Art Is Alive in Connemara
The Curlew Theatre Company
By Sean and Ros Coyne | Photography by Aoife Herriott
The west of Ireland is home not only to beautiful landscapes and a storied history but also to a rich and vibrant arts culture. When it comes to musical, visual, or literary art, the people of Connemara take pride in their work and strive to maintain quality art and performances for themselves and for their audiences. One organisation keeping the art of theatre alive in Connemara is the Curlew Theatre Company, founded in 2009 by Eamon Grennan, Tegolin Knowland, and Sean Coyne.
Curlew Theatre Company, based in Renvyle, County Galway, reaches out to local audiences and those from around the world, performing six ‘plays for voices’ devised, written, and directed by Eamon Grennan. Each play takes a crucial element in Irish history and explores it in depth.
The aim of the company is to produce performance pieces that rely almost solely on text and voice. Each year, the Curlew Theatre Company has produced a new play using only two actors (playing many voices), a minimum of props, and not much stage ‘business’. These dramatic pieces explore their chosen subjects in an immediate way, seeking to provide a close, intimate relationship between players and the audience. By so doing, the issues (big, small, historical, political, or personal) gain a recognisable human face and, most important—in the constant flow of talk, of language—an intensely human sound, making them very accessible to the audience.
The adaptation of John Millington Synge’s Aran Islands offers the audience a glimpse of island life. The piece on the Great Famine, Hunger, uses documentary evidence to give audiences a dramatic feel for what has been such a silent and traumatic element in Ireland’s history. Emigration Road explores a number of iconic elements in the great wave of emigration from Ireland to the United States as well as that wave’s presence as an aspect of contemporary Irish life. Ferry features five strangers, played by two voices, revealing fragments of their lives now left behind them, forming a collage of meditations on life, death, and memory. Between short exchanges and longer soliloquies, we get to know a little about these different, wounded lives. The Muse and Mister Yeats presents, one by one, the various women with whom W. B. Yeats was romantically involved, sketching a portrait of Yeats in love. The Curlew’s newest play, NORAMOLLYANNALIVIALUCIA: The Muse and Mister Joyce, is a one-woman piece that depicts James Joyce’s wife as an older woman sharing her memories and snippets from the works of her husband.
The Curlew Theatre Company completed a very successful tour of the East Coast of the United States, where performances were given at the following: University of Connecticut (Storrs campus), Trinity College, and Ireland’s Great Hunger Museum at Quinnipiac University in Connecticut; Framingham State University in Massachusetts; SUNY Geneseo, Le Moyne College, and the American Irish Historical Society in New York; Villanova University in Pennsylvania; and the Catholic University of America in Washington, DC. This was their third tour of the United States; the previous two included parts of the Midwest and the East Coast.
Last year, the company performed at the Universities of Stuttgart and Munich, and there are hopes for a 2016 tour that will take them to Chicago and surrounding areas. The Curlew Theatre Company was especially pleased to be invited to give a special performance of The Muse and Mister Yeats at Lissadell House in County Sligo for the Great Yeats Birthday Party on 13 June this year.
To learn more or to see a schedule of events, visit www.curlewtheatre.com.