“I have squandered the years the Lord God gave to my youth
In attempting impossible things, deeming them alone worth the toil”
– “The Fool” by Pádraig Pearse
For this second session of the Belltable:Connect programme in conjunction with Fishamble: The New Play Company, the early focus was placed on Beckett’s seminal text, Not I, as well as Theatre Lovett’s recent production of A Feast of Bones, two plays chosen by Rebecca Feely and Mollie Molumby as their respective favourite theatrical texts. Rebecca spoke passionately about Not I as a text and its place within Beckett’s body of work, nestling itself within his trope of dehumanizing the human body and consciousness in an attempt to excavate the essential experience of what it is to “exist”. Mollie prefaced A Feast for Bones by speaking on another of her favourite plays, Every Brilliant Thing by Duncan Macmillan, and how the author so effectively speaks about issues surrounding mental health within the context of family theatre. This led on to the discussion of Theatre Lovett’s production and how the company creates dynamic, absorbing and challenging works for audiences of all ages and how this ability to communicate across age and experience gaps highlights the strength of the company’s work and the themes it engages with. The discussion of both works was characterized by sincere passion, both speakers eager to share what makes these plays and production so pertinent to them and their development as directors. Mollie concluded speaking about TYA (Theatre for Young Audiences) in highlighting its lack of funding in Ireland and widened the discussion to ask the group if they thought there were any other areas of theatre which were underfunded in Ireland.
This question was met with flitting eyes and wry smiles until the common consensus was shouted simultaneously: “ALL OF IT!”.
Although we all laughed and acknowledged the hardship of funding our work in theatre, the mention of it in the room was quite palpable – a sense of worry trickled in. Funding was raised further in the director’s roundtable on current projects in development, and it struck me how quickly the passion of speaking about theatre in the first half of the session was tempered by discussions of money and funding.
I quote Pádraig Pearse above for this very reason. The quote shows how the work of art and theatre is what we do it for, not for financial gain or recognition, and allowing money to constrain our ideas in contradictory to our work. Theatre and the arts are not a means, they are the end. The Fool is featured in an upcoming production I am directing and acting in with the Arts in Action programme in NUIG this month. The production is called Love, Loss, Freedom and it gathers together poetry from 1916 as well as music of the era to reflect the ideas of the Rising and to articulate what gave rise to it in the first place. Being surrounded by these revolutionary ideas has instilled me with a certain renewed faith in doing theatre and establishing a career in the arts. The ideas championed in war poetry of the era not only reflected the ideas of the time, it helped to bolster and strengthen them. Granted the outcome of those ideas was bloodshed and death, but it serves to show the strength of art and how its echoes resound enough to influence action. Although a necessary evil of working in theatre (and practically throughout life in general), money should not allow us to deny ourselves the chance to pursue what is we truly want to do.
And this is not an unrealistic world view, or a naive one. Or a “millenial” one for that matter. The idea that the arts exist beyond monetary value lead many to view it as superfluous – what good does it provide economically in a capitalist society? But what price could you possibly put on the idea of change? Granted, each and every piece of theatre may not have a wide reaching effect itself, but in the way similar shows with similar themes communicate with one another to begin to affect change, this is the real strength of theatre and the arts.
In doing the Belltable:Connect programme, we as directors and playwrights come together to share this passion for theatre and the arts and for a brief period get to consider the work itself without considering the extenuating circumstances of it. This is not to say we live in a lovely little theatrical bubble. Rather there is a safe space for us to share creativity and therefore bolster ourselves for when the time does come to seek funding. It allows for a renewed sense of faith in our ideas and in ourselves. These “impossible things” are indeed themselves, “worth the toil” and it’s great to have the opportunity to be reminded of that in being part of this programme.