THE latest show from the Lords of Strut is a musical with a difference.
The two lads, Cian Kinsella and Cormac Mohally (stars of RTÉ’s Body Brothers and Britain’s Got Talent), say the show is “a peek preview” of something that is ambitious and has an environmental message.
As Cian says: “We’re taking the show to a really high production level that will eventually be completed in 2024. What we’re showing on February 18-19 is an early version of it.”
Entitled the Dream Factory, it’s a family friendly show. But with its focus on our destruction of nature, have the playful duo gone all serious?
“No. It’s still very typical of Lords of Strut shows, with explosive circus and dance and acrobatics – a kind of comical mayhem.
“But it’s also a cautionary tale while being a comedy. We are making a show that’s addressing the climate crisis, but in a fantasy world that is a microcosm of our world.
“It is sounding a warning bell about over-using nature’s resources. But it’s also a hopeful tale.
“We want to provide agency in people and not have a doomsday story. But we’re putting the destruction of nature to the fore. When you want to tackle an issue like this, you can get very serious and sombre. So we’re making it comic but with the message throughout the whole show which has an ensemble of nine astonishing physical performers.”
Dream Factory takes place in a town called Ballyplastic whose inhabitants have been brainwashed. One girl has to stand up to the shiny, green-washing global corporation that is responsible for the brainwashing. If she can’t stop the corporation from doing damage, then it could be the end of her family – and possibly the end of the entire world.
“It’s in a fantastical setting. It’s Irish but that’s not hammered home too much,” says Cian, who has always been environmentally aware.
“I’m not in any organisation but my awareness is there in the way I make decisions and move around the world. I’ve been growing food in Carlow (where Cian has built a house). I’m re-wilding a piece of land that used to be agricultural land. I’m managing it for biodiversity, just letting things grow, cutting back somethings and doing some planting.
“I also try to have as little destructive impact environmentally as possible in what I buy and use. That was very hard for the Lords of Strut to do when we were touring internationally. We were flying around the world a couple of times a year. Now, we’re realising we don’t want to do that anymore. We want to have a more localised and slower lifestyle.”
A Carlow native, Cian lived in Cork from 2006 to 2018.
“I had no idea I’d move back to Carlow. It was the pandemic that brought me back. The piece of land that I’m now on needed looking after.”
How does he find living in rural Ireland compared to Cork city?
“It’s difficult because I’m so involved in the cultural sector. Rural life is an adjustment. I have to make an effort. In Cork, everything used to be on my doorstep. You’d go out the door and you’d meet someone, go for coffee or food and you’d end up at a gig. Now all that has to be planned. I have to stay with friends in Dublin, Cork or Limerick. Dublin is easiest for me.
"I cycle to the train station, put the bike on the train, go to a gig and maybe work on writing. I try to use public transport with the bike instead of being in a car.”
While the Lords of Strut shows have always been just Cian and Cormac as the characters Sean-tastic and Famous Seamus, as well as playing other comic characters, the duo are the narrators in the Dream Factory.
“The Lords of Strut are still doing their thing but it’s outside of the story. We’re breaking the fourth wall, talking to the audience.”
Cian says the reality of being acrobats “in our forties is coming home to roost. Not doing shows for two years because of the pandemic means that if we want to be at a really high level, we have to keep going. We’re training really hard to get back up to a level where we can do good moves in the show. We’re after bringing in a couple of much younger athletic acrobats. We still do acrobatics but my shoulders are killing me from the stuff we were trying yesterday.
“We have some highly skilled people in the show. One of them is Nat Whittingham, who is a really high level acrobat and does amazing tumbling floor work. In the show, he’s doing trampolining at an Olympic level but with loads of tricks. He’s amazing on the trampoline, doing flips and double flips.”
Originally, Dream Factory was going to be a circus-driven theatre show “but we got Garry MCBeats (from the Kabin Studio) in as a collaborator when we were developing ideas. We were writing songs and we had the whole cast rapping and singing. So it turned into a musical. There’s original music and songs in it, written by Garry.”
The Lords of Strut make quite an impact on the lives of physical performers in Cork. Cormac is the director of the Circus Factory on Centre Park Road. Set up about ten years ago, it’s a training space for professional circus people and it also provides lessons for children.
“People come from all over the world to study at it,” says Cian.