Date Published: 31-May-2012
Galway’s newest theatre company, Thereisbear! is planning to bring play exploring witchcraft to Nuns Island Theatre in Galway City for two nights during August as part of a national tour.
The play the group has chosen for their first national tour is The Last Burning, based on the true story of Tipperary woman Bridget Cleary who was burned alive in 1895 because her husband suspected she was a witch. It was first staged in 1974 . Its author Patrick Galvin is also known for his memoir, Song for a Raggy Boy.
Thereisbear! is a young company with an average age of 21. It was formed by Hannah O’Reilly of Ballinasloe, to create “powerful, vibrant, exciting theatre and bring it to audiences around the country”, and its members are either students or graduates of NUIG and veterans of the University’s Drama Society. The show’s leads include Galway natives Darragh O’Brien as witch-doctor Blaney and Conor Burke as Bridget’s ill-fated husband, Michael.
Some of the cast were involved in the DramSoc production of The Last Burning when they represented NUI Galway at the Irish Student Drama Association (ISDA) festival last year.
“This time around we are going bigger, bolder, and better, and bringing the show to venues all around the country,” says Hannah.
Patrick Galvin died last year and Hannah is keen to raise awareness of one of the Ireland’s least known playwrights, in what she describes as a “culturally significant” play.
Since March, the fledgling theatre company has been raising finance for the tour through the www.fundit.ie website and, with nine days to go, is nearing their set target of €3,000.
“We are coming near the end of our fundraising project and thus far the response has been overwhelmingly wonderful,” says Hannah.
As well as staging the play at the Nun’s Island Theatre on August 5 and 6, the youthful actors intend to bring it to audiences in Cork, Listowel, Ballinasloe, Dublin, and Inishbofin during the month of August.
Further details about the show and tour are available at www.fundit.ie/project/the-last-burning-national-tour.
The way we were – Protecting archives of our past
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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Date Published: 24-Jan-2013
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Date Published: 30-Jan-2013