IN RECENT years Galway’s theatre scene has been enlivened by a steady flow of young talent emerging from NUI Galway, its MA programme in theatre studies in particular. Mephisto, Dragonfly, and Fregoli have all managed the transition from campus to city with aplomb and made their mark with notable productions.
Water Donkey Theatre Company is the latest ensemble to emerge from the NUIG ‘cradle’ and next week at the Town Hall Studio will present its latest production, the intriguingly titled Pigeon Racing: Advanced Techniques.
The production is directed by Meadhbh Haiceid. Over a phone conversation to discuss the play, she outlined Water Donkey’s particular artistic ethos.
“We met in college and we found that we shared an interest in making theatre communally,” she said. “We don’t have strictly defined roles within the company - there is no single artistic director for instance. We did two shows already, in October and December, both of which were devised pieces. The new show is devised also but it marks something of a departure for us because it’s a lot more text-based than the first two.”
Pigeon Racing: Advanced Techniques is unique in that it takes its inspiration from a disparate set of texts, many of which might never have otherwise found their way onto the stage. From Aristophanes’ The Birds to Darwin’s Origin of Species, from a 1960s’ textbook on pigeon fancying by Belgian fancier Jan Artes, to Nietzsche, to YouTube, Waterdonkey finds the common threads of desire, the need for home, and the spirit of human inquiry in a diverse body of writing related to the common pigeon.
The play leads the audience through the many different aspects of inquiry, both scientific and metaphysic. Here you will find the desire for knowledge, the longing to fly, passions inspired by obsession, ordinary wonderments, and ultimately the common destiny of the human race: to ask the question, “Why?”
Haiceid explains how the show came together: “One of the company found this book about pigeon racing in a bargain bin in a bookshop and that sparked off the idea of devising a show around the theme of birds. So then we all went out and collected all the material we could relating, everything from Aristophanes’ play to clips on YouTube. Then we reworked what we found, breaking things up and re-arranging them, creating a new context for them within the form of the play. The play doesn’t have a conventional story in the usual sense but I think it constitutes an organic whole, there are distinct themes and threads running through it.”
Haiceid also reveals that the show has strong multi-media elements as it employs pieces of video footage and a specially composed soundscape by Pearse Hoban. The play was devised by, and features the talents of, Haiceid along with Duncan Lacroix, Rosemary Sweeney, Sophie Campbell, Zita Monahan, Lucy Jago, Martin Sharry, and Gemma McGill.
Haiceid makes a point of concluding our interview by noting the company’s gratitude toward Monroe’s Pub and Galway Arts Centre which assisted them in the provision of rehearsal space.
It sounds like a fascinating evening of theatre should be in store for Waterdonkey’s audiences. Pigeon Racing: Advanced Techniques is at the Town Hall studio from Wednesday May 13 to Saturday 16 at 8.30pm nightly.