Scríbhneoir/Writer: Darach Mac Con Iomaire
Stiúrthóir/Director: Darach Mac Con Iomaire
Léirmheastóir/Reviewer: Ciara L. Murphy
Historically speaking, theatre and literature in the Irish language has been an artistic tool of subversion. A challenge to the status quo. A means of expressing those stories that remain hidden. Darach Mac Con Iomaire’s co-production between An Taibhdhearc and the Abbey Theatre actively draws on this tradition, casting the audience as co-conspirators in the act of subverting power from the very start.
Baoite seamlessly balances the local and the international by marrying local politics, familial strife, and global humanitarian and environmental concerns. A fishing island community is threatened by the threat of offshore fracking and one family is leading the fight to resist this move. However, the unearthing of deeply buried family secrets overtakes the broader issues as daughter, son, and father are thrown into crisis.
It is almost impossible to miss Mac Con Iomaire’s carefully constructed metaphors in Baoite. Cáit’s (Siobhan O’Kelly) infertility and her battle with IVF is echoed in the wider context of offshore fracking. The violent processes of force playing out on the female body and on the seabed. Similarly, Mac Con Iomaire isn’t afraid of negotiating themes of bigotry, xenophobia, and bias in small communities, challenging audiences to consider the impact of diversification in communities that are struggling to maintain their native culture.
This is a big play, with a lot to say. And it is the strength of Mac Con Iomaire’s writing, and the solid hand of his direction that ensures that nothing gets lost in translation. Speaking of which, An Taibhdhearc continues to create opportunities for Irish language theatre to reach wider audiences by providing surtitles in English. This is done with skill and nuance, never imposing or interrupting the flow of action on stage.
The cast (consisting of O’ Kelly, Diarmuid de Faoite, Macdara Ó Fátharta, and Seán T. Ó Meallaigh) work seamlessly as an ensemble as they collude in a conspiracy of silence. Relationships are at the core of this production, and each character battles to free themselves from the weight of blame and shame that seems to control their lives. The interactions between Tom (de Faoite) and Pat (Ó Fátharta) provide some of the most compelling moments of drama in the production.
The set, designed by Seán Ó Flaithearta, allowed the action to move fluidly from place to place, giving the audience a sense that it was a living, breathing character. The dynamism of this production sustains its two-hour duration, expertly holding the thread of tension that keeps the audience on the edge of their seats.
Baoite is a powerful tour-de-force that compels and challenges. It should be on the top of everyone’s list this festival season.
Presented in Irish with English surtitles.
Runs until 22 July 2018 | Image: Contributed