Christmas magic with Branar Theatre

BRANAR THEATRE brings its own brand of festive magic to the Town Hall Theatre next week with its acclaimed staging of ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas/Oíche Roimh an Nollaig.

The show transports audiences to the town of Ballybrack as it is prepares for Christmas. Houses are being decorated, cards written, presents wrapped, and stockings being hung. Branar embark on a joyful journey through the most magical night of year in this bi-lingual show which combines storytelling, original live music, and puppetry to create a captivating treat for audiences aged five and upwards.

The show is based on the famous 19th century poem, ‘A Visit From St Nicholas’ by Clement Clarke Moore, but Branar places its own distinctive stamp on the story, as director Marc MacLochlainn reveals.

“The poem was the original inspiration, I always enjoyed it and wondered how you could make it into something theatrical,” he tells me. “We looked at how we could interpret the poem, the only way to do it was quite literal and that was boring.

“So we came upon the idea that the main energy in the poem is the anticipation of Christmas and having that feeling in your belly that something is going to come that you are excited about. We decided to bring that into a town and it is set in 1948 and the first year that the town of Ballybrack has had electricity. Everyone is excited about getting their new lights.”

In the show, audiences are introduced to Mrs Carson, the chair of the town committee, who decides to have Christmas lights hung up around the town.

“We’ve built the show around this idea of Mrs Carson going around house to house asking people for permission to hang up the lights,” says Marc. “We take verses of the poem to punctuate the story, though it’s our own versions of them.

“Throughout the story there is also tension around one character, Mrs Molloy, whose job is to hand out Christmas candles and make sure every house has a candle for the window. There is tension between her and Mrs Carson because everybody wants to have the new lights so you have that tension between the modern and the traditional.”

Santa Claus features prominently in the original poem but in Branar’s staging his is more of a cameo role. “We finish with an epilogue where we recite two verses of the poem and there is a shadow Santa Claus that appears across the rooftops during that scene,” Marc explains.

Branar first staged ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas last year and the show was a huge success. “There was great demand for it,” Mac Lochlainn states. “We took it to 11 venues and 7,000 people saw it.”

‘Twas the Night Before Christmas rounds off what has been a highly productive 2014 for Branar. “It has been amazingly busy for us,” Marc admits. “We opened two brand new shows and we were also touring and three of our shows went international. Next year we are going to develop two new pieces.

“One of them is a show that will open in 2016 in the Town Hall and is based on the 1916 Rising. It is for children aged eight and up. I want to investigate what it was like for ordinary people in Dublin and around the country when the Rising happened, and to look at the human stories around it.

“There are diary entries and letters from people who were trapped in hotels for instance. We’ll also look at stories of the band of volunteers who met at Carnmore Cross thinking that the Rising was going ahead in County Galway. The show will have music and puppetry and be in the style of our other work.”

The cast of ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas are Helen Gregg, Ionia Ní Chróinín, Jonathan Gunning, Máire Greaney, and Pat Hargan, with live music from Michael Chang.

“In all our pieces we try to make stories that are simple and clear and magical,” Marc notes. “Because it is Christmas time that adds an extra bit of magic, the kids themselves project the idea of Christmas onto the show.”

‘Twas the Night Before Christmas is on Tuesday December 16 at 11am and 7pm an Wednesday 17 at 10am and 12 noon. Tickets are from the Town Hall on 091 - 569777 and www.tht.ie

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