The Blue Boy – Project Arts Centre, Dublin

Director: Gary Keegan &Feidlim Cannon
Choreography: Eddie Kay
Reviewer: Clara Mallon


There is a particular urgency attached to political theatre. Usually addressing issues of current events central to society, political theatre attempts to prompt social change through raising consciousness on the part of the spectator. This is certainly one of the primary motives behind Brokentalker’s The Blue Boy,which comes to the Project Arts Centre Temple Bar.

Child abuse is often dubbed the “unspeakable”, yet Brokentalker’s have found a way of expressing some of the State’s darkest histories. The piece is both theatrically innovative while remaining honest in its exploration of a painful legacy. The Blue Boy presents a story told by five performers who speak no words for the play’s duration.

In introducing the show. Gary Keegan presents us a wooden yard stick. In his youth, he played with the object, imagining it as a gun, a saxophone or a dinosaur. He didn’t imagine that his grandfather actually used it in his profession as an undertaker to measure bodies for coffins. His grandfather often had calls to Artane Industrial School.

The Blue Boy gets its title from a ghost story of a young boy who haunts the grounds of the Industrial School, purported to be that of a child who met his end through some form of mistreatment by the brothers who ran the school.

Through the blended media of choreography, live music, film footage and recorded testimonies from people subjected to gross ill treatment in these institutions, Brokentalkers create a nightmarish atmosphere of vulnerability, fear, entrapment, oppression and powerlessness.

The use of institutional uniforms, flesh-coloured masks and choreography combineto present characters as distorted, ghost-like figures whose faces appear frozen with fear. At times moving in unison, the suggestion is that all individuality has been extinguished through the regimentation of institutional life. Other times, the figures make use of puppets who are manipulated to reflect the powerlessness of the captive children.

Attempting to tell the untold and giving expression to those who have been silenced, The Blue Boy holds an urgency that transcends an Irish cultural context and is representative of all forms of state institutional abuse. Brokentalker’s present a piece that is both stylistically innovative and thought-provoking in its fight against a culture of silence.

Reviewed on 9 April2016 | Image: Project Arts Centre

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