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Archive for the ‘Theatre’ Category


Is there one? Oh yes.

I am seizing on the fact that he is there, in our faces and our media, and will be there for the next four years. On the campaign trail, it was evident to me that personal popularity ranks very high with him, and he gets irritated very easily if people get under his oh-so-thin skin.

As a writer of riper years, I’ve been saddened for a long time by the lack of engagement of the arts worlds in the UK and Ireland with urgent, world-wide issues – climate change, the emergence and prevalence of harmful, hurtful, violent opinions, the damage done to our cultural lives, our humanity, by a succession of neoliberal governments, and, further back, the damage done to the NHS by its creeping privatisation under Labour, the destruction wrought on the fabric of British society by Margaret Thatcher, and the austerity choices made by increasingly right-wing governments in London and Dublin.

There have been some brave attempts which stand out because of their rarity – Ken Loach, whose writer Paul Laverty distilled his research for ‘I, Daniel Blake,’ into a screenplay so plausible it has the credible punch of a documentary, but whose uncompromising truths remain compartmentalised by the mainstream media as the ravings of a ‘lefty luvvie’. And at the National Theatre in London, this year I saw a verbatim theatre piece called ‘Another World’ about the radicalisation of young men in Britain.

In Ireland, ‘Hinterland’ by Sebastian Barry looked at party political corruption and the exigencies of political reality.

But who has written a play about Irish Water? About the mounting numbers who emigrate, as they did in the eighties? Who has written a play to tell our children honestly what the world is becoming?

The dancer and choreographer Catherine Young is the only creator I know of in Ireland who has recently given us a response to the political chaos our rulers helped to create. Her compelling dance piece, ‘Welcoming the Stranger’, was inspired by the stories of migrants and refugees from Gaza, Iraq, Syria, Africa – all whom have made Kerry their home. At The Everyman in Cork, Artistic Director Julie Kelleher has sought out women’s voices, from Carmel Winters ‘Witness’ to ‘Sisters of the Rising’.

Ireland’s great national theatres have been focused this year on the past glories of 1916, rather than looking at the present, or ahead to the chaos we are creating for future generations.

Writers! Musicians! Artists! Choreographers! We have a once in a lifetime chance to let our talents rip in the service of humanity. With wit, imagination, humour, words, gestures and music we can provide a robust alternative to the carping voices of bigotry, hatred, narrow-mindedness and paranoia. If the spectacle of Trump cannot inspire us to great satire, nothing will. If, out of the dystopia his world view will create we can weave a counter-narrative for our children and grandchildren, if we can restore dignity to our citizens who are disabled, old or poor, if we can keep our spirits buoyant and our eyes fixed on a goal which is not about wealth or power, but about a living planet fit for humans and all other species to enjoy, then our art will truly be serving the people.

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We live in poor times. There is poverty of vision and imagination from our rulers, poverty of spirit in responding to those who have been traumatised and terrified by war, and the numbing despair of financial poverty that makes every day an effort.

When I was asked to choose one of my plays for a rehearsed reading at the Everyman Theatre, Cork, the one called BURNING DREAMS struck me as uneasily apposite.

Dublin, 1941. Tenements. Hunger. Sickness. An idealistic young doctor wants to help everyone. Who is the ‘most deserving’ – a refugee girl, a tenement dweller, or an angry Trades Unionist. But how can he possibly choose, when there is not enough to go round?

What is most tragic is that the pitiful crumbs they were fighting over in 1941 are still all that is on offer to the poorest and most deprived in our society right now, seventy years later.

 

 

The play will be staged on 22nd March in the snug bar at the Everyman Palace Theatre, Cork. It starts at 8pm. Tickets €9.

It would be wonderful to see you there.

 

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‘Do you hear the people sing?
Singing the song of angry men?
It is the music of the people
Who will not be slaves again!’

To all of you with a drop of creative blood in their veins, writers, performers, community artists, actors, dancers, directors, singers, film-makers, visual artists – all of you who will be alive on December 10th to witness the dawn of a new democracy and to seize the day in a bloodless, peaceful revolution – I speak to you.
For years we have kept calm and carried on. We have paid our bills and their taxes, not to help us and our children, but to prop up a rotten system and keep our oppressors in the lavish lifestyles they think they are entitled to, as our elected representatives.
That gallant man who founded the Irish Labour Party, James Connolly, if he were alive today, where would he be now? At self-congratulatory banquets in Leinster House? Accepting another bonus, another pension? Driving past our placards in his official car (paid for with our money, of course), with panicky Gardai protecting him against the sight of us and our children being shoved aside as we ask only to be heard, to be treated with respect?
I don’t think so. I believe he would be with us, out on the streets, calling for justice – not in the narrow legal sense which our political masters decree is the only sense, but for the social, natural and humane justice we desperately seek, in a world that has lost its values. In an Ireland where law-abiding citizens have been forced to break a law that should never have been passed in the first place, (and passed with no proper debate), to charge us for our water, which their law now says is a marketable commodity, but which we know to be a right, without which we cannot live, is a crime.
James Connolly, the man who asked the question ‘Who owns the land?’ will be marching in solidarity and in spirit on December 10th, beside the Irish people for whose rights he fought and died.
What a shameful mockery of his vision today’s Labour Party has become, (a party I have always voted for, until now). A party many can no longer recognise as of the people or in any way for the people; a party who has in its shameful ranks a Senator, Lorraine Higgins, who describes this revolt by long-suffering, peaceful citizens as a ‘lawless utopia’. Her illiteracy, political and etymological, and the wilful ignorance she displays by that statement would be enough to make me despair, if people with her lack of vision and compassion were all we had to rely on.
I wish with a heart and a half that I could be in Dublin on 10th December. I am seriously ill, and physically unable to be there to sing our song of angry women and men, who will not be slaves again, together with the hundreds of thousands who are saying ‘Enough is enough’.
As a worker in the arts who has dedicated her life to giving a voice to those who are not listened to, may I urge all my professional colleagues, anyone who feels themself to be an artist of all and any kind to be there, to be part of the best theatre you will ever see in your lifetime?
Wear costume. Wear nothing!
Dance, sing and act your hearts out – make this revolution an artistic act of terrible beauty; make it yours. Don’t be audience, be actors.
Be there to witness the old betrayers of our trust faced with the inescapable truth; that they no longer represent anyone except themselves; that they serve only the interests of bankers, business and corporate greed.
Please be there, for me.

Frances Kay is a playwright and novelist who lived and worked in Ireland from 1990-2012. A serious health condition has resulted in her having to leave a country she dearly loves, but her pen and her passion are always at the disposal of the people, especially the children, of Ireland.
Her great-grandfather, Henry Kingston Kay, was Irish, and she is proud to know that Irish blood flows in her veins.

© Frances Kay 2014.

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Blog Hop: What Do I Write And Why?

June 2014

Kristin Gleeson has invited me to join her blog hop. I’m now a link in a chain of great minds, connected by our passion for writing  – and, even more important, reading.

Kristin is a writer of intensely felt, meticulously researched, wonderfully evoked historical literary fiction novels, spanning her own territories of Ireland, North America and Canada. I recommend Selkie Dreams  She’s also the world expert on the Canadian First Nation woman Anahareo, wrote the first biography of this extraordinary and troubled woman, Anahareo – a Wilderness Spirit, and this summer will be a keynote speaker at a conference on herself and her husband, known to thousands as ‘Grey Owl’, in fact an Englishman from Sussex called Archie.

We first met on an advanced novel writing course at the West Cork Literary Festival, run by the amazing Carlo Gébler, and we have remained friends ever since, beta-reading each other’s unpublished work, mutually being encouraging, and cheering on our publishing successes.  As well as writing, Kristin is also a gifted musician, singer and painter; if you are lucky enough to attend one of her book launches, you may see her playing the Irish harp.


What Do I write?

I write plays and novels. Drama is in my blood, on both sides of the family – my Dad was the best theatre carpenter in the business, my mother acted straight out of RADA with Laurence  Olivier – she was one of his daughters in ‘Oedipus’,. My father’s parents and grandparents ran ‘fit-up’ travelling companies; musical theatre was my grandmother’s field and she was one of the original ‘Tiller Girls’. So writing plays started early [I was five when my brother and I performed ‘Clever Fox’, a two hander, to an audience of kind parents and neighbours].

I write plays for children, mostly in Ireland, but have written puppet shows and TV dramas in the UK as well. Adult novels are where I let my shadow side out to play. Children deserve optimism and hope, but my novels pull no punches. I write with passion and from a perspective of people in our society many would rather not know about, about events and feelings we’d like to pretend don’t exist. My latest novel, Dollywagglers, published by Tenebrisbooks,is a dystopia set in England, after a flu pandemic has decimated the world’s population. I love reading dystopias, from ‘1984’  and ‘The Road’ to ‘The Hunger Games’, but I didn’t want an atmosphere of despair and gloom, so I made my central character a puppeteer with a wonky sense of humour.

My first novel, Micka, published by Picador in 2010, was a sad and brutal story, told in the voices of two ten year old boys. Neither of these books pleased a mass audience, but I feel joyful and privileged to be speaking to adults and children in a way that, I hope and trust, enters their heads and hearts in a truly reflective and gripping way.

What am I writing now?
I’m at work now on the sequel to ‘Dollywagglers’, a story with utopian threads mixed in with the darkness. Quite a challenge to write with the same black humour and not be too predictably liberal and socially aware as I construct a new society from the remnants of the old.

I’m also working on the second draft of a memoir, I suppose, it’s about fifty percent true and fifty percent made up, about a nine year old girl at boarding school in the 1950s. It’s far from being Hogwarts; it’s a place that tries to break her spirit and crush her imagination.

Two children’s plays I wrote last year had a great run in Ireland. Feast of Bones is set in 1918 Dublin, and loosely follows the fairy story of Henny Penny going to see the King. The sky fell on many heads during that war; it makes a powerful metaphor, and in some ways you can only tell the tales of war in metaphor, unless you were actually there.

The second play, which ran for three months earlier this year, was about an old man, alone with his radio and his memories, talking to an audience of 6 year olds and up. My challenge was to make his life, so removed from their experiences, into a story that they could connect with. A spider and a jackdaw helped, plus his tragic love of Gretel, a circus bareback rider. Mr. Foley – Radio Operator played all over Ireland this year., and will be at the Babaró Children’s Festival in Galway this September.

Why Do I Write?
It’s an addiction. If I don’t have a piece of work on the go, the sparkle goes out of my world. Three years studying English Literature at university dried up the flow of ink, partly because I was constantly deconstructing great writers and literature, and partly because that critical approach helped sharpen the teeth of my inner critic, so that I was too intimidated to create anything for about three years after I left. Maybe you share that experience? Sometimes, our formal education can be a serious handicap. Happily, the flow of thoughts came back and has never dried up since. I live an extremely eventful life, high with joy, elation and adrenalin, and low with massive bereavement at a young age, lack of money, and near despair at the awful start in life some children have. I worked on projects in Newcastle and Scotland with kids whom society forgot, and their resilience and cheerfulness was an inspiration to me when I started writing plays for them.

Tagging the next three:
Here are three more writers.  You can follow the chain onward or backward to see all the other writers in this blog hop. Happy Hopping!

Nichola Hunter,  blogging at http://nicholahunter.blogspot.ie

Nichola’s evocative novella, ‘Ramadan Sky’ about an Australian tourist having an uneasy, passionate romance with an Indonesian man, was one of the very first books to be talent-spotted and published on Kindle by Harper Collins after their editors  read her work uploaded to their ‘Authonomy’ site. Find herbook on Amazon UK at: Ramadan Sky

Anyone who writes is welcome to join ‘Authonomy’, and if your novel gets voted to the top five by the reading community, it will be professionally read, and may lead to publication. You also have the benefit of other writers’ good critiques of your work, which, in my case, led to beneficial rewrites.

Neil Randall, blogging at http://narandall.blogspot.ie is a writer of dark and disturbing fiction, often with a Russian flavour. His most recently published work is The Holy Drinker; another novel set in Stalinist times is satirical, compelling and highly recommended by me; find it at: Amazon uk ‘The Butterfly and the Wheel’  – it will be published later this year.

Third in my list, but the most celebrated and consistently selling of all of us here, is Cathi Unsworth, the Queen of London Noir, as she was recently described by David Peace. Her novels expose the seedy underbelly of human desires and vices. Check out her website: http://www.cathiunsworth.co.uk and find her most recent book on Amazon UK at : Weirdo

Hope you’ve enjoyed my section of this hop. I welcome any comments! Thanks for reading.

 

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How some directors treat living playwrights

I’ve been a director, an actor, and a playwright. Sometimes, all three at once.

I’m happy to say I have never had this experience. I was shocked to read in this blog that some theatre directors think it’s okay to cut and paste the work of a living playwright without consultation or permission.

I love working collaboratively, love being in rehearsals and seeing how a great director can find things in my text that illuminate, develop and intensify the piece I have written.

I’m always open to hear from actors if they have a different, more authentic, or just plain better way of saying a line.

But for a director to take a play by a living playwright and carve it up – that is not acceptable.

What do you think?

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Why hell? Because no one wants to subscribe to the limitations they believe having political views would impose on their artistic freedom. But the truth is, politics, the word, is rooted in people. Politics is about how people behave, act, betray and rule each other.

The best theatre I have ever seen was uncomfortable to watch from a complacent, detached, ethereal viewpoint.

Theatre needs to get its hands dirty – as dirty as politics does, so greedily.

Two recent events illustrate how married politics and theatre are, whatever artists may say. A recent Irish government commission reported on the performance of Ireland’s national theatre, the Abbey, and found the majority of the productions it put on were of a poor, unsatisfactory and unprofessional standard. This, in a country that is crowded with passionate and brilliant playwrights and performers, some of whom cannot earn a living, and with a studio theatre, the Peacock, dark for some of the year.

Here is a thoughtful article by a previous Artistic Director, Gerry Hynes:

http://www.irishtimes.com/culture/fixing-the-abbey-where-next-for-the-national-theatre-1.1664388?page=3

The second item that is worth your attention is the stand taken by playwright Margaretta D’Arcy on the rendition flights through Shannon Airport – a situation the Irish government would like to pretend does not exist. When they asked her to shut up and stop annoying them, she refused. She is now in Limerick Prison. You can sign a petition to free her to the Irish Minister for Justice, Alan Shatter, here:

https://secure.avaaz.org/en/petition/Irish_minister_for_Justice_Alan_Shatter_Free_Margaretta_DArcy/sign/?aVzadab

https://secure.avaaz.org/en/petition/Irish_minister_for_Justice_Alan_Shatter_Free_Margaretta_DArcy/?pv=0

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Here is a rather long link…

http://www.irishexaminer.com/viewpoints/columnists/guest-columnist/a-portrait-of-the-artist-as-childish-reckless-and-dangerously-subversive-254532.html?fb_action_ids=10152147249239672&fb_action_types=og.recommends&fb_ref=.Us2RRr-dryo.like&fb_source=other_multiline&action_object_map=%5B707021905983589%5D&action_type_map=%5B”og.recommends”%5D&action_ref_map=%5B”.Us2RRr-dryo.like”%5D

The resignation of three members of the creative team working for LIMERICK CITY OF CULTURE has shone an unpleasant spotlight on the chasm between artists and the present government, who is entrusted with millions to pay out to us, lucky and grateful as we are supposed to be for any crumbs that come our way.

This article hits the nail on the head about the present climate in Ireland, a state we who write, compose or make art have known for years is heavily weighted in favour of bureaucrats  – the very fact that ‘the arts’ are lumped in with Sport and Tourism shows government thinking.

Two of the resigned team – Karl Wallace and Jo Mangan –  are friends, and I have certain knowledge of their  outstanding administrative competence, their visionary imaginations, and their passion for the arts. So my view is not balanced.

As the article says, the wonder is that we go on creating at all.

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