The latest show by Edinburgh company Lung Ha’s was assembled from bits and pieces — much like its central character. Writer Louise Ironside tells Neil Cooper the story.
Toys coming to life is nothing new in fairytales. where after-dark mantelpiece shenanigans create unseen pandemonium before settling down at dawn. With an egg-whisk brain and a sponge for a heart, the ‘self-raising child‘ in Lung Ha’s Theatre Company's new show is less man'onette-made-ﬂesh than the bastard offspring of a Blue Peter sticky-back plastic and pair of Vai’s old knickers liaison. When a storm blows the cobwebs from his mind and sets his heart a-beating. albeit rather spongily, the kid gets itchy feet and decamps to find his Dad. Cue lonely old duf fer Geltzahler (German: money-payer) who sits amongst his riches with no one to share them. Until. that is. a knock on his door changes everything. This ‘adult fairytale' is scripted by writer and actress Louise lronside (recently seen in the Royal Lyceum’s autumn triple whammy of classic plays, though you may also remember her as the Scots disciple of mad Simon in Bron/(side, unceremoniously bumped off in absentia). Along with director John Mitchell, lronside has melded together bits of the Bluebeard myth with some of
A little bit of this, a little bit of that: The Home-Made Child
Mitchell's own cut-up writings to give birth to The Home-Made Child.
‘l basically stole the character.‘ says Ironside. ‘When John and i knew we were going to be working together. we decided to do something with a very simple narrative so we could explore different ways of telling a story, doing it quite visually as well as verbally. After three nightmare days working it through, we ended up with a new fairytale with this incredibly powerful Bluebeard-type figure. We looked at how people acquire that kind of wealth, and
nine times out often it’s not through entirely legitimate means.’
The dream team of Mitchell and lronside previously collaborated on Trade, a devised show about prostitution produced by Mitchell's own Oxygen House company, which. despite picking up a couple of awards and a glowing reputation, have been knocked back by the Scottish Arts Council on too many occasions.
Thankfully this hasn't been the case for Lung Ha’s, who set out in l984 to provide opportunities for peOple with learning disabilities to become actively involved in performance arts. Their ﬁrst show was based on the top Japanese telly cult show Monkey, since when they've blazed a largely unheralded trail. They’ve nevertheless earned respect for their brand of ‘disabled theatre‘ where the emphasis is firmly on quality rather than any tokenistic and patronising liberal notions of empowemient at the expense of artistic men't.
Learning-disabled performers take the stage on an equal footing with professional actors. and just as much is expected of them. The company's management structure also allows for active equality. and the past year has seen a forum set up for ordinary company members to have their say in executive decision-making. ‘The four actors in this have really risen to the challenge,’ says lronside. ‘So the process has been exactly the same as with any theatre company, in that all actors have strengths which you can bring out. The joy of being a writer in rehearsal is that you can exploit whatever you see as being people's particular talents and then push them further.’ (Neil Cooper)
The Home-Made Child. Lung Ha ’5 Theatre Company. Traverse Theatre. Edinburgh. Thurs 8—Star 11 February.
streets, outcasts from a divisive to be a great success partly becaus, Pouncm' COMEDY ' society. From this position, however, Seaton believes, it provided its they can offer us a unique insight into Scottish audiences with a fresh ' life in Iforthern Ireland from both sides perspective on 20th century Irel-d. e of the religious divide. Simon Shartrey, mtistic director at Far from being a glum political rant Cumbemauld Theatre, is convinced he 6 on the Irish problem, Onlorrs is has a rm on his hands. ’Onions is a essentially a comedy. The play’s play with a very wide appeal,’ he says. humour lies in the warmth and wit of ‘First and foremost it’s very funny, it's the characters as they unfold their also a very warm and human play. The Given that Ireland's troubled past has own very different life histories bag-lady characters are universal - always provided playwrights with through flashback and song. anions everyone can identify with them and fertile ground for the imagination, and however does not exist in a historical their situation. Through the that the ongoing fascination with all vacuum and through its humour we are characters’ lives, the play exruuines things Irish shows no sign of abatlng, compelled to exanine not only the the Irish issue from a different slant cumbemauld Theatre and Paisley Arts validity of Ireland’s political and in a way that’s not overtly political but Centre’s choice of play for their religious turmoil but in turn our own full of fun and pathos.’ collaborative debut is certainly a inherent prejudices. With Barbara Rafferty (Rd 0. canny one. They’ve joined forces to Written in 1988, anions was Nostrth and Alison Peebles (Tm produce Unions Make You Cry, an originally conceived one cold morning The Advocates) playing the roles of award-winning play originally devised as the members of Big Telly Theatre Bridget and Emily, this production will by County Derry-based theatre COMM! arrived for work. (to-writer undoubtedly reveal its own very company, Big Telly. Zoe Seaton explains, ‘As we peeled off distinct immunity. or lunar. The play takes a look at Ireland’s our layers of clothes we got the idea past. As Emily points out, ‘lsn’t history often turbulent history through the of going back in time through peeling . glut thing than ya can tell It eyes of two bag ladies, Emily and away the layers of a character‘s whatever way would suit you?’ Bridget. Although they come from personal history.’ " Fortunately, that’s the way the Irish different backgrounds - Erally was When Big Telly brought Onlons to ~ - r a, fire it. (Catfu'yn O’Ielll) born into a privileged middle-class Scotland in 1991 , Seaton was worried ‘ " anions Hate You Cry, Mann” Protestant taully while Bridget is the that it might be ‘too Indigenous to - Theatre, Thoreau-Set: Feb ad “W 0' I Poor Catiroilc farmer - ilorthern lreland’ to work well Peel h and see: Barbara narrerty (left) and Alon 12-Sat 17 Feb; PalsIeyArts they have both ended up on the elsewhere. The tour, however, proved Alison Pueblos In Onions Make You Cry Centre, Mon 5-"! 10 Feb.
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