Cork city alive with theatre, dance, music and art... just magical!

Kathriona Devereux talks about dipping her toe back into the arts and cultural scene in Cork
Cork city alive with theatre, dance, music and art... just magical!

Members of the Joan Denise Moriarty School of Dance pose for photos before taking part in the Midsummer Parade on Oliver Plunkett Street as part of the Cork Midsummer Festival which runs until June 26. Image: Cian O'Regan

I barely scratched the surface of all the cultural offerings from the Cork Midsummer Festival which concluded at the weekend but what joy I got from dipping my toe back into theatre, dance, music and art properly.

The Play

I got married at Triskel Christchurch and have an adorable picture of my cousin giving me a congratulatory squeeze afterwards under the columned portico. Which is why it feels odd to be standing next to the same cousin almost ten years later looking at the facade of Triskel witnessing the execution of two British soldiers. In the theatre world they’d say Triskel Christchurch has been “recontextualised” for me but it all feels a bit incongruous. The Hymac mini-digger in the corner and the elevated narrator reading aloud all add to the feeling of unease.

I suspect that’s the feeling Corcadorca were going for with their adaptation of Frank O’Connor’s 1931 short story ‘Guests of the Nation’ for the Midsummer Festival. It is right and proper to feel uncomfortable watching a story of two Irish soldiers charged with the job of killing two British soldiers during the War of Independence. The Irish lads had become friendly with the British soldiers they were keeping as hostages but when the order comes through to execute them in retaliation for the deaths of Irish soldiers the senseless waste of war is revealed.

We are in the midst of commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Civil War, a brutally cruel period of our history and are hearing the daily news from Ukraine of yet more pointless deaths so the emotion of the story lands heavily. However in places the strong performances and sharp script are unnecessarily heightened by quirky staging and an ominous score.

Corcadorca traditionally brings audiences to unusual spaces and locations but spreading Guests of the Nation between the Opera House for the first act and Triskel for the second and third acts felt superfluous. Maybe there was a need to spread the love, or the budget, between two theatres but the whole production could have been housed in Triskel. Walking through the stage door and the offices of the Cork Opera House and traipsing across the city were unmotivated. I heard one member of the audience complain about her knees!

Dodgy joints aside, it was a wonderful night with vibrant performances, but I couldn’t help wondering what the people in the queue for Rearden’s made of the gunshots coming from South Main Street!

The Parade

A decidedly light hearted and much more accessible spectacle happened the following night on Oliver Plunkett Street for the inaugural, and surely soon to be annual, Midsummer Parade organised by Cork Community Artlink and featuring the participation of community groups, bands, performers and dancers from all over the city.

Oliver Plunkett Street witnesses plenty of daytime and night time antics but a propelled, mechanised, gigantic metallic elephant must be a first. It was an up close parade, no strained necks for short people and the floats were within touching distance.

Fresh from shaking their samba beats with President Michael D.Higgins at the Áras, the Cork City Samba Band led the parade and set the tone and the rhythm for a Afro-Caribbean dance group. 

There were unicycling and stilt walking pirates from the Cork Circus Factory, a troupe of mediaeval princesses from the Joan Denise Moriarty Dance School, Bollywood vibes and so much more. Masses of creativity, talent and imagination were poured into the masks, makeup and costumes.

 It was magical. My children were agog and barely spoke for the entirety of the procession.

I’m not really sure how long the whole parade lasted because I was having so much fun watching but when the last float passed and the crowd spontaneously applauded a woman turned to me and said “what a perfect parade”.

Seeing Cork Artlink’s artistic director William Frode de la Foret stalk the parade in painted face and white sunglasses like a discreet Kubrick ringmaster I whispered a silent thank you to him and the incredible team at Cork Artlink and their network of allies and volunteers for continuing to bring art and culture onto the streets of Cork and creating smiles in the minds of audiences for almost 30 years. See you on Oliver Plunkett Street on the 21st of June 2023!

The World

I’m not a regular mass goer at St. Colman’s Cathedral in Cobh, in fact I’m not even sure if I’ve ever been inside the doors of the magnificent building but I suspect streams of people visiting on an ordinary Wednesday in June is an unusual sight. These were not American tourists disgorged from a cruise ship onto the quays of Cobh, these were Cork people queuing up to get a closer look at our world.

It was hard to escape imagery of the art installation Gaia in the past few weeks. Not that you’d want to. A bride walking down the aisle backlit by the 7m wide rotating sculpture of Earth was possibly the most memorable of all the snaps that appeared in print and social media. 

It seems lots of us are mesmerised by seeing our planetary home before our very eyes, even a version 1.8 million times smaller than the real deal.

There was something very moving about witnessing that level of interest and devotion to Mother Earth. If we could apply it beyond the confines of a cathedral the world would be a better place.

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