Solstice. Yes Please. Again. In A Heartbeat.
It always takes so much effort on the part of an artist to get a show on the road and off to an unconventional venue a few hours away. Especially when it’s a large-scale piece of theatre. And especially when there’s ten actors on the stage and a crew of four that are a must for travel. But, that’s what we did last week. We, as in The Devious Theatre Company, packed Smitten into a box – or namely two large plinths, some carry bags and a large suitcase – loaded things up into the van and hit the road in convoy to Cork for a performance at Solstice, falling under the banner of the Cork Midsummer Festival.
For the past six months, we’ve been beavering away at Kilkenny Arts Office as part of our In The Future When All’s Well theatrical residency, one of the first of its kind in the country (or so we think). One of the goals for the season was to get a show on the road, something we succeeded in doing early on by bringing Scratcher to Project Arts Centre as part of The Theatre Machine Turns You On: Volume II. Early win for us there. So when the opportunity presented itself to bring Smitten to Cork for Solstice, needless to say we were all over it, and rightly so.
It’s easy to look back at things now and say that it was a breeze when in fact the preparation that went into getting the show into a festival-esque version for Cork was quite something. But we came, we teched, we slept, we ate, we warmed up and we gave it socks on the stage. The experience from Dublin was that you went in, did the show and left, that was it. Cork, much like Kilkenny, is a different beast altogether.
The team of Dawn, Ruairi, Eszter and Shirley did a sterling job of getting everything up and running and keeping it going over the course of the couple of days we were there, aided by Lucie Ryan Donnelly (Venue) and Anthony Hanley (Tech). We were meeted (can you say that?) and greeted (it rhymes), welcome packs put in the hand, given a schedule for the week, introduced to the tech crew, offered any amount of hands for the get in and then ferried to our accommodation on the outskirts of town (a handy 20 minute walk, lovely for the morning stroll in).
The idea of running Solstice as a residency is something that, having spent the best part of the last six months consumed by one, appeals to me greatly. It leaves the running of the festival with a very homely, familial feel to it. Not that it’s all back slapping and feigned praise, but the chats, the contacts, the opportunities presented by being able to go along to any and every show on the programme, the chats that continued at the restaurants or pubs or around the bean bags (which we may have to order for our own offices) or in the yard at Spiegeltent, all created a fantastic atmosphere that buzzed over the four or five days that we were there.
That’s another thing too. While your show may have been 90 minutes and only on for the one performance (like ours) or you were on for 10 of 15 minutes, the invitation was extended to stay for the duration of the festival, explore each others’ work, join in on the symposium discussions (only one of which I made, though in my defence, two had their times changed).
As a result, I got to take in Conflicted Theatre‘s Red Shoes, Makeshift Ensemble‘s Osteoporosis, Wildebeest‘s A Different Animal, Spilt Gin‘s Taste (which I had missed at Theatre Machine, delighted to catch it this time), A Stint In Your Spotlight‘s The Middle Distance, Come As Soon As You Hear‘s new production Spurt (which left me with a fear for the goldfish during the piece) as well as all of the exhibition pieces on offer including an eerie video installation from Eimhin Hawes called Passage.
The setup for the venue worked quite well, very simple, but very effective. One large area with smaller units (old offices) converted for installations and exhibition pieces, a large green room / warmup area and the actual performance space as well. Comfy mismatched couches and arm chairs, tea, coffee and snacks available upstairs, food vendors available downstairs and a wristband that got you food and drink discounts in various establishments around town, plus a stint in the Spiegeltent if you were so inclined.
So, to the organisers, the folk on the ground, all the other companies and everyone who took part in or attended Solstice, thanks very much. Thanks for the experience, the opportunity to perform Smitten on the opening night and for the reception. You run a good ship and treat those on the programme like they’re one of your own. Here’s hoping the get out goes well and you get a few days off in return!
Solstice ran from June 16-19 on the third floor of the Old Fás Building on Sullivan’s Quay in Cork, under the umbrella of Cork Midsummer Festival. You can find out more at SolsticeCork.com. Hopefully we see it back again next year. If it is, I’ll be there, be it as performer or supporter, whichever way you go, it’s well worth it.