Ciara Ní É and Eoin Mc Evoy, the cofounders of the queer Irish language arts collective AerachAiteachGaelach, are the writers, directors, and producers of Idir Mise as part of the Dublin Fringe Festival 2021.
They constructed the script using Alan’s testimony, as told to them in a series of interviews. In Idir Mise Agus Craiceann do Chluaise, listen to the voice of Alan Walpole, a gay Irish man, as he explores key life memories with heartfelt frankness.
In #IdirMise, each audience member is equipped with an MP3 soundscape and has a solo experience, listening to Alan’s voice as they physically follow the story through the venue. This promises to be an imaginative and sensory journey for the listener, as they are guided through the sites of various memories. The next audience member follows 5 minutes behind.
In this short clip the listener emigrates with Alan, and his voice guides them through the venue. The 80s synth-pop music is melded with a sean-nós piece performed by Aoife Ní Mhórdha.
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We knew the outline of Alan’s story from talking to him ourselves, but we needed the interviews to make sure we had our facts straight – places, names, dates, etc. We also asked him what he remembers as the smell of 1980’s Ireland; what exactly the first item of ‘daring’ clothes he bought was; and what the gay bars in England sounded like – details that would help us design our set.
Once we knew Alan’s story, we started researching the general climate of the time. This meant everything from watching RTÉ’s Archives, pulling up old issues of GCN, and going on Tonie Walsh’s famous walking tour! It was all-consuming, at times depressing, but ultimately very rewarding. I had a lot to learn about queer Irish history, and I understand Dublin in a whole new way now.
We knew from the start that Alan’s direct participation in the creation of the show was crucial. Rather than writing a traditional play and using an actor to portray Alan, we wanted to give Alan the chance to speak for himself. That’s how we ended up concocting this hybrid production. It’s intimate: just you and Alan, walking through the sites of his memories.
When it came to picking a venue, it made sense to use Club Chonradh na Gaeilge. It’s a hub for Irish language events, including REIC, Ciara’s bilingual spoken word night, and the Queercal Comhrá LGBTQ+ conversation circle, where we both first met Alan. When Alan returned to Ireland from England in 2018, he picked up the Irish language again, and he’s made incredible progress.
It makes sense that he would start learning Irish again – by all accounts, he was always very interested in Irish culture. But sadly, as a gay man, he felt he had no place here. That rejection followed him everywhere he went, and it’s something he is still working through. He tells us that he is enjoying the process, so parallel to the narrative within the production is the story of how the making #IdirMise is positively affecting him.
It’s something special to be handed the material of someone else’s life to work with, and we didn’t take it lightly. Eoin and I have been living in each other’s pockets all summer. At one point in July, I said slán to Eoin after a production meeting and he replied, totally deadpan, “Níl aon slán”! Agus an ceart ar fad aige, bhí mé á théacsáil cúpla nóiméad níos déanaí!
We’ve been joined at the hip – working and reworking the script together over early morning coffees and late-night pints, sleepovers, and sleepless nights. Neither of us has taken on a creative project on this scale before, and it’s been exhausting but exciting!
The project is very ambitious, which is how we ended up building seven different sets to represent Alan’s journey. We don’t have any set design experience as such, but we’ve received sage advice from the Fringe office and friends, as well as the generous help of members of our collective. Kevin Johnston is our Bainisteoir Tí, and when we take mad flights of fancy, he keeps our feet firmly on the ground. Several specially commissioned art pieces by Tadhg Ó Ciardha feature in the set, and the silky voice of soprano Aoife Ní Mhórdha is central to the soundscape.
Táimid fíor-fíor-bhuíoch freisin for the financial support we’ve received. We’ve been kindly supported by Oireachtas na Gaeilge, and donations from our incredible community – all of whose names will be in the program! I also received an Agility Award from the Arts Council during the summer which allowed me to focus more time on this. We’re running on a shoestring, and it all helps!
It’s been a dream of both of ours to have Idir Mise programmed in the Dublin Fringe and I am pinching myself that we get to bring a queer Irish language production to the festival. This minority is not something you see represented very often, agus tá sé an-ghar dár gcroí.
Alan’s identity as a queer Irish speaker runs through the veins of this production. It’s a powerful statement that Alan can return to Ireland after 30 years of exile, and within 3 years star in his own Irish language production, in Club Chonradh na Gaeilge, the beating heart of the Irish language in Dublin City. After all he has been through, he is still a gas ticket too! Is mór an onóir a scéal a roinnt libh.
Idir Mise agus Craiceann do Chluaise 24 – 26 September, 1-10pm daily at Club Chonradh na Gaeilge, as part of Dublin Fringe Festival 2021. Get your tickets here.
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