IN the early spring of this year, I had received the welcome news that my new play had been programmed for the Cork Midsummer Festival.
This was a mini big deal for myself as I had been having a conversation with festival director Lorraine Maye over the previous few years about having work programmed on this amazing cultural platform.
On top of that, Pat Kiernan, the theatre director, and pioneer of site-specific work with theatre company Corcadorca had agreed to direct the play. I had performed in a Corcadorca production over a decade earlier and the first play I read of my own volition was Disco Pigs, the play which put writer Enda Walsh, actors Cillian Murphy and Eileen Walsh and director Pat Kiernan firmly on the map in the world of theatre.
I had been lucky enough earlier in my career to play a small part in the Ken Loach film, The Wind that Shakes the Barley alongside Cillian and here I was now writing and preparing to perform under the guidance of a bona fide incredible theatre artist on a platform that I had my eyes set on for some time, on the same programme as superstar Kate Tempest no less, whose performance I had already bought my ticket for.
Then Covid-19 happened, and the expected phone call came from Lorraine Maye: the festival couldn’t go ahead the Midsummer team had been planning for a full year.
This was hugely disappointing for me personally. I tend not to dwell on things, so I had a moment to myself, accepted that this was out of the control of everyone, and I moved on.
If I found this disappointing, then Lorraine and the Midsummer team must have found it completely heart-breaking. They had been working on the 2020 festival for a full year, with some projects in the works for even longer than that and with many international Artists programmed too. However, the Midsummer, being a festival with great resolve, didn’t take things lying down.
And across the hallway, Corcadorca were trying to figure out how to bring theatre to the people of Cork, many of whom were lockdown-weary and longing for a sense of seeing some live entertainment.
The Midsummer created Midsummer Moments, a reimagined version of the festival with various different artistic works being presented across the city, and this included Contact, the brainchild of Pat Kiernan, a 30 minute piece of live theatre that was presented in different estates across the city over a couple of weekends.
I happened to catch it in my own place and the sense of everyone being out together on the green watching this little piece of magic and chatting and being together was perfect given the lockdown situation we had found ourselves in prior to the performances.
Theatre venues, companies and artists have found themselves in a precarious situation in recent times. Venues have been closed with no box office sales, no work being produced and any summer show cancelled and in many cases pantos being cancelled.
This loss of income is detrimental to the venues, and as a result to the companies who may work in the venues, and the independent artists who keep this industry afloat. It’s not only artists though who have suffered, it is the production crew, the designers, the technical crew and everyone who plays a part in making Art happen and making it accessible.
During this pandemic, people have used Art as an escape, as a way to cope and as a way to heal. The books we read, the films and shows we watch, the music we listen to and much more have shown that the Arts are as important a part of society as any other part.
Every piece of art, from performance to design to a visual work to the written word is an artist telling a story.
Telling stories is such a deep part of our culture as human beings and we need to ensure that we give our story tellers the right support and encouragement.
We should not take our artists for granted. We should appreciate them and value them as they deserved to be valued and appreciated.
As I mentioned earlier, I tend not to dwell on bad news, so I had intended for my new work to be presented in the Dublin Fringe Festival this month, but that too was cancelled in its normal form. It too has been reimagined and I have been invited to take part as an Artist at Work. I will be working in Corcadorca’s Theatre Development Centre this month with Pat Kiernan.
My work on my script had no doubt been halted over the summer months, but I am back now with a determined energy, and with a clear aim of creating a great script that I will bring to a Cork audience in the future. I do not take the position I am in for granted.
Both Pat and Lorraine took me on, gave me an opportunity and now, Covid or not I must take the opportunity, push my limits and repay their faith in me.
When society returns to normality and the Art venues reopen and the artists present their work, do them a favour and buy a ticket if you can.
The show must go on.