AMONG THE forthcoming attractions at Baboró is the Irish premiere of Children Of The Black Skirt, by award-winning Australian writer Angela Betzien, which is being staged by Drama Works Ireland.
Described as “a Gothic fairytale” for those aged between 10 and 16, the play focuses on three lost children who discover an abandoned orphanage in the bush. They become trapped in a timeless world haunted by the spirit of the past, and ruled by the eponymous Black Skirt, a cruel governess who floats and stalks the orphanage corridors with her enormous scissors.
The spirits of the forgotten children will not rest until their stories are told. Stories unfurl of pick-pocketing crimes of the 18th century, to the tragedies of Australia’s ‘Stolen Generations’ of the 20th century and as their stories are told the spirits of the children are released one by one. Children Of The Black Skirt is an evocative, compelling, play which explores history, reconciliation, and the power of storytelling.
Drama Works Ireland, who are presenting the play, are a multi-disciplinary theatre company working in schools, theatres, and community settings set up by Catherine Simon in the mid-noughties.
Much of their work in the past has involved offering workshops to schools, young people, adults and other professionals. They have worked with more than 20,000 young people and directed more than 35 productions with young people and adults.
“We deal with everyday topics and all aspects of theatre and its techniques,” Catherine Simon tells me over an afternoon phone chat. “We work with all age groups and we do workshops on areas such as anti-bullying, drug-awareness, and team-building. We are now moving onto a new platform creating work for young people and adults as well as with young people and adults and Children Of The Black Skirt is part of that new direction.”
Simon, who both directs and acts in the piece, goes on to outline the appeal of the play.
“I first came across the play three years ago and it really drew me in, it’s really intriguing and a great story,” she says. “It’s a very raw kind of work, it looks at a lot of political ideas and it’s very topical in that it looks at issues like the rights of the child, the use and abuse of power, the effects of migration. It’s a really powerful story, it pushes boundaries as it explores the different characters, and it reveals a lot about Australia’s history as well.”
Simon describes the Baboró production of the play as ‘a work in progress’ with the intention to develop the show further and tour it in the near future.
“It’s kind of unique as a play in that there is not that much work out there for the age-group we are focusing on with Children Of The Black Skirt,” she says. “We want to make it different and cross boundaries and think about the work differently.
“It’s a very challenging piece as well but I like that in a script; you’re trying to bring it to life and tell the story in a way that is interesting and captures the audience’s attention. Baboró is a really good platform for that and we’ll be having sessions after each performance where audiences can give critical feedback and that will help us as we develop the show further.”
Children Of The Black Skirt is directed by Catherine Simon (or Sheridan as she is now becoming known after her recent marriage! ) and performed by herself along with Michelle Simon and Noelle Kielty.
Children Of The Black Skirt plays at the Cube in NUI Galway’s Bailey Allen Hall on Tuesday October 16 and Wednesday 17 at 10 am and 12 noon, and at Druid on Saturday 20 at 2pm. Tickets are available from the Town Hall on 091 - 569777 and www.tht.ie For more information on Drama Works Ireland contact Catherine on 086 - 8747024 or email drama. [email protected]