Arts Week with Judy Murphy
“It’s an intense play, but it’s enjoyable because of that,” says actress Rachel O’Byrne of Marina Carr’s drama The Mai. Rachel plays Millie in this moving work, set in the midlands that centres on four generations of one family of ‘proud mad women’ and how events from the past leave an indelible legacy on the future.
The Mai of the title is a formidable 40-year old woman who has always aimed to live an exceptional life, but is devastated when husband Robert, a musician, abandoned her and their family after 17 years of marriage. She builds a dream house in the hope that he will return and, as the play opens, that’s what happens. But this is not a happy-ever-after scenario.
Mai’s and Robert’s troubled reunion is observed and influenced by memorable family characters who span the generations. Towering over them is the acidic, irreverent matriarch, Grandma Fraochlán whose “ancient and fantastical memory”, is a reminder of how the past looms over the present.
The Mai premiered on the Peacock stage of the Abbey Theatre in 1994 and this revival by Galway company Decadent is being directed by Andrew Flynn. It’s being performed at the City’s Town Hall Theatre from this Thursday, October 4, to Saturday, October 6, as part of an Irish tour.
Millie, the Mai’s daughter and the narrator of the piece, is onstage throughout, “watching and listening to all of them”, Rachel explains.
“All of them” include Grandma (Stella McCusker), physically frail but with a savagely acerbic tongue, as well as her daughters, Agnes and Julie, played by Joan Sheehy and Marion O’Dwyer. And there’s the Mai, played by Derbhle Crotty. This strong woman, a mother and schoolteacher schoolteacher, is left humiliated by her husband’s infidelity.
Director Andrew Flynn and the cast decided early in the rehearsal process that Rachel would be onstage all through and, from the start, she attended all the rehearsals so that the other actors – six women and one man – would get used to her presence.
“And it was also for me,” Dublin-born Rachel explains, “so I could learn, as a company, how we were presenting this play and telling the story.”
For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.
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Connacht Tribune tributes to loved ones
These past few months have seen so many communities left to silently mourn family members and friends, whose funerals they would have attended in such numbers, were it not for the current Covid-19 restrictions.
But those that are gone have not been, and will not be, forgotten – which is why we want to open the pages of the Connacht Tribune to you to tell their stories.
If you’ve lost a loved one, whether to Covid-19 or not, or if your community or organization or sports club is mourning the death of a valued member and friend, you can email us your tribute and we will publish it in our papers.
All you have to do it to click on the above link, and it will take you to a short set of questions which you can fill in – and then add whatever you feel tells the story of the life of your friend, family member or colleague.
You can email that with a photograph to us, to firstname.lastname@example.org or you can post it to ‘Obituaries’, Connacht Tribune, 21 Liosban Business Park – and please enclose a contact number in case we have any queries.
We sympathise with anyone who has lost a loved one at this awful time, particularly given that so many people were unable to mourn with them and their family in person – and we hope that this will help in some small way to show those family members that we are all united in grief, even from a distance.
This is an additional feature we are providing alongside our long-established weekly Family Notices section where loved ones are remembered immediately by Months Mind Notices and annual anniversary remembrances. You can contact our team for further details at email@example.com
Alison’s Euro Award for Covid information project
The Galway-established online course providing information about coronavirus in more than 70 languages – reaching over 350,000 people worldwide – is among 23 projects from the EU and the UK recognised for their outstanding contribution to fighting COVID-19 and its disastrous consequences.
The European Economic and Social Committee has awarded the Civil Solidarity Prize to the Irish learning platform Alison – founded by social entrepreneur Mike Feerick and based in Loughrea – for its free online course which was developed and published at the very start of the pandemic to educate as many people as possible about the virus, its spread and its effects.
The EESC, an advisory body representing Europe’s civil society at the EU level, selected the learning platform Alison as the best Irish candidate for the Prize, saying that its project “Coronavirus: What you need to know” stood out as a shining example of solidarity and civic responsibility during the COVID-19 crisis.
The online course was launched in February 2020 when the knowledge about the virus was still very scarce and the governments were still struggling with how to respond to the looming crisis.
With its training programme, based on WHO and CDC guidelines and continuously updated to include the latest information, the Irish platform has given people free access to potentially life-saving knowledge.
Translated in less than four months into more than 70 languages, with the help of 5,000 volunteers many of whom were immigrants, it had been completed by approximately 350,000 people as of September 2020. Some 100,000 people signed up for it in a single day.
See full story in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now – or you can download our digital edition from www/connachttribune.ie
Covid a whole different ball game for Galway camogie nurse
Galway camogie star Emma Helebert doesn’t shy away from a question about Covid-19 anti-vaxxers and their online conspiracy theories.
“Personally, since this pandemic has hit, I’m allergic to social media over the whole thing,” she says.
A midwife at University Hospital Galway, the 2019 All-Ireland winner agrees that vaccines involve personal choice.
But that choice should be informed by trusted sources of information, such as the HSE or NHS websites – and not random often nefarious and anonymous contributors on social media.
“There are more reliable sources of information than turning to places like Facebook or whatever online forums are talking about it,” she says.
“What’s scaring people more than the actual thought of the vaccines is these opinions that are being forced down people’s throats and they’re seeing it every time they go on Facebook and scrolling on social media.
“My only advice to people who are scared is to do your own research. Go to the reliable sources of information and don’t believe what you see on Facebook.
“Unfortunately, there are people out there who create pages that are full of negativity or full of lies. It only takes one scary thought or piece of information you’ve heard to cling to you that’ll make you not want to get it,” she adds.
Read the full interview with Emma Helebert in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now – or you can download our digital edition from www.connachttribune.ie