The big event for me last weekend was attending an impressively powerful performance of Russell Hoban’s play Riddley Walker, as presented by Red Kettle in the big top opposite the Woodlands Hotel. I wrote an introductory piece to it last week and attempted to bring you a sense of the story and its context, and also the challenge this production represented, not only for director Ben Hennessy but everybody else involved, actors and also (and equally crucially) those behind the scenes. It is only when you examine the programme in detail that you realise the numbers involved, the huge array of skills and talents called to task to bring to fruition this truly ambitious dramatic project. I say I attempted to bring you a sense of the story last week, as at that stage I had only read about it myself but, as they say, seeing is believing and there is no doubt but that the ‘play is the thing’. In a word, folks, the production is awesome! Ben said his ambition was to produce a type of theatre that utilised a visual, aural and physical style alongside imaginative words – well, you got it all here. It’s a Leg End, indeed! No doubt there will be a full critique in the Art and Entertainment section by this paper’s literary and drama critic and I, for one, will be looking forward to his review with interest, as he brings a depth of experience with him to such matters. My purpose in my follow-up column this week is primarily to celebrate the arrival of this fabulous show in a big top to our neck of the wood(land)s here, and furthermore to tell folk in these parts about its story and thereby encourage them to go along to support this project. I wondered: would they succeed in capturing the magical essence of Hoban’s thought-provoking and powerfully imaginative work? They did indeed, in vision and in sound too.
What’s It All About: A Gun Powder Plot?
Last week I gave a lengthy enough synopsis of the story, but as I said before it needs to be experienced to be properly appreciated. Here I will confine myself to the introductory paragraph: Riddley WaIker is set in an unspecified, post-apocalyptic era in the future, when dogs have become humanity’s enemies and history is a rubble of allegory. It’s told in a language that recalls the “smashed mess of mottage” of Finnegan’s Wake, but Mr. Hoban’s inventiveness guarantees that the language of Riddley is his own creation. Gutteral yet eloquent, we hear in it echoes of rudimentary English (and a tendency toward sagas) that evoke Beowulf, mixed with remnants of the technological catchphrases and political jargon of the 20th Century. Riddley Walker is twelve years old, and at the outset of the book three remarkable things happen to him that seem to set him on a path toward mystery. The play brings us dramatically along that journey to the secret of 1 Big 1. Or back to where it all didn’t begin (or did it)? Did I say Pig Sh*t?
But what are the origins of this amazing play, that ends up being performed in a circus tent under my perch here at the Brasscock? Well, Russell Hoban tells us that some events are so far out of the ordinary that they compel a special kind of recognition, even a submission of the self to something that wants to happen. When he stood in front of the reconstructed wall painting of the St Eustace Legend in Canterbury Cathedral in 1974, the idea of an England reduced to an Iron Age living standard and a government whose decrees were made known and interpreted by puppet showmen came to him. He goes on then about the various ways and lengths he went about his task, which took him all over Kent (all over Inland and Outland, I asssume) and, after five and half years of writing and rewriting, the novel emerged into the sunlight (or should that read non-light?). The book was later successfully adapted for the stage in the mid-80s to critical acclaim. The authors says that the book found a following that continues to grow and that he is awed by the amount of time and devotion that has been put into the annotation by Eli Bishop and a host of contributors. One might reasonably say that there is a community of Riddley Walker-minded people, of which Ben Hennessy has proved to be not only a long term dedicated member but a powerfully active one, as witness the big top risen now in Waterford! Ben had asked Russell whether Riddley still lives on in his mind. How could he not!, he responds. And he has for company a lot of very, very good people, all of them going ballsy and many of them converging on Waterford by air, land and sea to put bums on seats in the big top. And you local folk, says I, the Brasscock, have but to cross the road for this unique experience. Go for it – the atmospherics, the set, the costumes, the music, the acting, the story makes it all worthwhile. Welcome again to Brasscockland – Riddley himself will be on the look out for ya! The show continues for the rest of the week until Saturday 17th at 8.00pm nightly.
PJ Moloney Memorial Darts
I had only space and time for only a brief reference to this annual worthy event last week. Over the past few years this annual memorial darts tournament, in honour of the late PJ Moloney, was held in the Woodlands, but this year it moved back down the road to Beckett’s (formerly Orpens). Held over the October bank holiday weekend, this eighth running of this popular competition in PJ’s honour was again very successful and raised in excess of €1,500 for oncology out-services locally. Again, people were unstinting in their generosity by way of entry fees, raffles and sponsorship. It is not surprising that the response each year proves so generous, because PJ himself was such a generous spirit and led by example and spearheaded many fundraising campaigns for deserving causes. His memory lives strongly among the community here, but especially among close friends and, of course, family. For the record, and those who like to know the score, the results were as follows: Highest Score/Female: Gillian Higgins (120); Highest Score /Male: Larry Kirwan (180); Highest Finish/Female: Michelle Barrett (62); Highest Finish/Male: Keith McCabe (57); Runners-Up: Margaret Moloney and John Myler; Winners: Michael Ryan and Keith McCabe. A special thanks to WLR’s great local man Geoff Harris for his support for the event on air. And finally, much deserved praise for the great and one and only Mr Dartman himself, Jimmy Power, ably assisted by the wonderful Brenda, who is the great organiser each year of the dart competitions, but especially this one in honour of PJ and the worthy cause it supports. Well done to all concerned!
Night for Rehab
Every so often I am approached by local man Kevin Whitty to support the work of Rehab or similar organisations, and I’m always glad to oblige because, just like PJ above, he is a man of generous heart and spirit who cares about and works on behalf of those less fortunate than himself. Yet another local stalwart with a background in Red Star. This time around he tells me that the Rehab Care Voluntary Committee is currently fundraising to purchase a minibus with wheelchair accessibility to bring trainees to and from the local centre. In recent years the number of people using their services with wheelchairs has increased considerably and they have to hire buses and taxis with wheelchair facilities to fill the gap. Hence the necessity to raise money.
Therefore, on Monday, December 10th, they will be hosting an auction night in the Tower Hotel with music by Avalon, comedy with the Geriatrics and of course lots of novelty spot prizes. A monster raffle will be held at the end of the night!
You can help by donating a prize or by buying tickets for the event so as to help this worthy cause to raise the necessary €70,000. If you want to contribute in either way, contact Kevin at 087-6795488 for further details. By the way, it will be a great place to buy your Christmas gifts: a fab gift from Rehab!
Go Seachtain Eile, Slan.