Composer: Cal Folger Day
Director: Kristina Yee
Reviewer: Tricia O’Beirne
Why did this turn out so weird? So asks one of Cal Folger Day’s fellow performers of Folger Day, and indeed this is a curious work. Folger Day addresses the ‘weirdness’ of her ‘verbatim pop-operetta’ by setting aside moments throughout the piece to step out of character and explain to the audience the process by which she came to develop both the music and the text of The Woods and Grandma. Her primary source of inspiration was a 2002 RTE 1 radio programme featuring Lady Gregory’s two granddaughters discussing their lives and their ancestral home, Coole Park in Gort, Co. Galway. Revealing her academic sources but doing so engagingly, Folger Day speaks about Anna Deavere Smith’s seminal verbatim play Fires in the Mirror and about how she used Cecil Sharp’s 1919 folksong collection as inspiration for her score. Shakespeare gets a mention, as do many other literary and journalistic sources and there are reading recommendations with the programme.
So far so admirable, but it is in the performance of this research-based ode to the lost ladies of Coole where things go somewhat awry. The representation of the various poets, writers and granddaughters is very much in the style of a primary school dressing-up game, and the singing, with the noted exception of Seán Kennedy, is (deliberately?) off-key and sounds unrehearsed.
At times the gaucheness of the singing and movement is funny but too often it comes across as indicative of an unfinished work, still in progress. Clunky scene changes do not help and why is the talented Anne Gildea limited to shuffling around moving furniture, with only the odd singing part? On the positive side the accompanying string and keyboard quartet are professional and very easy to listen to while the company make the most of the beautiful but quirky space in the Boy’s School Theatre downstairs in Smock Alley.
Runs until 23 September 2017 | Image: Contributed