INSPIRED BY the traditions of the seanachaí and the Japanese benshi performers, Man of Aran Re-imagined is an exciting and imaginative live presentation and re-telling of the classic 1934 documentary by Robert Flaherty.
This unique production will debut at Druid Lane Theatre and run from Thursday December 9 to Sunday 12 at 8pm with a matinee on Sunday 12 at 3pm.
Created and directed by Paul Keogan and written by Síle Nic Chonaonaigh, Man of Aran Re-imagined features one of Ireland’s best-loved musicians and traditional Irish singers Liam Ó Maonlaí as the narrator/performer.
There is a new score by composer Mel Mercier and sound design is by Christopher Shutt, who did the sound for the National Theatre’s smash hit show War Horse.
Robert Flaherty’s Man of Aran is considered to be a classic, if controversial, Irish film. After a brief visit to Inis Mór late in 1931, Flaherty, a ground-breaking Irish-American documentary maker, resolved to make a film reflecting the harsh way of life he had witnessed.
His return to the island in 1932 attracted much media attention, which continued up until the release of the film in 1934. Flaherty was more interested, it would seem, in capturing the spirit of the islands, so certain realities were contrived and manipulated. However he succeeded in producing a visually stunning film which has stood the test of time.
Drawing on interviews with Frances Flaherty, (the film-maker’s widow ) and the autobiography of Pat Mullin (islander and assistant director on the film ), the creative team have collaborated to produce a new reading of the film, exploring the myths and legends that have sprung from it; the film’s legacy; and how it transformed the lives of those involved, aiming to capture the true nature of the people and their lives on the island at the time.
Over an afternoon coffee, writer Síle Nic Chonaonaigh revealed how the idea for the show came about.
“The genesis came from when Paul Keogan was on a visit to Japan and learned about the art of benshi,” she says. “They were performers who, when silent movies first came out, were interpreters of the films. They were narrators but they didn’t narrate from the script, they told the story sometimes becoming the characters in the film, sometimes giving their own point of view on what was going on.
“When Paul heard about them it reminded him of the Irish seanachaí and he started to think about how these two traditions could relate to each other and he came up with the idea of doing this re-imagining of Man of Aran.”
Having come up with the initial idea, Keogan asked Nic Chonaonaigh to come on board as scriptwriter. She outlines how they approached the material.
“Initially we wrote the story of what was happening in every scene from the characters’ points of view - the husband, the wife, the son - and then looked at the other characters in the film, such as the sea, the land, the shark,” she says.
“We didn’t want to just say what was happening on the screen so what we’ve tried to do is create a rhythm with text. It’s mainly in Irish, though there will be subtitles used in the show, but we are also using excerpts from the memoirs of Pat Mullin and Frances Flaherty.”
Nic Chonaonaigh speaks glowingly of the creative inputs of the ensemble Keogan has assembled for the project.
“It’s been brilliant working with these people on the show,” she says. “There are different layers in the show. Mel Mercier has done a new score for it. Christopher Shutt is working with Mel creating a soundscape. There’ll be song and music performed by Liam.
“The layers are music, recorded score, soundscape, and words. It’s interesting that there have been various interpretations of the film down the years, you have Martin McDonagh’s play The Cripple of Inish Meain, the band British Sea Power did an album inspired by the film, and there’s a French opera called Man of Aran so you ask why is it still so relevant and I think it’s because it’s this huge story of human endeavour.”
Now Man of Aran Re-imagined joins that illustrious list and it promises to be a memorable cinematic/theatrical/musical experience.
Bookings can be made from the Central Ticket Bureau (0818 205205 ) and online at www.ctb.ie