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Angels and demons to the fore

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta

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Date Published: 21-Oct-2009

“Maybe this obsession with grotesque and violent behaviour is really a deep-seated fear that my settled life will fall apart,” says playwright Mark O’Rowe whose award-winning, unsettling play Terminus comes to the Town Hall Theatre in early November.
The Abbey Theatre’s production of Terminus is also directed by Mark whose previous dark dramas include Howie the Rookie and Crestfall. He also wrote the successful blackly comic 2003 film Intermission which starred Colin Farrell, Colm Meaney and Cillian Murphy, and he penned the Channel 4 drama Boy A, about the attempted rehabilitation of a child murderer which won a BAFTA Award for actor Andrew Garfield.
Terminus, which won a Fringe First at last year’s Edinburgh Festival and which has just been staged in Australia, is described by the playwright as “a supernatural story which starts off fairly realistically”.
Written in rhyme, it features three different characters, known simply as A, B and C whose different stories are told via a series of intercutting and connecting monologues. After its realistic beginning, one story takes a supernatural turn and then the others follow suit, explains Mark.
That involves the characters (played by Andrea Irvine, Kate Brennan and Karlk Shiels) soaring up to the sky, angels coming to claim the dead, a singing serial killer, and a falling body being caught by a demon made of worms.
“I hadn’t done that sort of fantastical story before,” says Mark explaining the origins of Terminus. “I had started a story and a character fell of a train, but I liked the character and didn’t want to kill him off and didn’t want to cut what I had written up until then.”
Taking an otherworldly path has its advantages, says Mark as “it frees you up”.
Mark is a writer who has never been afraid of a challenge. In fact, he began writing because he wanted to improve his life.
“I was in dead end jobs. I hadn’t been to college and I wanted to write something to make money.”
Although he wasn’t particularly a fan of theatre up until that point, he felt writing for stage was his best route.
“I figured a novel was way too many pages, way too many words. When it came to a movie, the odds against getting something produced were astronomical and still are. So, a play was the most likely format to get produced.”
And while he didn’t have a grounding in theatre, “in my teens and early 20s I was particularly into movies and also literature and voracious in that way. So the film gave me the drama and I had the literary skills from the novels”.
Having chosen his format, Mark started reading plays and going to the theatre to learn about the process. Then he was asked to write a play for Dublin Youth Theatre and got paid to do it. He had found his role in life.
Since then his work has included Howie the Rookie, an urban world of no-hopers and chancers, when the hero of one monologue becomes the victim of the next. And there was Crestfall, which premiered at the Gate, directed by Garry Hynes and featuring Marie Mullen. A play which focused on violence against women also gained a certain notoriety for a scene between a prostitute and a dog.
Mark is aware that his subject matter can offend people, but that doesn’t influence his approach to writing.
“You sit down with a pen and paper and that’s what comes out. You don’t write something to upset people or create controversy. You might realise when you have something written that it will offend people, but those are the kinds of subjects I’m interested in.
“I’m just telling a story but maybe there’s an idea that comes out subconsciously. I never have a message or a moral, the shape of a play would never be closed off in that way.”
And while he accepts that, in life, there are opportunities for good things to happen as well as bad, “unfortunately, in drama good stuff doesn’t make for good drama”.
He continues to write both theatre and film, and his latest movie, Perrier Bounty with Cillian Murphy, Brendan Gleeson and Jim Broadbent is due on general release shortly.
However, theatre is where Mark’s heart lies.
“I got into films to pay the bills basically but playwriting is the vocation. With film there’s so much compromise and you have to accept that going into it. With theatre, it’s pretty much what you write.”
And his control over Terminus has been even greater, as he directed it himself. The play has been well received at home and abroad and he feels that seeing the project through from beginning to end makes sense for him,
“It wasn’t that I’d been unhappy with directors previously, but as a writer you are sitting in the rehearsal room with the actors and director and you don’t really have a say . . . and you don’t get paid . . . I just wanted a piece of the action!”
Mark agrees that there may be pitfalls for a writer who directs his own work, saying “you have to get past the idea of your text being sacred and literally become a director who is directing somebody else’s play. You just hand it over to actors and guide them. Don’t be too controlling and instinctively they’ll give you something much better”.
“I’ll direct anything else I write,” he says, but adds that maybe it’s not a good idea to be so definite about such things. One thing he is definite about is that he has no interest in directing anybody else’s work.
“For me it’s a way of seeing your work through to the end. You take the responsibility for it. But while it’s a responsibility, it also brings a freedom because it’s all on you own head.”
Terminus will be staged at The Town Hall Theatre from Wednesday, November 4 to Saturday, November 7. Tickets cost € 18 on opening night, otherwise, €22.50 and €20. Booking at tht.ie or 091-569777.

Galway in Days Gone By

The way we were – Protecting archives of our past

Judy Murphy

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A photo of Galway city centre from the county council's archives

People’s living conditions less than 100 years ago were frightening. We have come a long way. We talk about water charges today, but back then the local District Councils were erecting pumps for local communities and the lovely town of Mountbellew, according to Council minutes, had open sewers,” says Galway County Council archivist Patria McWalter.

Patria believes we “need to take pride in our history, and we should take the same pride in our historical records as we do in our built heritage”. When you see the wealth of material in her care, this belief makes sense.

She is in charge of caring for the rich collection of administrative records owned by Galway County Council and says “these records are as much part of our history as the Rock of Cashel is. They document our lives and our ancestors’ lives. And nobody can plan for the future unless you learn from the past, what worked and what didn’t”.

Archivists and librarians are often unfairly regarded as being dry, academic types, but that’s certainly not true of Patria. Her enthusiasm is infectious as she turns the pages of several minute books from Galway’s Rural District Councils, all of them at least 100 years old.

Part of her role involved cataloguing all the records of the Councils – Ballinasloe, Clifden, Galway, Gort, Loughrea, Mountbellew, Portumna and Tuam. These records mostly consisted of minutes of various meetings.

When she was cataloguing them she realised their worth to local historians and researchers, so she decided to compile a guide to their content. The result is For the Record: The Archives of Galway’s Rural District Councils, which will be a valuable asset to anybody with an interest in history.

Many representatives on these Councils were local personalities and several were arrested during the political upheaval of the era, she explains.

And, ushering in a new era in history, women were allowed to sit on these Rural District Councils – at the time they were not allowed to sit on County Councils.

All of this information is included in Patria’s introductory essay to the attractively produced A4 size guide, which gives a glimpse into how these Rural Councils operated and the way political thinking changed in Ireland during a short 26-year period. In the early 1900s, these Councils supported Home Rule, but by 1920, they were calling for full independence and refusing to recognise the British administration.

“I love the tone,” says Patria of the minutes from meetings. “The language was very emotive.”

That was certainly true of the Gort Rural District Council. At a meeting in 1907, following riots in Dublin at the premiere of JM Synge’s play, The Playboy of the Western World the councillors’ response was vehement. They recorded their decision to “protest most emphatically against the libellous comedy, The Playboy of the Western World, that was belched forth during the past week in the Abbey Theatre, Dublin, under the fostering care of Lady Gregory and Mr Yeats. We congratulate the good people of Dublin in howling down the gross buffoonery and immoral suggestions that are scattered throughout this scandalous performance.

 

For more from the archives see this week’s Tribunes here

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Moment of truth for Galway U21s

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta

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Date Published: 01-May-2013

 Dara Bradley

FOUR matches, four victories, one after extra-time, a Connacht title, four goals and 56 points scored, four goals and 30 points conceded, a heap of wides from their opponents, sinews strained, buckets of sweat and blood spilled.

It’s been one hell of a roller coaster campaign for the Galway U21 footballers but all that will be forgotten come 7pm on Saturday evening at the Gaelic Grounds, Limerick when they cross swords with Cork for the honour of being crowned Cadbury’s All-Ireland champions.

Six weeks ago as Galway set out on their 2013 U21 journey against Sligo in Tuam, the May Bank Holiday weekend final was always the target. They took each game as it came and now it has come down to this – 60 minutes of football to decide who the best U21 team in the land is.

And while there were times along the way when Alan Flynn’s charges looked like they’d fall off the wagon, against Mayo, against Roscommon and again against Kildare, Galway showed resilience and mental strength to time and again bounce back and defy the odds. Often down, never out. It is that perseverance that will stand to Galway in the heat of battle this weekend.

Cork has won an All-Ireland at this grade more times than any other county since the competition’s inception in the 1960s. The most recent of their 11 titles was won in 2009, and they’ve claimed a three-in-a-row of Munster titles with a defeat of Tipperary last month.

Interestingly, five players – Alan Cronin, Jamie Wall, John O’Rourke, Tom Clancy and Damien Cahalene, the son of former inter-county player Niall – that are expected to start this Saturday lined out in each of the last three Munster finals, so they have experience of playing in the pressure cauldrons.

Galway aren’t as experienced. True, a couple of players already have a All-Ireland medal from 2011 – a year Galway beat Cork in the semi-final – but there are a lot of young guns in the panel. Of the squad of 33, about 19 of them are young enough to play U21 next year as well, while eight or nine of the starting 15 will be eligible next year, although you wouldn’t think it given the levelheadedness they’ve displayed throughout the past six weeks.

Galway had plenty to spare over a hapless Sligo outfit in Tuam the first day out, winning by 16 points, which didn’t flatter them, but old rivals Mayo in the following game at the same venue was a different story. After a tense and tight hour of fare, Galway took the spoils after showing immense character to dig it out by two points in a dogfight, 0-9 to 0-7.

Fighting qualities were needed again in the Connacht final in Hyde Park against Roscommon – Galway were minutes from being knocked out of the championship when a heroic comeback, three points in as many minutes from Kilkerrin/Clonberne’s Shane Walsh, rescued extra-time, a period which Galway never looked like losing.

The Tribesmen took their chances when they presented themselves, a trait that also saw them knock-out Kieran McGeeney’s highly rated and much fancied Kildare outfit in a thriller at Tullamore a fortnight ago.

The Lilywhites were wasteful, true, but that’s their problem, and Galway just had too much natural footballing class to take their chances and emerge with a deserved five points, 2-10 to 2-5 victory, despite 19 wides from the vanquished.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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GalwayÕs U-13 and U-16 sides both through to national finals

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta

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Date Published: 14-May-2013

Mike Rafferty

It proved to be a very successful weekend for Galway Schoolboy soccer as two representative sides qualified for national finals at the end of the month.

It was drama all the way in Eamonn Deacy Park on Saturday afternoon as the U-13 side drew 1-1 with the Midlands League, but came through the dreaded penalty shootout to prevail by 5-4.

 

Meanwhile the U-16 side had to travel to Cork, where they emerged 2-1 winners following a very impressive performance. For the second game in succession, it was the goals of the Connolly brothers that proved crucial to both team’s success.

Andrew lines out with the U-16 side and he notched both their scores in terrific away win, while younger brother Aaron was on target for the U-13 side and also converted the winning spot kick.

Mervue United captured a third consecutive Connacht Youth Cup with an impressive 4-1 win over Castlebar Celtic in Milebush on Saturday.

SFAI U-13 INTER LEAGUE SEMI FINAL

Galway League 1

Midlands League 1

(AET-Galway won 5-4 on pens)

A low scoring contest might indicate few chances, but one has to credit two outstanding defences whose splendid covering and marshalling of the front men was a joy to watch.

Galway’s Oisin McDonagh and Adam Rooney never put a foot wrong in central defence, while full-backs Byron Lydon and Matthew Tierney were equally efficient in defence, and getting forward with regular forays.

Further afield, they matched the visitors in terms of intensity and creativity and in the second half in particular should have pulled away from a Midlands side that won the U-12 national title last year.

The visitors certainly offered the greater attacking threat in the opening half, but found home custodian Mark Greaney in top form. Galway’s best chance fell to Joshua Quinlivan, but he pulled an effort wide of the target.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Sentinel.

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