Jul 30

The Abbey Theatre outreach experience ‘Home from Home’

Paul Horan (Chairperson East Wall P.E.G Variety & Drama Group) describes the excitement of the recent co-operation between the East Wall Community and the Abbey Theatre.

Michaela Alva


Over the past few months I have had the pleasure, on behalf of “East Wall For All” of co-ordinating the Abbey Outreach Project in our area.

Michaela plus


Driven by the Abbey Theatre’s “Community and Educational Manager” Phil Kingston
and inspired by Tom Murphy’s play “The House” (running in the Abbey at the time). The project involved working with a writer from the Abbey developing writers program – Darren Donohue – and introducing him to various members of the community, in particular senior citizens from the snooker club in the Community Centre. His purpose was to get a flavour of what life was like in the fifties and sixties within our area, with particular reference to the causes and effects of emigration. This he did
with a charm and sensitivity that beguiled those who met him into sharing their recollections both openly and generously.

Paul Ger No Dogs1


The next phase of the project involved Darren setting up a writers group to develop the anecdotes and reflections that he had gleaned during his conversations and turn them into performance pieces. The group involved young and old from the area. They were broken up into
writing teams and individuals, each given a particular aspect to write about. The creativity and skill exhibited by these writers was truly inspiring.

Audience Jimmy Plus Girls


The final phase of the project involved the actual preparation and performance of the vignettes. Twelve pieces in all, seven written by Darren and five written by members of the community. We divided into three groups of actors / directors and began fevered rehearsals to
perfect the scenes for performance. The younger group had the pleasure of working with Gerry Lee from The Abbey as their Director. Gerry shared his years of experience, knowledge and training with this group, gently and skilfully extracting performances from them that belied their tender years.

Ryan Rebecca


Then on the Twelfth of July, to our great delight, we were given the opportunity to attend the Abbey Theatre for the day. We were welcomed by Phil Kingston, the driving force behind the project and a man who’s enthusiasm and professionalism throughout the course of the day
served only to make the experience all the more enjoyable. We were given and a wonderful voice work-shop from Andrea, which helped not only to instruct but also to somewhat relax the nerves of the group. The process of brow soothing was further enhanced by the kindness and generosity of spirit of Stephen, the stage manager. It was decided that the piece, or more correctly pieces should be presented in a type of Vaudevillian presentation, opening and closing with a song.

Seamus The Return


At Three PM that day we presented the work, entitled “Home From Home” as a “Work in Progress” to a small, invited audience. The thrill and honour felt by those treading the hallowed boards of National Theatre, walking in the steps of Yeats & Synge, Shaw & O’Casey, cannot be overstated. Actors ranging in age from fourteen to seventy-four performed with gusto and artistry the stories inspired by and created by their community. The next week on the eighteenth and nineteenth the piece was performed again in the Sean O’Casey Theatre, in the Community Centre. Again Phil Kingston was there, managing, directing, cajoling even further efforts from those

The Watch The Match & The Mowl Tommy Seamus


involved, and doing so with such a delicacy of touch that the performances were indeed raised to new heights. Very well attended, the audiences seemed to connect in a very intimate level with the performance, and the feedback on those nights and since has been positive to the point of being charged.

Vaudeville, is a much maligned term in the history of theatre. Referencing in most cases a cheap, even low type of entertainment favoured by the working classes in the early twentieth century as, well, the only type of theatre that they could afford. Involving a series of short sketches and entertainments, it was for the most part not regarded as “legitimate theatre”.

The etymology of the term however is interesting. Believed to have been derived from the French “Voix- De- Ville”, meaning voice of the town or song of the town, it has been the inspiration for many play writes, not least Beckett and O’Casey. Whatever the history of the thing, one thing
remains clear to me. On the twelfth of July this year, the voice of our town was heard clear and crisp above the stalls of the National theatre and its song was a song of beauty, pride and dignity, as sweet a song, as ever I have heard.

Many thanks to Phil, Darren Andrea, Stephen and Gerry Lee from the Abbey, and many, many thanks to all those who contributed their memories, to those who created the pieces, to those who performed and to those who attended from our community.


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