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Rhythm, not speed, is key when it comes to a good dramatic row



Date Published: 24-May-2012

 WHEN it comes to preparing actors for fighting on stage Malcolm Ranson has a tip for nudging them in the right direction.

“It’s not about speed,” he says. “It’s about rhythm and intention. Ask my wife!”

And having worked as fight director for over 50 productions in top English theatre companies, including the Royal Shakespeare Company, not to mention on Broadway shows such as Cyrano the Musical, Les Liaisons Dangereuses and Les Miserables, Malcolm’s advice is working!

Now UK based Malcolm is in Galway working as Fight Director with Druid on their forthcoming production of DruidMurphy.

This project sees the company performing three of the Tuam writer’s finest plays – Conversations on a Homecoming, A Whistle in the Dark and Famine.

Malcolm, who’s working on A Whistle in the Dark and Famine, can thank his mother for his unusual career.

“I learned to fence from the age of 12 or 13 and my slightly upwardly mobile mother didn’t want me to go down the steel mines like my dad,” he explains. Malcolm was involved in acting by the time he left school and pursued this in college, where he studied Music and Drama, doing a diploma to become a teacher. Although he quickly realised teaching wasn’t for him, he finished it and taught for a few years.

After his mother died, he decided to follow his dream of working in theatre, sending CVs to companies all over England.

Eventually he got a job in Sheffield as an Acting Assistant Stage Manager, which involved being a Jack of all trades. You could be moving props one minute and acting in a piece the next. Because Malcolm knew “which end of a sword to hold” he was asked to choreograph some fight scenes and eventually ended up at the National Theatre doing that job.

His acting background helps him in his work as a Fight Director, because he realises the importance of understanding the characters in a play and how actors interpret those characters.

Generally fights have to be character driven and situation driven, he explains on a break from working on Famine at the Town Hall Theatre.

There is mayhem on stage, as the community in Famine turn against central character, John Connor who had been their traditional leader.

After the fighting scenes, Malcolm gives notes to the actors and has a brief discussion with the project’s Director, Garry Hynes.

He compares his role to being like a detective’s in that he has to read a play, then analyse what a director wants and how the actors portray the various characters. There’s always room for interpretation and just because a fight is written into a play in a certain way doesn’t mean that it always has to be performed in that way.

“It’s a question of finding the right fight for the right production. It depends on the actors and director.”

For more see this week’s Tribune.

Galway in Days Gone By

The way we were – Protecting archives of our past



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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Archive News

Real Galway flavour to intermediate club hurling battle in Birr



Date Published: 23-Jan-2013


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Archive News

Athenry fail to take chances as they bow out of Junior Cup



Date Published: 29-Jan-2013

Athenry FC 1

Kilbarrack United 2

(After extra time)

For the second year in succession Athenry were done in extra time in the FAI Junior Cup as last season’s beaten finalist’s came from behind to snatch an excellent game in Moanbawn on Sunday afternoon.

On a heavy pitch that was only playable following extensive groundwork by club officials all morning, the home side were by far the better side in the opening half, but failed to take advantage of a number of opportunities that came their way.

An Alan O’Donovan penalty gave them a merited advantage just after the restart, but thereafter were on the back foot as Kilbarrack took over, but for all their pressing, the home rearguard were dealing comfortably with their forays.

However they were struck a body blow just six minutes from time, as big striker Keith Kirwan was left all alone at the far post to head the equaliser and from that point on the Dubliners were the better side.

They started off the extra time in the ascendancy and enjoying all the momentum before striking for a good winning goal on 104 minutes. A strong bench allowed them to make some necessary changes and it was not a facility that was available to Athenry manager Gabriel Glavin.

With Gary Forde and Gary Delaney out through suspension following their sending off against OLBC in the previous round, and Seamie Crowe injured, it left their bench rather threadbare with just a number of young squad players available.

Playing with the aid of the slight incline and any wind advantage going, the home side had a Connor Cannon effort on target in the opening minute, while John Meleady was just over with a flick at the other end.

Meleady then tested Andrew Walsh who saved comfortably, before the goalkeeper pulled off a brilliant double save on 14 minutes.

Firstly he went full length to push away a Meleady shot and was then back on his feet to parry David Jackson’s close-range rebound.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Sentinel.

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