'The dream for us is to get children to love Irish': Cork panto so good that it’s in two languages

Cork’s first bilingual Irish and English pantomime is set to take place later this year. Sarah Horgan chats to the woman behind the production.
'The dream for us is to get children to love Irish': Cork panto so good that it’s in two languages

Co-founder and artistic director of Cois Laoi Productions, Aisling Nic Cárthaigh and fellow co-founder and production manager Timothy McCarthy who are bringing the first bilingual pantomime to Cork

A CORK organisation is set to host Cork’s first Irish language pantomime as part of efforts to revive Gaeilge among the younger population.

Rehearsals are already underway for the upcoming production of Stacey i dTír na nÓg which is set to take place in ActorsVision on Patrick’s Quay in December.

Organised by Cois Laoi Productions, a bilingual production company in Cork City, the pantomime will feature a blend of the Irish and English language to ensure accessibility for every audience member.

Led by Douglas woman Aisling Nic Cárthaigh, Cois Laoi supports and promotes the use of the Irish language for younger audiences.

Many of their productions have been geared towards a teenage audience but the group are now looking forward to engaging with an even younger generation through the medium of Irish.

Actors have been working tirelessly over the last few months to bring the story to life.

Penned by Antóin Ó Dúllaing, Stacey i dTír na nÓg is inspired by the legend of the Celtic otherworld that sees visitors granted eternal youth.

The Cois Laoi team, which also includes production manager Timothy McCarthy, has put their own twist on the myth with the inclusion of some fun new characters including a witch and Lord Mayor.

Influences evident in the production also include the Wizard of Oz which Aisling says has many parallels with the story.

“We felt there was a lot of similarities between the story of Oisín and Tír na nÓg and the Wizard of Oz because Oisín and Dorothy are both people who find themselves in a world they don’t belong to.

“The Lord Mayor character in Stacey i dTír na nÓg is quite like Oz in the Wizard of Oz.”

Members of the cast come from all walks of life. The majority of the cast and crew are fluent in Irish.

“However, Aisling said a small number of participants are still new to the language.

“Sometimes I forget that they aren’t fluent because they have learned so much Irish since beginning the production. Children are especially great when it comes to learning new languages because they absorb it like sponges.”

The team is glad to offer something new to young people interested in learning Irish through the arts.

“I have heard of Irish language pantomimes in other parts of the country such as Galway but we haven’t heard of any bilingual pantomimes to date.

“The bilingual aspect and the fact that this is just a fun and enjoyable show makes it really unique.”

She opened up about how much she has been enjoying the experience.

“Having the production in Irish and English makes it really accessible. The atmosphere since the first read through has been amazing. We are having so much fun and couldn’t have asked for any better than the cast and crew we have.”

Aisling said the educational value of shows like this can be invaluable for children.

“What’s great is that kids who aren’t fluent don’t even realise they are picking it up because they are having so much fun. The vocabulary sticks with them in a way that wouldn’t happen if someone was just teaching them Irish.”

Aisling said that Irish has always been a huge part of her life.

“I went to a Gaelscoil so Irish has always been part of my life. I always speak to my friends through Irish.

“Myself and Antóin, who wrote the script, send all our voice notes in Irish. I have one friend who I had never heard speak in English before until one day when we were in a restaurant.

“The funny thing was when she began speaking in English I couldn’t understand her because it was so different to how she usually sounded.”

The Douglas woman is glad to have found a way to combine her love of Irish and the arts.

“I’ve always loved pantomimes as child. I used to be involved in the Montforts pantomime and later on I loved the adult pantomime.”

Aisling is feeling positive about the upcoming production.

“We’ve had amazing feedback from parents so far who have seen the rehearsals.

“The dream for us is to get children to love Irish.”

Stacey I dTír no nÓg will run for two days with performances from 2pm and 7pm at ActorsVision on Patrick’s Quay, Cork city on December 10 and December 11. Tickets are €12 for children with an €8 OAP price also available.

The production is being made with funding from Foras na Gaeilge-an organisation which promotes the Irish language across Ireland.

Tickets for the show are available at Eventbrite.

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