This year sees the 100th anniversary of Brian Moore’s birth year. Born in Belfast on 25 August 1921, Brian Moore was one of the most prolific authors to come out of Belfast. Thanks to funding from Arts Council Northern Ireland, Paradosso Theatre Company will hold a series of events in August 2021 commemorating the centenary of one of Northern Ireland’s finest writers.
The name Lonely Passions: Brian Moore Centenary Festival, takes inspiration from one of Moore’s most popular novels ‘The Lonely Passion Of Judith Hearne’. A prizewinning and three times Booker Prize nominee, he wrote over 20 novels, including The Emperor Of Ice Cream, The Luck Of Ginger Coffey, The Feast Of Lupercal, I Am Mary Dunne, The Doctor’s Wife, and The Colour Of Blood amongst others. He was also a short story writer and briefly – a screenwriter.
Many of his novels were adapted for the screen and featured stars such as Micheal Caine (The Statement, 2003), Maggie Smith, Bob Hoskins (The Lonely Passion Of Judith Hearne, 1987) and Paul Newman and Julie Andrews, who starred in the 1966 Hitchcock directed film, Torn Curtain.
The festival will take place from Thursday 19th – Wednesday 25th August 2021, ending on the centenary of his birth, and will be a city wide affair, including a walking tour of Brian Moore’s Belfast and encompassing screenings, both fictional and documentary, readings of his plays and short stories, panels discussing the legacy of his work, and live performances and recitals (Covid permitting) in a variety of indoor and outdoor spaces.
The Brian Moore Centenary Festival is supported by Organisational Emergency Funding by the Department for Communities through the Arts Council of Northern Ireland. Caoileann Curry –Thompson, Drama and Dance Officer at the Arts Council said:
“I am thrilled that the Arts Council of Northern Ireland is supporting Paradosso in this vibrant, ambitious venture to bring the work of Brian Moore to life in the streets and venues of his home town. Paradosso has created an irresistible, varied programme of work drawing on the talents of a fantastic range of artists. No better way to celebrate the extraordinary Brian Moore who has been all too long overlooked here. I’m especially excited that this one-of-a-kind, exceptional artist is to be honoured by Paradosso, a company which represents the very best in Northern Irish theatre: singularity of vision, tenacity, generosity in approach and probing insight into the human spirit.”
Eileen Branagh, Chair Paradosso Theatre Board
“We are delighted to be helping to commemorate Brian Moore and to raise awareness of his work to a new and younger audience, while allowing an older generation to reminisce in a writer too often overlooked on these shores.”
Mary Lindsay & Vittoria Cafolla, Artistic Directors, Paradosso Theatre
The beauty of Brian Moore’s work lies in his simple, but beautiful storytelling and in the richness of his characters. Many of his most popular novels are set in the familiar surroundings of Belfast, yet deal with issues and themes that many will find relatable & all too relevant today. We are thrilled to be able to celebrate and promote his work to both fans and new and younger audiences alike.
In the meantime “Brian Moore at 100” (a collaboration between Exeter University and Queen’s University Belfast) has planned a series of events to run throughout the year. You can find further information on their website: http://blogs.exeter.ac.uk/bm2021, including details of a Brian Moore read-along run by Cathy Brown (@cathy746books).
We’ll let you fill the blank yourself. It might be an expletitive, it might be ‘locked down’ or maybe – if you are a glass half full kind of person- ‘reflective’. For us it was a year in which, despite the pandemic, an awful lot happened. So since we havent posted in a while, we thought we’d each write a little about what’s happened in 2020….
I started the year watching the play I had collaborated on with Big Telly try to tour (As Nicky Harley said later – it was strangely prophetic -the actors at one point give out masks, protecting the audience from the fallout of a cloud, there’s a travel ban, you aren’t allowed in ‘cafes’). Mary and I finally signed off on the stage rights of The Lonely Passion Of Judith Hearne (an epic 7 year journey involving scores of phone calls, emails, hollywood screenwriters, George Harrison- not even kidding- an epic tale deserving of its own blog post ) l was also working on a commission for Kabosh Theatre Company- and was going full throttle at it when the pandemic and its attending anxieties hit: homeschooling, washing down groceries , controlled exercise the lot. While it seemed that everyone was writing a lockdown monologue or putting a bit of work out there, I can honestly say that trying to be creative in March 2020 was like…. well…watch this short cartoon….
It was honestly- the hardest thing I’ve ever written. I’m still re-writing it! Writing at the best of time is, as Taika Waititi said on twitter recently ( I’m paraphrasing but watch the full clip, creatives, it’s very funny) ‘lonely and filled with crippling self doubt’, and to be honest 2020 made that much worse.
Anyway. the pandemic also gave lots of us thinking time. (worrying about money time too) and with the lack of taxiing small children to school, brownies etc it also meant I had time to watch more shows online and even do a 6 week female only -playwriting course with Donna Kaz of the Guerrilla Girls NY (it was fantastic- I’d highly recommend it and I think she may be starting another one soon, if you are interested) Thanks to the Arts Council Northern Ireland for that! I wrote and rewrote a screenplay for Belfast company Boomclaplay, based on the legend of Sedna- which is in the process of being animated. I can’t wait to see what Andy and David come up with – seriously talented guys.
I’ve also been working on a commission for the Lyric – a piece that will be a response to the formation of Northern Ireland in 1921. Hugely thrilled about that, and nervous (the unbelievably talented Meghan Tyler is also writing one!) that I’ll mess it up, but mainly delighted to have the opportunity.
The play for Kabosh – The Shedding Of The Skin was due to be performed in The Belfast International Arts Festival. Sadly, as it was online that didn’t happen. And here’s where things get weird – the funny thing about this pandemic that it feels like it’s actually been good for new writing. Small zoom productions, readings of new work have been popping up everywhere and with budgets being repurposed ( I assume!) when big shows are unable to run in our national theatres. And theatre companies jumped and rose to the challenge. So two of the most wonderful experiences I have had – ever – working in the theatre happened as a result. The first was Verge: New Northern Irish Plays with Prime Cut (who were on my bucket list to work with)
Working with Rhiann Jeffery and a cast of absolute stars was a joy. I thought possibly it was the relief of being in an -almost- rehearsal room, but I just loved listening to these people telling a story… which is odd for me (see: crippling self doubt above)
The second was thanks to the Abbey Theatre Engine room project, in which I got to spend a day in an covid-safe actual rehearsal room with Rhiann Jeffery, Mary Lindsay, Richard Clements, Marty Maguire, Nicky Harley and Maggie Cronin. I was one of 35 artists selected to spend some time (funded by the Abbey) to work on a show- in my case it was a play I’d submitted a couple of years ago. It was a wonderful opportunity to revisit it, and to chat about all things theatre in between (though the fear of C-19 gives everything an edge, even when you’re social distancing and being extremely careful.) It was a pretty amazing and affirming way to end 2020. Well that and the fact that Paradosso got funding from ACNI for a very exciting project……
I have to say …I find it very difficult to sum up in coherent sentences what I have been doing and what life has been like over the last year. Ummmmmmm…….. January and February of last year were a bit of a blur …….and then March came, and with it lockdown.
What do you do? Where do you go? Stay in bed? YES, Watch too much TV….YES…Eat too much, drink too much, worry too much, stress too much, share endless memes…..YES YES YES.
Thinking back to lockdown in March I was a bit of a fan of walking up and down the stairs a lot, trying to get my steps in, thinking that would make everything alright but actually driving my husband, dog, neighbours CRAZY! Oh and I did make a very tasty green lentil shepherd’s pie…sign up to the mailing list for details.
Once life had settled I realised that so many people were feeling exactly the same…thanks to their get up and go and inspirational creativity I started to watch the amazing online content being offered & and book onto free information sessions and training. It was a way to stay connected and stay sane.
I started to watch online plays from Big Telly, National Theatre, amazing initiatives from Lyric Theatre with New Speak: Reimagined, Abbey Theare – Dear Ireland, Tinderbox Theatre Solo Art, helping artists get through this weird and difficult time by creating funny, joyous, poignant and moments away from 2020 content, online rehearsed readings of new plays by Vittoria Cafolla, Amanada Verlaque through VERGE with Prime Cut, free training sessions with Spotlight, Bow Street Academy, Equity NI and Backstage, and then it dawned on me that the place I had always wanted to be able to visit and train with, HB Studio in New York, might actually be offering online courses as well.
And so they were…. Thanks to the Arts Council Northern Ireland this dream came true. I studied for 15 weeks through 2020 and just recently in January 2021 (inaugural and intensive Hagen’s Actors lab). These courses allowed me to connect, not only with the amazing HB Studio tutor Carol Rosenfeld (Acting and Living in Discovery) who was a student of Uta Hagen, but also Mark Nelson and Theresa McElwee. These 15 weeks of focus were a haven for me – to delve into the teachings of Uta Hagen and connect with an acting community across the world who strangely enough were experiencing the same emotions as I was during lockdown (and extended lockdown). That in itself was enlightening and reassuring and it also felt like the world was a smaller place for once! It’s okay to be worried, it’s okay to be anxious, it’s only natural when the entire world turns upside down. I was introduced to a wonderful film on you tube called “Broadway’s Dreamers: The Legacy of the Group Theatre, from “American Masters”, about the Group Theatre collective in New York formed in 1931. If you have time please watch, and if you ever wonder what is the point? …. fast forward to 1:20:48 to Shelley Winters empowering speech:
“The theatre should be a factory of thought, a prompter of conscience, an elucidator of social conduct, an armory against despair and dullness, and a temple to the Ascent of Man.” – George Bernard Shaw
Although I think it strange, I am very thankful for this period of quiet (in amongst the horror) as it has given me the opportunity work with writers, directors and artists across varied and worthwhile projects, with Shannon Yee and Queens University Renal Arts Group to develop a play by William Johnston – The Starman, The Superhero and The Wizards, perform a monologue by Holly Anna Furey called ‘What Would Medusa Do?’ directed by Nuala Donnelly for No Touching Theatre Festival, and be part of a workshop for the Abbey Theatre Engine Room to develop Bloodlines by Vittoria Cafolla, directed by Rhiann Jeffrey with Nicky Harley, Richard Clements, Martin Maguire and Maggie Cronin, and work with director Lucy Baxter and Hanna Slattne on a virtual reality film, Mental Health Matters with Roisin Gallagher, Patrick Buchanan, and Colin Ash.
Throughout this time Paradosso has been a simmering constant, getting ready to pounce….about time I hear us say ….
2021 is a big year, It’s the centenary year of Brian Moore.
L-R, Emma McKenna, Susan Brennan, Mary Lindsay, Vittoria Cafolla, Emily Dedakis, Laura McKeown. (not pictured, Eileen Branagh)
We thought it was about time we introduced our management committee! We are very fortunate to have an experienced board from a variety of professional backgrounds to advise and guide us through our first project and the future plans for Paradosso Theatre. Their help and support has been invaluable. Here is a little more about them:
Eileen Branagh (Chair) is CEO/Artistic Director of Open Arts, an arts and disability organisation that engages with disabled people in delivering high quality activities and events across a range of art forms, engaging nearly 150 people per week.
Laura McKeown (Treasurer) oversees the day to day accounting and financial management of the Belfast Film Festival. She is currently in the final year, studying to achieve a professional qualification with Accounting Technicians Ireland.
Emma McKenna works in the Science Shop, at Queens University Belfast, a public engagement initiative based in Academic and Student Affairs, supporting community organisations in developing research projects which are carried out by Queens’s students as part of their degree programme.
Susan Brennanis a practicing Solicitor for the past 18 years, a committee member of Belfast Solicitors Association for 10 years and Chair of the organisation in 2011.
Emily Dedakis has extensive experience of the arts as a teacher of creative writing, and as dramaturg and producer with Accidental Theatre. She earned an MA (with distinction) and a PhD in creative writing at Queen’s University Belfast, where she has taught on the undergraduate programme and is also a board member for the Northern Ireland Theatre Association.
We’re drawing inspiration from two great pieces of work this week. Tennessee Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire and Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale.
Not that we’d need a reason to explain why A Streetcar Named Desire is inspiring but….this clip from the film feels pretty relevant to us as we trawl through the motivations of our main character, as she makes her way from page to stage. Blanche says:
Soft people- soft people' ve got to court the favor of the hard
ones, Stella.They've got to shimmer and glow¡
I don't know how much longer I could turn the trick.
It isn't enough to be soft.
You've got to be soft and attractive.
And I- I'm fading now!
We are writing the story of a woman, who like Blanche, has reached an age where spinsterdom beckons, even though she’s still young. Blanche was apparently envisioned by Williams to be in her early thirties (!) Our character, is in her early 40’s in 1950’s Belfast. Not a world apart….
The expectations of what women are expected to be and what they are and aren’t allowed to be, is also very much at the heart of The Handmaid’s Tale – I’m watching the new TV adaptation with great interest – and reading the book to see how they’ve kept the essence of the characters and the story – and importantly how they do- and show – the interior monologue of the main character, Offred. It’s a great show- incredibly grim and often just downright terrifying- both because it feels very close to the bone in terms of what is happening in the world today but also because every single thing that happened in The Handmaid’s Tale has happened in real life to women in some part of the world.
The adaption is also interesting for us as we start to make decisions on how the play will run- do we keep the chronological order, or mix it up? Atwood’s tale lends itself to shifting between past and present in a way that our text might not. And TV can use voiceover in a way that theatre can’t. (Yeah, we could use it but….could we do it well? )
But the really big question is how do we stage the thoughts of our main characters? And is the answer to that – How do we best serve the characters and their stories? ….
Answers on a postcard please. I’ll just be over here, scratching my head. 🙂
Thrilled to be able to announce that Paradosso- Mary Lindsay and Vittoria Cafolla- are resident on the HATCH supported artist scheme at the MAC, for 2017-8.
We’re really excited as it gives us a space and all important support, to work on our very first project- which we have to keep quiet about for just another couple of weeks.
The MAC’s HATCH scheme is designed to support new and emerging artists by providing them with the time and space to develop creatively. These artists and companies will take up their 12-month residency within the MAC to work on a range of exciting new projects and live performances. The artists have access to the MAC’s resources and receive support and guidance from MAC staff throughout the year.
You can read all about the MAC’s HATCH scheme here
We’re delighted to be sharing an office with the other two HATCH artists, Emily DeDakis and Alana Henderson, whose work we already admire.
We are currently thinking about how to adapt an existing text. How to honour a dead writer’s masterpiece faithfully, while knowing that our allegiance is to the play we are creating and not just to the source material.
We are also thinking about how dance fits into our current project. As Paradosso as a whole.
Which leads us- nicely- to Pina Bauch. Above is a scene from her choreographed Orfeu e Eurydice.
The myth of Orpheus, though it has been told many ways, is primarily about an artist and art’s capacity to transcend. The heroic poet-musician Orpheus, after losing his wife, Eurydice, calms the deities of the Underworld with his lyre playing and singing. They permit him to lead her back to the world of the living. After he loses her a second time, he goes on invoking her. And, as many treatments show, his art continues after his death.
This is Pina’s version – she totally rips apart the original -even to the point of changing the Opera’s ending- and creates something beautiful. After the final aria, Orpheus’s Lament, he dies. And it’s stunning.
Well, slowly anyway. We’ve got an amazing group of women on board to form a management committee, we’re applying for (ever increasingly elusive) funding, but more importantly, we have our first project on the go. And it will be great. One of the benefits of the Paradosso’s AD’s being a bit older (ahem, lets say seasoned, shall we?) is that we have connections and a wealth of experience- and we intend to use it.