GHOSTLY TALES, and stories of the supernatural, which have been gathered from around Galway, will be told in Haunted, a new play from new theatre company Ferocious Composure, which makes its bow at the Galway Fringe Festival this weekend.
Haunted reflects on why such stories continue to be exist and matter in our hi-tech modern age, and director Mike Ryan tells me how the show evolved.
“We wanted to come up with something we could tour around different rural towns of Ireland," he says. "We like the idea of bringing theatre to rural communities because we are all from rural communities ourselves. We looked at different things that these towns would have in common like military history, politics, the church, and so on, but we kept coming back to the idea of ghost stories because every locality has its own stories of hauntings and things that are unexplained.
"Any time we asked someone did they know any ghost stories from their home town they always did and were always excited about sharing that story. That was our starting point – what is a story and why do ghost stories carry on, they’re almost viral, they can be passed on for hundreds of years. We started looking at that and as regards the research we do some research into the area in advance –I studied ethnology in college- and we find locals in the town who would know who to speak to so and get stories from.”
“There are three actors onstage, Niamh, Orla Kelly Smith [a Galwegian] and Alan Mooney. The idea is that they are collectors of ghost stories, they’ve been gathering stories but never actually told them. They talk about how to tell a ghost story and they start telling the stories that they have gathered. It’s a meditation on what makes a story and what is about ghost stories that people feel the need to tell them.
"As regards the stories themselves, we look across a wide range of time, there are recent stories and we’ve been looking at places like Renvyle House which has a long history with ghosts and haunting. Yeats was there and his wife George held a séance there. We’ve also looked at more recent ones, though ghost stories become less common they do still happen; we have one from 2012.”
The members of Ferocious Composure emerged from University College Cork’s Dramat Society, as director Mike Ryan tells me over an afternoon phone call.
“We all started in Dramat, and particularly most of us worked together on a production of Flann O’Brien’s The Third Policeman. We had such a blast working on it and we really clicked so afterwards we decided we wanted to keep going and working together. My main interest would be in experimental theatre and trying to find new ways to craft performances and that’s something that was shared by my co-founder Niamh Kavanagh, who is actually from Galway.
"She is an actress and one of our main devisors. The other members of the team are Sinead Crowley, our designer and PR person, and Cliodhna Dineen, our producer. Even though this is just our first show we already have big plans and we are very excited for this coming year.”
Ryan was recently selected as one of 12 up-and-coming young directors to be included in Fishamble Theatre Company’s director-mentoring programme, a good signifier of his ability and promise, so where did he come up with the company name ‘Ferocious Composure’?
“The name was in my head for a few years,” he replies. “I actually got it from the 2014 All-Ireland football final. I was driving back from a folk festival in Meath where myself and some friends were putting on a puppet show and we were listening to Micheal O’Muircheartaigh commentating on the game on the radio and I vividly remember him saying ‘the Kerry team are showing ferocious composure’. The phrase really stuck out for me and I liked the image it conjures of being composed but underneath you’re well drilled and ready to go.
Ferocious Composure are certainly ‘well drilled and ready to go’ with Haunted. It runs at the Galway Folk Club in De Burgo's, tomorrow, Saturday, and Sunday at 7pm. Tickets are €8/6. See www.galwayfringe.ie