Live Performance from the participants perspective

On the 23rd of February the group in Ireland took to the stage to perform their original play live. The original theme came from one of our participants experience of grief and loss related to his dear dad. For him, the loss of his dad was the beginning of his challenges with his mental health. The StaGe of Mind workshops provided the participant a safe space to name and explore this challenge.

Despite some initial trepidation, the group agreed to work with this theme. Building trust through working together, participants used image work and through movement and poses, together we identified the powerful and interesting representations of interconnected people grieving. It became clear to all; the play would take place around the great Irish tradition of ‘the wake’.  Irish wakes are a celebration of life, one last party, one last singsong and one last toast to honour the deceased. We believe our loved ones deserve a great love filled send off as we stroll down memory lane together, we laugh and cry as we reminisce about some of our favourite moments with the deceased. However, as we learned as the story emerged, even in death families can be complicated.

The group had the premise for a show, the responses to death from family members and friends, the dead person and the angel of death. Ideas emerged like, how well do we really know those around us, what do we hold in and not say to protect others and an exploration of the inner voice versus what we express externally. It was fertile ground for collaborative exploration.

The characters were improvised, drawn, road tested and amended as each participant made their own representations and interpretations. As time passed the characters evolved and so too did the story. We wrote and integrated poetry and added a music. As the characters progressed and the story grew legs, the connections between our cast members grew stronger and so too did our confidence. We were a group, a team, a cast and crew, friends, a community, peers, and in this performance of course, we were a family.

The stage was set with props from Irelands national theatre, the Abbey. Our stage was in the theatre of a building that was once the birthplace of one of our national heroes. We measured, walked and lit the stage. We took comfort that our two rehearsed readings had been well received but without doubt, the nerves were there on the day. The nerves flipped in our stomachs as we saw the queue building down the street and people turned away as all the space was full. We had to perform in front of all of these people, family, friends, our colleagues from other organisations and groups, representatives of state bodies and our classmates and our peers. We saw our own staff turned away from the door as the place was packed. Wouldn’t you be nervous too? However, through this process we were guided to acknowledge and accept our nerves and to reframe them as positive excitement, anticipation and an understanding that we were putting ourselves out there for something worthwhile. This was a risk worth taking. The room was quiet, the lights were down and we told our story.

Photos by Declan Brennan

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