Knitting the hook as Brú stage exciting new show

James Riordan of Brú Theatre. 'People go through life and something happens and you have to learn how to cope.' PHOTO: JOE O'SHAUGHNESSY.
James Riordan of Brú Theatre. 'People go through life and something happens and you have to learn how to cope.' PHOTO: JOE O'SHAUGHNESSY.

Arts Week with Judy Murphy

Brú Theatre is one of the most exciting and imaginative companies to have emerged in Galway in recent years.  Its founder is James Riordan and on the day of our interview, he’s proclaiming his Galwayness loud and proud via a vivid blue sweatshirt which has ‘Loveen’ emblazoned across the front.

That sense of place is fundamental to James’s work with Brú, which he runs with his long-time friend and fellow theatre professional, Jill Murray.

“We’re inspired by the West of Ireland, by the language, landscape and folklore,” he says of the company’s philosophy. “We’re interested in theatre as an art form that’s live and raw and a collective experience.”

James becomes animated, almost poetic, as he explains that Brú is “about form, rhythm and imagination”.

If that sounds a bit abstract, the shows produced by Brú – which was established just over a year ago – are both accessible and beautiful.

They include Cleite, a site-specific piece which premiered at last May’s Galway Theatre Festival. Using masks, mime and sean-nós singing, Cleite, performed in Kate’s Claddagh Cottage, drew the audience into the world of a woman waiting for her fisherman husband to return home. This gorgeous piece was subsequently performed at Pearse’s Cottage in Rosmuc as part of the Baboró International Arts Festival for Children.

Brú followed Cleite with The Fisherwives’ Tale. This co-production with Galway 2020 last September was an ensemble masked show, based on the Claddagh fishmarkets of 100 years ago and was also site-specific.

James is currently working on their third show, Selvage, which will be performed in a more conventional theatre space. The piece, a fusion of words, movement, puppetry and music, will premiere at Druid’s Mick Lally Theatre next week, and then travel to Clifden’s Station House Theatre. It takes its title from knitting – the selvage or selvedge is a line of knitting that’s self-securing and prevents a garment from fraying.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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