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All-male Propeller Theatre return with Shakespearian ‘soap operas’



Date Published: {J}

A fascinating soap opera of a family bickering,” is how theatre director Edward Hall describes Richard III, which his company Propeller will be performing at this year’s Galway Arts Festival.

This is the second Galway visit by the all-male Propeller Company, which made its Arts Festival debut two years ago with The Merchant of Venice and A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

“We had such an enjoyable time the last time,” he says, “it felt like people watching it received what we had done just for what it was, with no preconceptions.”

Propeller has a track record of pairing Shakespeare’s plays, performing a comedy and a tragedy in repertory, which they will be doing at the Arts Festival, when Richard III is staged alongside The Comedy of Errors.

“I started pairing plays a while ago, mostly out of artistic interest and also, doing two plays by the same writer means you get better at doing it,” says Edward.

This immersion in Shakespeare is fascinating process for both director and performers.

“It’s not the similarities but the differences you notice. That’s the extraordinary thing. With these two, you hardly think it’s the same writer,” he muses.

While Edward uses the word ‘bickering’ to describe the family strife in Richard III, the term barely begins to do justice to Richard’s antics.

Richard III was the last king of the House of York. He was killed in 1845 during the War of the Roses, leading to the reign of the Tudors.

A hunchback with a limp who was scorned for his deformities, he became king after a murderous campaign which saw him kill his brother, nephews and several other family members.

It is a play which delves deep into English history, but says Edward Hall, it’d be a mistake to think that English people are more knowledgeable about the story than audiences from anywhere else. In any case, you don’t need the back story.

“All you need to know is that he is a bad guy and if the audience don’t know that, they soon will.”

People will also “recognise the politics, the greed, the ironies and you are horrified at the violence and the almost charmingly awful way Richard orchestrates it all”.

But while Richard is a baddie, it’s not all black and white.

“In the last part of the play, he dies like a warrior and there’s a curious heroism about the last part of the play for me,” says the director, adding that it’s not for nothing that some of Shakespeare’s most famous lines, “a horse, a horse, my kingdom for a horse”, are from that heroic moment.

Edward points out that Shakespeare was writing this play under the reign of the Tudor queen, Elizabeth I and so, he had to portray Richard III as a villain.

“But he gave him a hump and a limp and had him murder everybody, and then had him die a hero, so . . . ,” he reasons that Shakespeare didn’t really see it as a black and white story either.

Propeller premiered this double bill in January in Sheffield, when the highly visual productions, complete with music and masks, were lauded. The Daily Telegraph described Richard III as ‘a tour de force’ praising its “OTT relish for bloody gore” and its “intelligent, witty” interpretation. But it didn’t come easy.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Galway in Days Gone By

The way we were – Protecting archives of our past



A photo of Galway city centre from the county council's archives

People’s living conditions less than 100 years ago were frightening. We have come a long way. We talk about water charges today, but back then the local District Councils were erecting pumps for local communities and the lovely town of Mountbellew, according to Council minutes, had open sewers,” says Galway County Council archivist Patria McWalter.

Patria believes we “need to take pride in our history, and we should take the same pride in our historical records as we do in our built heritage”. When you see the wealth of material in her care, this belief makes sense.

She is in charge of caring for the rich collection of administrative records owned by Galway County Council and says “these records are as much part of our history as the Rock of Cashel is. They document our lives and our ancestors’ lives. And nobody can plan for the future unless you learn from the past, what worked and what didn’t”.

Archivists and librarians are often unfairly regarded as being dry, academic types, but that’s certainly not true of Patria. Her enthusiasm is infectious as she turns the pages of several minute books from Galway’s Rural District Councils, all of them at least 100 years old.

Part of her role involved cataloguing all the records of the Councils – Ballinasloe, Clifden, Galway, Gort, Loughrea, Mountbellew, Portumna and Tuam. These records mostly consisted of minutes of various meetings.

When she was cataloguing them she realised their worth to local historians and researchers, so she decided to compile a guide to their content. The result is For the Record: The Archives of Galway’s Rural District Councils, which will be a valuable asset to anybody with an interest in history.

Many representatives on these Councils were local personalities and several were arrested during the political upheaval of the era, she explains.

And, ushering in a new era in history, women were allowed to sit on these Rural District Councils – at the time they were not allowed to sit on County Councils.

All of this information is included in Patria’s introductory essay to the attractively produced A4 size guide, which gives a glimpse into how these Rural Councils operated and the way political thinking changed in Ireland during a short 26-year period. In the early 1900s, these Councils supported Home Rule, but by 1920, they were calling for full independence and refusing to recognise the British administration.

“I love the tone,” says Patria of the minutes from meetings. “The language was very emotive.”

That was certainly true of the Gort Rural District Council. At a meeting in 1907, following riots in Dublin at the premiere of JM Synge’s play, The Playboy of the Western World the councillors’ response was vehement. They recorded their decision to “protest most emphatically against the libellous comedy, The Playboy of the Western World, that was belched forth during the past week in the Abbey Theatre, Dublin, under the fostering care of Lady Gregory and Mr Yeats. We congratulate the good people of Dublin in howling down the gross buffoonery and immoral suggestions that are scattered throughout this scandalous performance.


For more from the archives see this week’s Tribunes here

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Archive News

Galway have lot to ponder in poor show



Date Published: 23-Jan-2013




GALWAY’S first serious examination of the 2013 season rather disturbingly ended with a rating well below the 40% pass mark at the idyllic, if rather Siberian, seaside setting of Enniscrone on Sunday last.

The defeat cost Galway a place in the FBD League Final against Leitrim and also put a fair dent on their confidence shield for the bigger tests that lie ahead in February.

There was no fluke element in this success by an understrength Sligo side and by the time Leitrim referee, Frank Flynn, sounded the final whistle, there wasn’t a perished soul in the crowd of about 500 who could question the justice of the outcome.

It is only pre-season and last Sunday’s blast of dry polar winds did remind everyone that this is far from summer football, but make no mistake about it, the match did lay down some very worrying markers for Galway following a couple of victories over below par third level college teams.

Galway did start the game quite positively, leading by four points at the end of a first quarter when they missed as much more, but when Sligo stepped up the tempo of the game in the 10 minutes before half-time, the maroon resistance crumbled with frightening rapidity.

Some of the statistics of the match make for grim perusal. Over the course of the hour, Galway only scored two points from play and they went through a 52 minute period of the match, without raising a white flag – admittedly a late rally did bring them close to a draw but that would have been very rough justice on Sligo.

Sligo were backable at 9/4 coming into this match, the odds being stretched with the ‘missing list’ on Kevin Walsh’s team sheet – Adrian Marren, Stephen Coen, Tony Taylor, Ross Donovan, David Kelly, David Maye, Johnny Davey and Eamon O’Hara, were all marked absent for a variety of reasons.

Walsh has his Sligo side well schooled in the high intensity, close quarters type of football, and the harder Galway tried to go through the short game channels, the more the home side bottled them up.

Galway badly needed to find some variety in their attacking strategy and maybe there is a lot to be said for the traditional Meath style of giving long, quick ball to a full forward line with a big target man on the edge of the square – given Paul Conroy’s prowess close to goal last season, maybe it is time to ‘settle’ on a few basics.

Defensively, Galway were reasonably solid with Gary Sice at centre back probably their best player – he was one of the few men in maroon to deliver decent long ball deep into the attacking zone – while Finian Hanley, Conor Costello and Gary O’Donnell also kept things tight.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Archive News

Real Galway flavour to intermediate club hurling battle in Birr



Date Published: 23-Jan-2013


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