Little Acorns


Last month I went to Theatre Forum’s All-Ireland Performing Arts Conference (APAC) for the first time and it was brilliant. I left Sligo having done the seemingly impossible and become even more excited about my career choice and even more enthusiastic about the arts. The spark for this was the torrent of ideas and that flowed over the course of the two days. There were myriad inspiring and interesting talks from practitioners and people such as poetician Brigitta Jónsdóttir and Sir John Tusa and, just as importantly, there was constant conversation flowing around the venue, in the hotel and even travelling to and from Sligo. The conversation made its way onto Twitter and Facebook and just a few days ago podcasts of the talks were published on Theatre Forum’s website, giving anyone and everyone with access to the internet a chance to engage. (The podcasts are available here. Have a listen to some of the fantastic speakers, and keep an ear out for yours truly!)

This sort of sharing of thoughts, opinions and ideas is invaluably important in the arts. All too often ideas are kept in little locked drawers until they are perfected, until the finished product has been completed, and I think this needs to change. I’m as guilty of hiding away some piece of work that I may love but can’t entrust to anyone else until it is finished. But it never is. Art is always evolving and changing. Take a show for example; does it stay exactly the same for every night of the run? Of course not; the performers and crew change it slightly each night whether consciously or unconsciously reacting to events and surroundings. A song will change with every performance, with every voice that sings it. A poem will never be read in exactly the same way by two different people. A painting will look different from every angle and in every kind of light. Just like this, an idea will never quite be the same for each person, and that is the beauty of it. As soon as you share an idea it begins to grow, it takes breath and energy from whoever sees it from a similar, but refreshingly different angle to yours.

So I say talk to someone about your grand idea. Read a friend that poem that you think is a bit rubbish. Tell your housemate what it is that you have been cooped up writing for the past three evenings, only emerging from your room to replenish biscuit supplies and refill your teapot. Release your idea into the world, like a kite soaring into the sky guided by the string in your hand.

As Goethe once wisely said:

“Daring ideas are like chessmen moved forward: they may be beaten, but they may start a winning game.”

Stories from the Front

Liberty Hall
First Fortnight Festival


Based on Boal’s Forum Theatre method, “Stories from the Front,” one of the final events of First Fortnight, weaved together recorded narrative, onstage performance and audience discussion about the topic of mental health to create an evening of powerful theatre that informed the minds and emotions of the audience.

Boal developed Forum theatre as part of his concept of “The Theatre of The Oppressed.” In this form of theatre, the audience is free to stop the actors at any point in the production and alter the performance to make it better represent the situation (most often pertaining to a social or political issue) they are portraying. This idea came through Boal’s reasoning that an actor can only ever really perform their own ideas as even when they are supposedly performing the ideas of others; it is through a lens of their own subjectivities. This production did not follow the exact format of forum theatre but instead combined elements of it with its own particular style to create an individual, powerful piece of theatre.

The piece followed the stories of a number of people who have suffered with mental health issues and those who have cared for them. Each segment opened with recorded interviews which then informed the performances, which were carried out by the people interviewed. The fact that the people whose stories were being performed acted them was very effective. It meant that the performances were less polished; however, they were raw and honest portrayals of the people’s experiences. The experiences behind the stories lent a true passion and reality to the scenes that brought them to a new plane and heightened the audiences’ connection to the narratives.

Further engaging the audience, the opportunities provided to them to comment, make suggestions and share their thoughts made this show a truly moving and educating experience. New perspectives on mental illness and new ideas were uncovered at every turn, but the overriding thought behind this piece was that of the importance of empathy and human understanding.

This show was a valuable experience that taught me a lot. If it is ever repeated, I would highly recommend that anyone with any interest in theatre, social change, mental health issues, and essentially, helping other human beings, should see it.