First Fortnight gets bigger, better and broader in its reach every year. This January 2019, First Fortnight hosted their very own European Mental Health Art And Culture Festival. There was everything from theatre, street art, walks and music in venues across the country from Donegal to Tallaght, from Limerick to Waterford.
LGBT lives were implicit in many of the stories told, and explorations of masculinity in particular were definitely hot on the agenda this year.
Here are some of the queerer First Fortnight pieces we had a nose at!
Blue Devils (Smock Alley) is a work-in-progress piece that will become a larger theatre production down the line. It explored the imagined moments in the lives of four of Tennessee Williams’ heroines- women who refused to submit to the expectations of society and were treated as “mentally unstable”; women who, like Williams himself, were stigmatised for their conflictual relationship with their own sexuality.
Williams, despite not coming to terms with his own homosexuality until his late 20’s, famously queered Broadway. He was devoted to two things in his life; his writing and his sister Rose, who underwent a prefrontal lobotomy in 1943. Williams paid for her upkeep and care until he died. He blamed his mother for allowing this lobotomy to happen while he too stood by and remained resigned to her fate.
This is an engaging and compelling piece. Stella Godmet, the deviser and performer is by turns agitated and frenetic and absorbing to watch on stage. Watch out for what comes next with Blue Devils.
Last Night A DJ Saved My Life (Rua Red, Tallaght) was an interactive symposium concerned with ‘Men, Movement and Mental Health’ curated by Cathy Coughlan and Ailish Claffey.
The exciting event was full of live dance performances, film and talks from artists who have made work with, for, or about, communities of men.
Body of Work (Philippa Donnellan in collaboration with Lee Clayden)
I caught up with Philippa, the choreographer, and Richie Keane, one of the dancers, after their interactive performance which explores the impact of work and labour practices on the body and mind.
The men’s piece of this dance project portrays three labourers on a building site. In devising, Philippa spoke about the hierarchies amongst builders that can evolve on the site; age, sexuality, masculinity: “I asked them, ‘Is being gay acknowledged on a building site?’ There was a silence. It isn’t. That’s where the idea of the pink Hi-Viz vest came from.”
Richie explains, “there is a caste system on the site so (in our piece) the pink vest can mean a particular social class, being a newbie or being gay, like me.”
Womb (Outlandish Theatre) had a six night run in the Project Arts Centre as part of First Fortnight. Outlandish are theatre makers, Maud Hendricks and Bernie O’Reilly. I spoke with Maud about their next piece Smile which explores intergenerational conversations about identity formation.
“If you can’t express yourself or be yourself in the system that you live in, you lose your smile,” says Maud, and each generation faces different challenges (and supports) from the system that forms and hinders healthy identity formation.
OT work collaboratively with a large group of professional and local community performers to facilitate an inclusive, intersectional communal safe place to explore the issues and ideas that matter in our lives. They are always open to and excited by new people joining their weekly community workshops.
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