AMONG THE exciting new plays being premiered at GIAF is Darach Mac Con Iomaire’s Baoite at An Taibhdhearc, a co-production with Abbey Theatre in association with the arts festival.
Baoite centres on a west of Ireland fishing family who lead a desperate fight to defend their coastal community from the imminent threat of offshore fracking. But the pressure of campaigning mounts and hidden fractures appear in the once-solid clan, as lies, legacies, deceit, and ultimate betrayal destroy the community. This tense thriller traces the silence, shame, and lies at the heart of the Irish psyche, through the eyes of local activist Cáit. Cáit is 38 and wants children. Her third attempt at IVF has just failed. Burdened with debt, she now faces ending the campaign to get what she wants.
During a break in rehearsals writer/director Darach Mac Con Iomaire delved into Baoite’s themes and outlined what audiences can expect from the production. I began by asking how the co-production with the Abbey Theatre came about.
'We have that tradition here of Official Ireland fobbing people off and not telling us the truth'
“It started two years ago when the Abbey and Taibhdhearc were talking about partnering around new work, and I got a phone call from the Abbey offering me the commission. I found people in the Abbey were really supportive when it came to reading the script and giving me feedback. I was really enthused by their energy and willingness to engage with the work.
"They’ve now commissioned me to write an English version of Baoite and the idea is that we’ll go to the Abbey next year and do the play in Irish and then in English on the main stage with the same cast so that’s incredibly exciting for them to show that confidence in the script. I’m also delighted that both the Abbey and GIAF have come on board as partners for this run and have financially invested in it as well.”
Mac Con Iomaire was the writer/director of the award-winning TG 4 drama Corp +Anam which, like Baoite, addressed the issues of secrecy and lies that pervade much of Irish life.
'The play shows a community and relationships breaking apart. It asks what someone is willing to sacrifice to get the prize'
“We have that tradition here of Official Ireland fobbing people off and not telling us the truth,” Mac Con Iomaire notes. “There is a total lack of accountability; we see it with the litany of tribunals and scandals and senior people lying about issues and there being no consequence save for an occasional resignation. That’s the main theme of Baoite but it is also a love story between Cáit (Siobhan O’Kelly ) and Simon (Sean O’Meallaigh ) who are trying to have a baby but their attempts at IVF have failed and they are under pressure. They are a fishing family in the west of Ireland, the two other main characters are Cáit’s father Pat (Macdara O’Fatharta ) and her brother Tom (Diarmuid de Faoite - pictured above ) and the family story plays out to the backdrop of their local community being up in arms about the prospect of offshore fracking by a mega corporation.
"That strand has clear echoes of Shell to Sea and the Corrib gas protest which was one of the biggest stories in the west of Ireland since the foundation of the State, and how that project was mishandled on every level. There has been a legacy of enduring division among that community around Rossport and Belmullet which are still there today. The play shows a community and relationships breaking apart. It asks what someone is willing to sacrifice to get the prize.”
'It is a deceptively minimal looking design. Its deceptiveness can be gauged by the fact it has taken us three weeks to install'
Baoite also features a thrilling live soundtrack. “The music is the fruit of collaboration by three people,” Darach explains. "The original tracks were penned by Steve Lynch who is a fabulous composer - he did music for An Klondike. His score for Baoite has a great cinematic feel. We then brought in Saileog Ní Cheannabháin, who is a fabulous pianist and viola and fiddle player and singer, and Maitiú Ó Casaide who plays pipes and fiddle and sings as well. Saileog and Maitiú have been in rehearsals the whole time and the music has evolved through that process. The two of them will play the score live and are an integral part of the staging of the show and there are also some pre-recorded pieces of music.”
Artist Seán Ó Flaithearta contributes the production’s set design. “It is a deceptively minimal looking design,” Mac Con Iomaire states. “Its deceptiveness can be gauged by the fact that it has taken us three weeks to install it on the stage. There are few surprises up the sleeve in terms of the design and that resonates with the play’s theme, that things are not always what they seem, everything is covered up.”
Mac Con Iomaire shares some final thoughts as he prepares to return to rehearsal. “It’s very exciting and a bit daunting because it is a new play so it hasn’t been tested yet. I think the story will engage people; it is a very human story. The issue of IVF is massive for a lot of people who are trying to have children and the emotional pressures that can put on a relationship. I think that element of the story will resonate with a lot of people.”
Baoite runs at An Taibhdhearc from July 12 to 22, with the exception of July 15. See www.giaf.ie