Away with the fairies - Human Child

Come away, O human child!

To the waters and the wild.

With a faery, hand in hand.

For the world's more full of weeping than you can understand.

THE ABOVE lines act as the refrain in WB Yeats’ ‘The Stolen Child’ and they also provide the inspiration for Collapsing Horse’s Human Child, which comes to Galway next week as part of Baboró.

Inspired by changeling myths from Irish mythology as well as Yeats’ poetry, Human Child is a magical adventure story that mixes puppetry, comedy, and live music. The production premiered in Dublin in June when it was hailed by Irish Theatre Magazine as “enchanting, aesthetically beautiful and highly entertaining”.

Collapsing Horse was formed last year and has already staged four productions and enjoyed sell-out runs at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Founded with an interest in puppetry, music, design, and comedy, the group is propelled by both boundless energy and reams of diverse experience.

Dan Colley, who wrote and directs Human Child, expands on the ensemble’s background:

“The company was set up by four friends who met up in college and were going to drama classes outside of that and were also active in the university drama society. After their graduation they wanted to put on a show.

“I came in at the end of their collaboration though I already knew the guys, we’re basically friends who like making each other laugh and we’re excited about making work together. I’ve directed all of their shows to date, of which Monster/Clock was the first one.”

Two of Collapsing Horse’s founders also enjoy key roles in major TV series; Jack Gleeson plays Prince Joffrey in Game of Thrones while puppet master Aaron Heffernan can be seen in the new series of Love/Hate in which he plays Detective Inspector Gavin Brogan.

I ask Colley whether their screen commitments restrict their involvement with Collapsing Horse.

“Not at all, sure it takes no time at all to make television!” he replies with a laugh. “It’s the nature of the business that everyone has their own thing that they’re working on and then we all get together to do a show. That’s why it’s called Collapsing Horse, we come from disparate backgrounds and do different things at different times.”

And so to Human Child; “I’ve always been interested in changeling myths and fairy stories,” Colley states. “In the Yeats’ poem there is a sense that the fairies have maybe stolen the child, or they have made a pitch, they are calling to the child saying to the child ‘the world you live in is scary and hard to understand, come away from all that’.

“Given the world can be a scary place that’s a very seductive idea. So we take that notion and then take ourselves and our audience on a journey. The play doesn’t shy away from the darker realities of the theme - the child leaving their ties with the world - though it engages with them more in a playful way than a creepy one.”

In Yeats’s poem the child is male but in Human Child the protagonist is a young girl called Leila. Thanks to the stage sorcery of Collapsing Horse, her rich and strange encounter with the fairy world makes for a memorable theatrical experience, for young and old alike.

Human Child runs at the Town Hall on Thursday October 17 (11am and 7pm ) and Friday 18 (10am and 12 noon ). Tickets are available from the Town Hall on 091 - 569777 and www.tht.ie

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