An imaginative theatre piece employed, music, poetry and song to give audiences in Ireland’s Gaeltachts a moving reflection on the history and future of Irish language and culture.
The collaborative work, “Aisling?”, transformed empty factory floors into art installations for a performance that allowed musicians, poets, writers, visual artists and composers to celebrate and reflect on Ireland’s Gaeltachts over the past century.
Celebrated Gaoth Dobhair artists played a big part in the production, with a cast that included singer and fiddle player Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh of Altan, fiddle player Ciarán Ó Maonaigh; writer and singer Eoghan Mac Giolla Bhríde; and artist Seán Cathal Ó Coileáin, who produced the visual projections.
The project began earlier this year, when Micheal Ó Fearraigh of Údarás na Gaeltachta asked director Darach Mac Con Iomaire if he would be interested in bringing together Gaeltacht-based artists to develop a work linked to 1916 centenary celebrations.
Darach said the 10 artists worked together to “come up with something that would challenge us all creatively and push us out of our comfort zone. Fair play to them – they all took the leap and we all took the leap together”.
After the group met in July to discuss the project, Darach developed the artists’ thoughts on the subject into a loose type of narrative. Each performer then brought their own work to the production, including new compositions and new writing.
“We were keen to keep it abstract and not make it literal,” Darach said. He said they hoped the show would, “awake an emotion, really, and get people to think”. He said about 85 per cent of the poetry, music and song in the programme was composed by the performers and not heard previously.
There were four broad movements within the piece: The aisling, or vision loosely based on the vision of 1916; the place of Gaeltacht regions and rural Ireland in the emerging Irish state; the coming together of communities to demand their civil rights; and the movement that puts the question mark in the title: Where are the Gaeltachts and culture now, and what will people do?
The commissioned event, a culmination of the Teanga Bheo strand of the Ireland 2016 Centenary Programme, “Aisling?” was presented by Ealain na Gaeltachta. The run concluded last week with two nights in a transformed empty floor at the Áislann Ghaoth Dobhair in the Gaoth Dobhair Business Park.
Music composed for the show evoked everything from the dreamy, otherworldly sense of aisling to the passions of the people. A stylized currach became something of a physical metaphor for language and culture, with performers joining it and taking it apart before the audience, who may have ultimate responsibility for its future. The spoken word employed performers and dialects from different Gaeltachts and revisited old Irish tales and poems, weaving them into a work with a very contemporary relevance.
“I don’t think something like this has been done before with all the Gaeltachts,” Eoghan said. “It was lovely to have the opportunity to work with people like that.”