WITH about 90% of her industry unemployed, the stage manager for Corcadorca’s forthcoming show is grateful to be working.
Sadhbh Barrett Coakley works as a freelance stage manager, producer and actor, as well as running Asla Productions with her partner, Alan Dalton.
She is excited about Corcadorca’s new travelling theatre performance being staged in green areas located in housing estates in Cork. Audiences get to watch the show (which is non-verbal) at safe distances, either in their gardens or looking out from a window in their house.
It’s Corcadorca’s imaginative response to the challenges of producing theatre in this time of pandemic.
Sadhbh, who has a BA in theatre and drama studies from CIT Cork School of Music, says that during this time of lockdown, which is slowly easing, people have been engaged with the arts at a huge level.
“There is so much television as well as music, film and theatre being consumed online. It has really got people through. I’m hoping that a positive that will come out of the situation is that people will value the arts and see how much they contribute to our quality of living.”
Artistic director of Corcadorca, Pat Kiernan, was keen to create something that isn’t virtual.
“He wants something that has real time interaction between audience and performers. That’s where the initial idea came from. He also wanted it to be performed while the restrictions are still in place,” said Sadhbh.
The show is called Contact and it deals with the physical and social distancing we’re all experiencing.
“It is set in a world that is parallel to ours, a kind of heightened version of it. We have a great team who have been scouting for locations, and working with Cork City Council to do this. It will bring something to neighbourhoods and communities.”
The show lasts just 25 minutes. Two performances, in different locations, take place every night when it’s dark.
“The idea is that the setting-up of the show is part of the performance. So there’ll be myself and the crew, in costume, setting up the lighting equipment and the set. That will be a choreographed part of the show.”
The two performers, Eadoin O’Donoghue and Cormac Mohally, play a couple that have been separated and are unable to see each other because of coronavirus.
“They are coming together to try and have some kind of meaningful interaction in this strange world. They still can’t make physical contact.
“At the end of the performance, the crew will re-emerge, take the whole thing down and we’ll jump into our separate vehicles and move on to the next location. It’s going to take in a real spread in the city and suburbs.”
Sadhbh praises the work of artists online but she points out that watching something on a screen means “you don’t have that kind of communal experience of watching something with an audience”.
She adds: “That’s why I’m so passionate about theatre. It’s why most theatre makers create work. They are observed by a group of people that have come together. You can’t really replace that experience where everybody breathes the same air. In advocating for the arts, we point out that theatre might not reach the mass audiences that film or TV get. But I think the type of experience you get from theatre can be so much more long-lasting. There’s a sense of occasion.”
Sadhbh says that up to now, her main interaction with Corcadorca is a result of Asla Productions being made artists-in-residence at the TDC (Theatre Development Centre) at the Triskel which is run by the company.
“We’re in our second year there. As well as use of the space, we have a lot of creative mentoring from Pat Kiernan. And this year, the TDC was able to give us some funding to develop new work.”
A versatile theatre practitioner, Sadhbh says that having expertise in a number of areas is the only way to keep afloat. “At the CIT Cork School of Music theatre studies course, we got diverse training including acting, stage management, producing, directing and script writing. It equips you for a lot of different roles.”
Asked what role she prefers, Sadhbh says she enjoys all of them.
“I just want to be working in theatre all the time. Theatre is so collaborative. That’s why I love it, working with different people. I really enjoy producing because you have such autonomy in the team that you select.
“With Asla, I would be the main producer. As stage manager for the Corcadorca play, I get to work with people who are at the top of their game and have lots of experience.”
While working in theatre in this climate is challenging, Sadhbh points out that it’s much more challenging to be not working.
“There wasn’t a huge amount of support for the industry before this. Now that we’re in an international crisis, it’s really hard to know where it’s going. The National Campaign for the Arts are doing brilliant advocacy work. They have put together a really clear plan for the things that will need to be put in place to support the industry, just so it survives and doesn’t collapse entirely.
“So many artists were already living on below the minimum wage. I think there is a real fear that a lot of artists will just have to give up and do something else.”
Contact, presented by Corcadorca and the Cork Midsummer Festival, ran last week and continues this week, from Thursday to Sunday, June 18-21, in various locations around Cork city.