On the first night of the 2015 Dublin Fringe Festival, I had the opportunity to drink delicious home brewed fruit tea and broke bread with both the cast and fellow audience members in a thankfully un-let unit in Smithfield. I say thankfully, because had it been let then ‘Block B’ as it is called would simply become another out-of-bounds, nondescript office in our inner city instead of a place transformed by director Louise White and her team into a magical, yet all-too-real Laois bog land. White’s bog in Dublin city centre is fully replete with both biodiversity and what I would term ‘psychodiversity’ which is namely the common but varied human tensions and relational dynamics felt – but so often ignored by many of us who come together as a community to fight for what on a deeper level might not always be a ‘common cause’.
‘Mother You’ is White’s smart personal reflection on group dynamics which she sets against the narrative of the successful attempt by the intelligent and grounded efforts of the members of the Abbeyleix Bog Project to conserve and protect their local natural resource from decimation by Bord Na Móna. I always experience an exciting yet slightly edgy feeling when attending a performance in a non-traditional theatrical setting. Are we really in here? I wonder how they managed to get permission or did they bother to ask? Is that scaffolding part of the production or something that just happened to be left over from the builders? ‘Performance-making’ in spaces such as Block B, I imagine encourages the artists and production team to really respect the non-conformity of the space and thereby the space in turn guides them to run with the unexpected during live performance. The result, certainly in the case of ‘Mother You’, heightens the reality and tension experienced by us the audience. As we met and mingled in the bare yet warm welcoming foyer, two local teenage lads walked straight in off Smithfield Square, heads held high with a suavity and outer confidence which left me wondering who were these two dashing theatrical Svengalis clad in hoodies? However, I also noticed that they made their grand entrance when the ticket collector was momentarily distracted and they were promptly but respectfully invited to exit, which they did so with the same swag as they had just entered. However, this hardly noticeable minor event added to my store of excitement and I was delighted to witness the fact that hosting performances in otherwise empty and usually closed-up buildings was attracting and tempting our youth to sneak into such performances. That, in my opinion is a good thing!
The performance of ‘Mother You’ has as much depth and as many layers as the bog in Abbeyleix. As a counselling psychotherapist, I ground my practice in ecotherapy and ecopsychology and through exploring our connection and indeed our disconnection with nature – I believe we can evoke the courage and strength to make positive changes in our lives. The understated yet beautifully authentic presentation by the cast of ‘Mother You’ gently encourages us to remember our feelings from our first day at school, at college, at our workplace or at any of the thousands of community events hosted the length and breadth of Ireland. Cringe and fold up inside as the dynamics unfurl in the magical space, knowing full well that you are that person, you have asked that question and you have felt that feeling.
White’s creative storytelling is as reassuring as it is healthily evocative and echoing what was being played out on stage (having been gently lulled into a ‘being’ mode from my earlier ‘doing’ mode), I sat with my own personal ambivalences and vulnerabilities in the audience. The significance and symbolism of sharing food amongst the cast and audience during the production reminded me that we were all in this together. The feeling of togetherness in turn cemented the conveyance of precious emotion from Louise White, through the talented cast and production team to us audience members.
It was only two days before the opening night did I learn quite by accident that on account of my Walk Inniú ecotherapy work and a recent visit to the Abbeyleix bog , was I to actually feature in ‘Mother You’. Imagine my excitement on knowing that I was to be mentioned in a Dublin Fringe Fest performance – a privilege and quite a first for me personally. Prominent members from the Abbeyleix Bog Project much more deservedly feature in ‘Mother You’ and all are presented in a unique and clever way. For me, most importantly ‘Mother You’ reflects on the passion and growing self-actualisation and realisations of a small midlands community and invites the rest of us to check in with our values and work through the cringe and dynamics of doing so as we come together as the communities which we really are.
Funny what you learn when the bog comes to Dublin…
(Mother You by Louise White in performance at Block B, Smithfield Square as part of the 2015 Dublin Fringe Festival www.fringefest.com)