It’s Wednesday night, I try to slip into the packed crowd. The atmosphere is brimming with excitement and Guinness perfume, some candles are weakly flickering against the deep red, rather kitschy, wallpaper in the upper room of the Stag’s Head.
I squeeze myself between an older gentleman and a girl whose suit suggests she’s come straight from work. Just behind me there’s an old mirror where people all look like shadows and an even older clock that is not working anymore. Time, it seems, is standing still.
The whispers quiet and all eyes turn to the back of the room where, framed by fairy lights, Sorcha and her brother Aron are going to bring life back to “the wondrous tales of old.”
I discovered them last December, when they were telling the Táin Bó Cúailnge. That was my first encounter with Cú Chulainn, something I certainly won’t forget. The pair charmed me to such an extent that I was delighted at the opportunity to see them a second time for a night dedicated to Goddesses and again for a special Easter Rising celebration. The latter focussed on stories that define what it is to be Irish, and which may in part have inspired have inspired the revolutionary leaders.
Whatever the tale, you’ll find the voices of Sorcha and Aron slamming the words with drama: Their hands wave in the air all around them, drawing up mythical landscapes for their audience to devour. It’s obvious that the public is captivated by the pair, each twist and turn of their tales is met with laughs, sighs and applause.
As the two weave narratives, their friends Ruari O’Shea (Mandolin) and Daragh Kenny (Guitar) provide a live soundtrack, slowing down for sentimental moments and upholding the beat during battles.
I wanted to know more about the creative process behind these events and what brought the four into doing what they do, so I caught Aron after the show to sum it all up for me.
M: How did your adventure begin?
A: Myself and my sister started this in November 2014. I’m a bit of an actor, and my sister works with the Bard school of mythology, she rewrote a lot of Irish myths … She wanted to get a story going, and close to Christmas, we would just tell The Táin, the epic, the Cú Chulainn story, the saga in the Ulster’s cycle – there’re so many more! We basically had so much good feedback, and after 5 nights of that, we asked the audience: “do you want to see this as a monthly thing? Yes? All right”. And we went on.’
When I ask him about the amount of improvisation they allow he says: “We know bits of the story but we don’t know how we are going to say it in the night exactly. We do rehearse them, but because there’re so many versions of the stories, I find really hard to stop reading them.”
M: Where do you guys draw your inspiration from?
A: “There’re amazing resources online! Now, Lady Gregory is one of my best resources.
But the stories she gathered are so hard to read, I don’t actually overly enjoy reading them… I like to read them to skim through and pick out a detail I literally write down and note it… and as I said Sorcha has a very helpful background!”
So for those of you who are curious to catch one of those magic candlelit tales, you’re in luck. Sorcha and Aron will, again, be telling those myths which inspired the Rising on March 27th (you can find the event on Facebook, search for Candlelit Tales). By the sounds of it, the pair also have a number of works in the pipeline to be looked forward to: “We’re hoping to be in a number of festivals this summer.
At the Carlow Art Festival (10-19th of June) for example, we’ll be telling The Táin. We are also planning on being given a stage at Body & Soul (17-19th June) to do a set of stories with dancers and some other performers who want to join in. We’ve practised a couple of things of this kind sooner this year with the Dream of Angus Óg, to workshop the idea, and it’s beautiful, it just added again: the music keeps you listening and the dance keeps you focused, and then the story washes over you. So we’re just trying different ingredients and you know, once you opened the door to what can be added into it, it’s endless…”
- Mélanie Brisard
This Article originally appeared in Volume 29, Issue 10. Published 29 March 2016.