“It's absolutely amazing... there's going to be a gig, an audience, laughter, claps, joy. I can’t wait”

Cork performers come forth at Elizabeth Fort 
“It's absolutely amazing... there's going to be a gig, an audience, laughter, claps, joy. I can’t wait”

The Everyman Outdoors at Elizabeth Fort launch: Karan Casey, Ricky Sammon, Raphael Olympio, Laura O’Mahony, Cian Hearne, Ava Collins, Kestine Ugbodu, Front left: McTiny and McSparky. Picture: Darragh Kane

“It is absolutely amazing to think there is going to be a gig. An actual gig with an audience, and laughter and claps and joy. I just can’t wait.”

Laura O’Mahony, one of the many performers at The Everyman Outdoors programme at Elizabeth Fort on Barrack Street from July to August, voices the general relief of all those involved to be back doing what they do best. However, she is still considering what balance her stand-up show on Saturday, July 23, will have.

Laura O'Mahony: Looking forward to live shows. 	 Picture Darragh Kane
Laura O'Mahony: Looking forward to live shows. Picture Darragh Kane

“Who wants to hear about my Dawsons Creek-riddled teenagehood when we have just been through a whole pandemic, but then I think... escapism! We have all just lived through a most extraordinary time. Do we need to reflect? Or can we just for one night escape to a world where social distancing isn’t a word, where most of us have no clue that Nphet was a thing, where masks were for Halloween and The Phantom of the Opera? I haven’t decided yet. But all I know is that we will laugh. And when I walk on stage, I might even cry. ”

Karan Casey, who will be performing a concert of folk and trad music on Saturday, August 21, with acclaimed musicians Seán Óg Graham on guitar, Niamh Dunne on fiddle and vocals, and Niall Vallely on concertina, was lucky to get back to Ireland just in time before lockdown.

“I was in America when the pandemic hit, I was doing a concert on March 12, but we had to cancel the rest of the tour,” she said.

Throughout the various lockdowns, Karan relied on music a lot.

I use the balm of melody and beautiful words as a kind of protection

“In a way, I use the balm of melody and beautiful words as a kind of protection. Just a few songs can help us get through the day, I don’t just mean a bit of Stevie Wonder in the kitchen — but that’s good too — but also songs and lyrics that we can draw from. We have a lot of material to draw upon for our concerts, all those kind of songs, all the ones the musicians know, and there’ll be some from my last few albums too.”

Tadhg Hickey: In One Ear, Out The Other.
Tadhg Hickey: In One Ear, Out The Other.

While Tadhg Casey is well known as a comedian and performer, he points out In One Ear, Out The Other which is on Saturday, July 31, is more a play than a comedy show.

“It’s off the wall but it’s very ‘me’,” he says. “I try to keep it 75% theatre and 25% stand-up, I don’t think it’s that much different every night — but Clare O’Connell, who produces the show, disagrees — I just change bits to make it interesting for myself. It’s my first full comedy show, my own dark tale about drinking. Like, my alcoholism was horrific, I hurt so many people and lost so much work, and was a shitshow, but in the midst of all that, there were very surreal and mad and funny things happening.

“The play is the story of a character who went down a way more surreal path than I did; horrific experiences, but he has his head in the sand. It’s about loneliness almost as much as alcoholism.”

Since he debuted it two or so years ago, he has found it having a direct impact on several people. “I never set out to help people with the play, it’s a dark comedy piece that has accidentally helped people. It’s a beautiful bonus, I’ve been approached by people who found the play in some way supported them to get to the place where they decided to go to a meeting or help a family member.”

The lockdown has meant artists who normally worked a lot in live environment went down new paths, and all three have been busy.

Karan had a lot of writing projects on the go. “I have recently finished a book about my great-grandmother, Agnes O’Dwyer, who was part of the Cumann na mBan; I wrote a play which is going to be put on in the Kilkenny Arts Festival in August called I Walked Into My Head, I’m very excited about that and I composed several songs, some for a project about different women who were involved in the Easter Rising. I’ll hopefully be performing some of them at the concert in Elizabeth Fort.”

Over the last 18 months, Laura has created a large following with her Instagram stories — including a hilarious almost-soap-opera she based in Trabolgan, playing the myriad of characters herself with regular involvement from her children and husband — but also burst onto the airwaves on Red FM.

“I got my dream job of presenting the breakfast show with Ray Foley. A man who I had listened to when I was younger is now my work colleague and co-conspirator.

“I had lots to learn, anybody who knows me will know that I have very little desire to do much more learning in my life, but here I was with a whole new job and a whole new set of ropes to learn. It has been great. Live radio every morning keeps you absolutely on your toes. I appreciate my job every day because it is actually just another opportunity for joy in my day, even if it is the ‘craic’ of dawn!”

Tadhg was also learning new skills. “I’m brutal with technology, but over lockdown I taught myself to edit audio and video, I’d never have done that if I was gigging.”

Indeed, those skills were well used, as several of Tadhg’s videos went super viral, with his political satire covering subjects like England, Ireland, Northern Ireland, Wales, and Scotland, living in a houseshare, and Israel and Palestine being asked to live together becoming huge hits online.

As a fan of the arts, I couldn’t wait to see other performers

“I just did a lot of work on my own with the recording stuff online. I want to grow whatever skills I can. I didn’t actually miss doing live shows as I was so busy, but as a fan of the arts, I couldn’t wait to see other performers, can’t wait to see some music, theatre, and comedy.”

Karan Casey: Performing at the Fort. 	Picture Darragh Kane
Karan Casey: Performing at the Fort.  Picture Darragh Kane

Karan continued to praise the overall programming of the series of concerts, saying: “It is absolutely fantastic to see how many strands of Cork’s arts the Everyman have programmed together. I commend their foresight in doing that. It’ll all be great and in such an iconic space … I hope it doesn’t rain, but really it doesn’t matter if it rains as it’ll be all outdoors.”

The audience is also on Laura’s mind. “To anyone who buys tickets — thank you from the bottom of my heart. We all know it has been a financially tough time for people, so to think that people are willing to spend their hard-earned money on going to one of my gigs is really amazing to me. I promise I won’t let ye down. It will be worth every penny. Gigs are back, and this one is going to go off with a BANG!”

Tickets for The Everyman Outdoors on sale now at www.everymancork.com

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