Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Review by Peter Crawley: "Brigit" -- a Play by Tom Murphy

Review: Brigit

by Peter Crawley for the Irish Times

A prequel to his masterful Bailegangaire, Brigit fleshes out a complex family history, but Tom Murphy’s new play is a more vivid portrait of the artist

Brigit ‘is a sparing and episodic piece, fleshing out a complex family history,
but serving far more as a personal statement’
Brigit: Town Hall Theatre, Galway until Sep 21, then The Olympia Theatre Oct 1-5 2014.
It’s tempting to think that Brigit, a deeply personal new play from Tom Murphy, represents unfinished business for its writer. Written 30 years after Bailegangaire, and set 30 years earlier in 1950s Ireland, it is a sparing and episodic piece, fleshing out a complex family history, but serving far more as a personal statement. It could almost be a self-portrait.
When Seamus (Bosco Hogan), a temperamental handyman, reluctantly accepts a commission from the local church to carve a new statue of St Brigid, he takes his work home with him, engrossed in the pursuit to the exclusion of all else. His marriage to Mommo (Marie Mullen) is a war of attrition, measured in silences and pettiness: in the production’s opening moments he whips a pillow out from under her, a wickedly defining gesture in director Garry Hynes’ supple handling: quick as a blink, comic and heart-breaking.
“I’d like it to be perfect,” Seamus says of his statue, attempting to reconcile the earthy figure of Irish myth with prim demands for another plaster saint. “I’d like it to be what I feel. And I don’t know what that is.” This is a modest craftsman, not a sculptor, but Seamus’s absorption, frustration, callousness and vulnerability mark him out as a portrait of the artist as a driven obsessive. The casting of Hogan in the role – attractively weathered and spry, cerebral and dry – suggests that any resemblance to Murphy himself is entirely intentional.
A remarkably unembellished, absorbing work, Brigit progresses in a sequence of short episodes that Hynes allows to melt into one another, aided by the merging spaces of Francis O’Connor’s set and Rick Fisher’s gently ushering lights. It makes for an almost ritualistic rhythm. Where Bailegangaire folds folktale into reality, Brigit seems to chisel these lives into something mythic: the text is full of mantra-like repetitions (“Can you trust them?”; “You can’t tell me what she looked like.”), threaded through with Mommo’s recitation of Brigid’s legend, a goddess named Brigit demoted to a saint named Brigid.
Like the statue, ingeniously designed by O’Connor (and realised by Marcus Molloy) to emerge slowly from a rich piece of bog oak, the play is unvarnished in its depiction of creativity and its consequence. Like Brecht’s Galileo, Seamus conducts unintimidated business with the church, sparring with Marty Rea’s excellent priest, a puff-cheeked conciliator, and negotiating matters aesthetic and financial with Jane Brennan’s amusingly frowning Reverend Mother, whose haggling concludes, wonderfully: “But don’t expect to be remembered in our prayers.”
In the background, you see Mullen’s Mommo humiliated and hardening, the children adored and admonished, while lines echo from one play to the other. Yet it is the artistic pursuit that dominates. “Is nothing sacred to you?” shouts Seamus, when asked for adjustments, and the sentiment slyly holds up art as another kind of religion: a practice of belief and devotion, desire and suffering, to reflect of the world not as we would like it to be, but as it truly is.
Tom Murphy latest play, Brigit, was staged by Druid at the Dublin Theatre Festival with his earlier work Bailegangaire.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Father Monica & Saint Brigid's, Calgary

I was invited today to a small gathering at the Listening Post in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver, a drop-in centre where the people of Canada's poorest (and one of its most drug-riddled) neighbourhoods may walk in and sit in quiet, pray if that is what they want to do, meditate, sleep, or find a willing ear if they want to talk. I have used the facility myself and been very grateful to have it.

Today's gathering was different. I was there with about ten other people for a Roman Catholic Womanpriest led mass, officiated by Rev. Dr. Victoria (Vikki) Marie for the Our Lady of Guadalupe Tonantzin Community.

I was impressed. I am no longer a Christian myself, but I was raised Catholic and anyone who has read this blog can see that I retain an emotional attachment to elements of that faith and community. The people I met today were warm and welcoming, the service utterly inclusive and though focussed on the spirit, had a firm foundation in social justice for everyone.

Of course, I have heard of the ordained Roman Catholic women priests who endure excommunication to follow their calling, but this was the first chance I had to see one in action, and if I still swung that way I would certainly become a regular attendee.

I was pleased therefore to come home and learn from their website that in Calgary, a few mountain chains away from Vancouver at the edge of the Canadian prairie, another RCWP community has claimed St Brigit as their patron. Here is a little about them. Er, I should mention that Father is not actually what you call Monica. It's just the word that pops still to mind when I consider a Catholic priest.

Mea culpa.

Our Ministry Statement

The Saint Brigid of Kildare Catholic Faith Community provides Christian ministry to individuals, families and society in solidarity with the guidance and prophetic vision of the international Roman Catholic Womenpriests movement. We are rooted in the the life-giving aspects of the Roman Catholic sacramental tradition, while maintaining a commitment to ecumenical sharing, spiritual openness and interfaith dialogue.

Sunday, February 08, 2015

Solas Bhride Centre & Hermitages Officially Opened

Large crowds gathered to celebrate the Official Opening of Solas Bhride Centre and Hermitages, Tully Road, Kildare town on Friday, January 30th, 2015 at 2.30 p.m.
Ann Riordan, chairperson of Science Foundation Ireland was MC for the occasion. Eimear Quinn cut the tape and Bishop Denis Nulty, Kildare & Leighlin, and Rev. John Marsden, Dean of St. Brigid’s Cathedral, bleEimear Quinnssed the Centre. The tape cutting ceremony was followed by a musical celebration which included music, song and dance as guests were entertained by Eimear, Luka Bloom and local musicians and dancers.
Mayor Fiona O’ Loughlin addressed the assembled guests and referred to the rich legacy of St. Brigid and the heritage of Kildare town anMayord went on to say how the Solas Bhride Centre “will undoubtedly help us to remember that heritage, reflecting our place in society and in the world, while considering our future path; both personally and as a community… This new facility will develop not only into a national location for spirituality and reflection, but also internationally giving our local and wider community and visitors to the area a unique experience, particularly in the areas of education, ecology, spirituality and healing”.
Tributes were paid to the Design team which included Members of Solas Bhride, the Design Team and Manley ConstructionBrian O’Brien of Solearth Ecological Architecture who designed the unique ecologically sustainable Spirituality Centre, in the shape of a St. Brigid’s cross, with the centre of the cross featuring an internal garden and circular and semi-circular rooms, Manley Construction Ltd. who built the Centre and have already received two national awards for the building. A special acknowledgement to the Quantity Surveyor, George Fitzpatrick, Gilltown, Kilcullen, for delivering the project within budget.
Rita Minehan csb, Chairperson of the Board of Directors, expressed her gratitude to the Design Team, to the Brigidine Sisters for their huge financial contribution which ultimately made the Centre possible, Kildare Leader Partnership for their generous grant, Kildare County Council, Public Representatives and Kildare Failte for their support with planning and many other issues, and to all who made donations to the Centre, supported the fund raising campaign and organised fund raising events.
“It is truly a magnificent Centre” said Sr. Rita “and it is our hope that all who come to the new Solas Bhride will be facilitated in their search for a meaningful spirituality through the unfolding of the legacy of St. Brigid of Kildare and its relevance for the 21st century.
Members of the BoardEimear and Luka

RTÉ: Biddy Boys, Then and Now

From the archives of RTÉ (Raidió Teilifís Éireann) comes this 1965 clip from Newsbeat on the Biddy Boys tradition, showing a judging of several groups, and featuring discussion of some of the Brídeógs on display. I don't see a way to embed this one so please click on the link below.

On Saint Brigid's Day we take a look back to the customs and traditions surrounding this day as it was celebrated 50 years ago.
In a custom similar to the Wren Boys, reporter Seamus McConville takes a look at the Biddy Boys. The report features a procession of Biddy Boys in South Kerry in honour of Saint Brigid. The Biddy Boys are grown men dressed in costumes, who carry Saint Brigid Dolls called 'Brideogs', traditionally made from their grandmother's hair. The best dressed Biddy Boy wins a prize. 
A local man Mr. O'Siochru outlines the traditions relating to the Biddy Boys, the dolls and the costumes. Saint Brigid's feast day is on 1 February each year, which is also traditionally the first day of Spring.  
The Biddy boys tradition is largely confined to South Kerry, parts of County Cork, County Kildare and County Fermanagh.
This episode of Newsbeat was broadcast on 1 February 1965.

This latest Biddy Boys story was shared on Facebook on 1 February 2015 and doesn't seem to have a presence elsewhere on the web. Here's hoping the link works!

Today marks the beginning of the St Brigid's festival to celebrate spring. Kerry has an ancient tradition known as the Biddy, with roots to an older pagan festival.