author of "no Escape".

 

As part of “The Drakest Corner” series at the Abbey Theatre, you can meet the makers of “No Escape” at a talk at the Abbey on Thursday 15th April. Tickets 3 Euro. Contact Abbey box office. www.abbeytheatre.ie

Meet the makers of "No Escape" at the Abbey Theatre

 

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