GALWAY THEATRE company ThereisBear! recently announced details for its ambitious and exciting 2014 programme, which begins in January with two simultaneous productions – Christina Reid’s Joyriders in Galway and Mark O’Rowe’s Terminus in Dublin.
Joyriders runs in Nuns Island Theatre from January 5 to 8, while Terminus takes place in the Boys’ School, Smock Alley Theatre, from January 6 to 8. The productions will then swap cities with Joyriders going to Smock Alley from January 10 and 11 and Terminus coming to the Town Hall Studio from February 26 to March 1.
ThereisBear! Theatre was founded in 2012 by a group of NUI Galway students who wanted to bring their art to the world. Since its creation, ThereisBear! has brought critically-acclaimed shows to the national stage, ranging from original plays (Shaun Leonard’s Ballykilldowna ) to modern classics like Angels in America: Part One.
The ThereisBear! ethos
Joyriders is a humorous, yet deeply moving story about a group of teenagers involved in a youth training programme in West Belfast in 1986. Misunderstood and misrepresented by everyone around them, the youths trying their best to get by, when all that surrounds them is violence, economic hardship, and unsympathetic ears.
Joyriders explores the lives of teenagers in a volatile environment, and how they build and nurture relationships with one another against the backdrop of 1980s Belfast.
Joyriders is directed by Peter Hubert Shine and he took time to talk to me about the play but first he outlined the history and ethos of the company.
“ThereisBear! came out of the NUIG theatre and performance group, initially it was an extracurricular thing but now it is standing on its own legs,” he says. “The idea behind it is to give people of our age group and younger theatre practitioners a chance to stage shows they wouldn’t otherwise get to do.
“We’re willing to take risks on plays like Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf or Angels in America that are not typically done by younger theatre groups. I feel we can offer something theatrically that is lacking in youth theatre groups, an energy and dynamism with regard to sets and production values. What we’ve learned over the course of our college careers we now pour into the company.
“We feel we offer a high standard of professionalism and a platform for people of our age to enter into and see what it’s like to do bigger, proper, productions. The company is very broad, there are a lot of people involved and we’re coming up in the ranks, we’ve also added new performers in the last while. Only one of the cast of Joyriders has been in a ThereisBear! production before so we are not really an ensemble group; we are open to giving opportunities to theatre students and people like ourselves who are enthusiastic to deliver good productions and offer people proper entertainment in terms of theatre.”
I ask about the daring-ness in a young company taking on a play like Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf.
“That was the most ‘out there’ play we did in terms of our age but we try and find things in these plays that make them relevant to us,” Shine replies. “We have a love for these plays and feel we can do them justice, here in Ireland we don’t get plays like that or Angels in America very often. There are so many things in that play that need to be said and to be heard and we feel that if we do it with passion and the care and attention we can put on a show that will speak to, while also offering actors a chance to be in a show they might not otherwise to get a chance to do here.
“We think it’s that passion we have for these plays that keeps theatre alive, you don’t want to just keep doing the same old thing. You can’t be afraid of taking a risk. It’s been going well for us so far over the past couple of years we’ve had good responses.”
And so to Joyriders. Shine discusses what drew him to the play: “I came across it first while looking through plays in the library. Joyriders is very age-specific to our group in that the characters are about 16/17 years old. All the themes in it chime with what is going on now in terms of hardship prospects for kids and young adults as regards trying to find jobs, make money, trying to get by.
“All those things seem very relevant during this economic downturn which affects the youth badly and I think that is not really talked about enough. It is important to deal with issues dealing with young adults, it’s an important and turbulent time in your life and it deserves to be given the ground to be spoken about and discussed. This play does consider kids’ lives as being very serious and I think that’s important, it gives the stage over to young people and lets them tell their story.”
Though the play is set in 1980s Belfast, Shine asserts it can still speak to a Galway audience in 2013.
“It is still incredibly relevant,” he says. “That is what really attracted me to it. There is this core story about these four teenagers and the lives they live set around these really harsh times. It’s something we can’t understand, this constant threat of violence. How do they cope? They don’t have great prospects of getting a job just because of where they come from. Those things are still applicable.
“My parents are fostercare parents and my brother-in-law is a social worker so they come into contact with a lot of problems and the prejudices you still see from people are quite strong, judging people on where they come from which is what the characters in Joyriders encounter and it still happens in this day and age. People from poorer backgrounds get treated differently and the play deals with that as well.”
ThereisBear! has made real progress since its formation, as evidenced by its cross-country double bill and future plans, Shine reflects on the story so far.
“Our directors Hannah O’Reilly and Darragh O’Brien did a lot of legwork in the beginning,” he says. “They went out and knocked on doors to set up tours and meet venue managers and explain who we are and assure people we can take these things and make something of them. And we did fundraising campaigns. It was tough at first but we have now established a bit of a name for us and don’t have to fundraise, we’re on our own legs.
“People know we are serious about what we do. Also, our audiences are extremely important to us, we want to give them a good time whenever they come to one of our events. With the Joyriders and Terminus double-header, we’re just trying it out. It’s a new way of doing theatre, we try constantly to be innovative. A lot of our company members are in Dublin so we have a coast to coast thing going.”
Looking further ahead ThereisBear! will stage productions of Othello and The Merchant of Venice in March in Galway, Ballinasloe, and Inishbofin.
Tickets for Joyriders are available from the Town Hall on 091 - 569777 and www.tht.ie