Witnesses to her story
‘These Rooms’ by ANU in collaboration with CoisCéim Dance Theatre sees 2016 remembering 1916 back in 1966. In an electrifying production where now is then and then is now, ‘These Rooms’ invites you along to O’Rourke’s pub on North King Street in 1966. Enjoy a game of darts with the regulars, some dancing if the band ever arrive, and celebrate 50 years since the Easter Rising as De Valera takes the salute on black and white television. Fact and fiction merge as pasts converge in a powerful present. Interrogating Ireland since 1916 and the forgotten women lost in between, ‘These Rooms’ is one of the most brilliant, exhilarating and important shows of the year.
Set during the national celebrations of 1966, ‘These Rooms’ sees the previous 50 years prefiguring all the years, wakes and coffins to come during the times of the Troubles. The small kitchens and bullet holed walls against which news would be broken to distraught mothers, wives, sisters and daughters while soldiers stood outside, or pointed bayonets at the heads of women. Like the women caught up in the battle of North King Street in 1916, whose husbands, sons and lovers were shot, while they were held down, held back, held to a different standard which saw them condemned to be forgotten and written out of history. Until now.
Set on the site of Sean O’Casey’s birth place in Dorset Street, ‘These Rooms’ transforms the space into a portal to the past and a theatrical experience like no other. With the audience allowed to freely move about, a terrible beauty is born in this remarkable and unforgettable site specific production. Owen Boss, along with his exceptional design team of Ciaran Bagnall on lighting, Niamh Lunny on costumes, Carl Kennedy on sound and Val Sherlock on hair and make-up, leaves no detail unattended. From the dated cigarette machine to the authentic box of matches, the small, pink bow clipped to the hair to the paraphernalia of a 1960’s kitchen, everything is meticulously observed. As are some excellent performance by Craig Connolly, Matthew Williamson and Daniel Monaghan. But ‘These Rooms’ is primarily about the experiences of women, and the women in ‘These Rooms’ deliver four extraordinary performances.
ANU’s Louise Lowe, and CoisCéim Dance Theatre’s David Bolger bring their considerable directorial talents to bear on 'These Rooms,' seamlessly blending choreography and character in a remarkable production. Meeting at that place at the end of words, where both movement and sounds merge, Una Kavanagh tears out her bullish heart and screams beyond sound from the top of a cigarette machine. Niamh McCann's strength can’t bear to remember, nor to forget, as she begs you to listen and to leave. Dancer Justine Cooper is an absolute revelation as the woman in the window, holding the tea cup and ascending the stairs, her face a visible tale of dignity and heartache as she asks simply, “what colour were your husband’s socks?” As is Emma O’Kane in a sublime performance as the mad woman in the bar, pitied and tolerated on account of her suffering. Kane’s soul piercing gaze is mirrored throughout by Kane’s painstaking physicality which sees her, like a wounded Phoenix, attempting to rise from the flames only to be pulled back down into the fire, burnt over and over with each new act of remembrance. Tornado like, her whirling consumes all, but maybe it can find release in a dance swirling too, too fast, but one which holds its secret in a kiss.
‘These Rooms’ begins and ends in a bar. In between it is gorgeously, wonderfully, heartbreakingly magnificent. When it comes, applause is inadequate, almost inappropriate. Standing ovations are also inadequate. Five stars are certainly inadequate. Ask me what time it is? ‘These Rooms’ is a time and an experience you will never forget. Choose to miss it and you will miss something vital, unrepeatable and essential.
‘These Rooms’ by ANU in collaboration with CoisCéim Dance Theatre run at 85/86 Upper Dorset Street as part of Dublin Theatre Festival 2016 until October 16th
Run extended due to popular demand from October 25th till November 13th
For information on times and tickets, visit Dublin Theatre Festival, ANU or CoisCéim Dance Theatre
'These Rooms' is part of the Arts Council’s ART: 2016 programme