As a theatrical designer in the 2014 Armagh project I have been toying with a few design ideas for the plays we are working on. I have also been toying with a few story ideas for a short play which will commence first, followed by a broad sketch of some initial thoughts about a few of the plays (worry not, I don’t give away major plot).
After visiting Navan just outside Armagh, N. Ireland today I had my first class here to do with the writing and design that we shall be doing. During that time we had a grand time making fools of ourselves and doing a free-writing exercise. From the free-write I had the following concept:
Navan is a historic site shrouded in mystery and I would encourage you to go or look it up for a bit more information than I give here. It seems to have been a ceremonial site upon which a building was erected, filled with a cairn of stones from near and far, then burnt very purposefully, all for reasons currently unknown.
To mix with that air just before we left for Navan I was in the community garden just behind the hostel talking to a wonderfully nice man who showed me around and gave me two fresh eggs from their hens. He talked of growing up with the sights of Armagh and no longer stopping to look at them.
With pen in hand I began roughing a storytelling play about this disconnect that is often felt when you become jaded with your home. The roughing evolved into a completely fictional discussion (possibly over coffe, tea or the trading of eggs) about the sad state of affairs when you can walk past beautiful history without even seeing it. The story they discuss goes like this:
There is a great kingdom ruled by a not so benevolent god-king (borrowed from Valhalla and other themes) who through a form of taxation on his people has treated himself and his advisers well in the world to luxurious prizes, such as an African ape, at the people’s expense. Near the end of his days and the transition into the next life the king ordered a great ceremonial mound to be built where he wished to be buried and given safe passage to the next life as a (lesser) godly figure. The people decided they had enough and plotted against him. What their plots amounted to was the destruction of the king’s soul (akin to the murder of a god given the divine nature of the king I envision). When the king died they finished filling the building with cairn stones from around the land to press upon his resting place and set fire to the building in a ceremony as the king’s soul began its journey into the underworld below. The act destroyed both soul and people as the universe was rent with the heresy. Yearly thereafter the people made pilgrimage to the site to make amends to the gods until their inevitable decline and destruction in but a few generations from curses.
Another idea for a story:
Merging a poem I wrote a few years ago with a local story about a young couple on opposite sides of the Catholic-Protestant debate, somewhat like Romeo and Juliet but with more sense?
The Shadow of a Gunman By Sean O’Casey: A tragedy about choice, the decision of what to die for and false images in the violent world of 1920s Ireland. I would like to play with the weight of the character’s choices and how oblivious to them they appear to be. I find the title interesting since it specifies one shadow that I see as a myriad of ghost, fake, umbra and hollow husk that is only a poor, blurry representation of the thing, not the real one.
The Beauty Queen of Leenane By Martin McDonagh: A fascinating play about familial connections and their destruction, isolation, abuse and the power of viewpoint in defining what is reality. I see this play through the eyes of Maureen and Maureen only, a stylized perception greatly skewed by her dislike of her mother as well as her own mental instability. I was struck by images from Dante’s Inferno whilst reading this play and feel that stylizing the world as Maureen’s own personal hell would be quite fun, and interesting, to design .
The History of the Troubles (accordin’ to my Da) by Martin Lynch: More or less a farse that shows a myriad of perceptions of the troubles by following one character and their interactions with other members of his town as well as two, ethereal figures. Really what struck me about this play is that I immediately saw it in a bar either after a celebration or a funeral for Gerry, told by close friends or even sons. I am not entirely sure where this perception came from and it may not inform later choices much but it was quite vivid. I prefer the bar scene.
Dancing at Lughnasa by Brian Friel: I am not sure why I was on a funeral kick the day I read History and Lughnasa but again, the first thing that struck me when reading this play was a funeral. The reminiscent memory play style of this play I feel would fit that scenario well.
The Playboy of the Western World by J.M. Synge: Honestly this play has not struck me yet, though I am sure that it will come. I have found the script engaging and enjoyable, however, since I read it on a plane trip lasting 40 hours with delays, I shall put it down as the one and only symptom of jetlag I have that I do not remember it terribly well. I am sure a second read will put my mind in the right state to design.