TWAS THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS, BRANAR, 1ST DECEMBER 2014, GLOR, ENNIS
Twas the Night Before Christmas / Oíche Roimh an Nollag
Branar Téatar do Pháistí
1st December 2014, Glór, Ennis
By Caroline Slattery
It was a recent pleasure seeing ‘T’was the Night Before Christmas/ Oíche Roimh an Nollag’ by the enchanting Branar Téatar do Pháistí.
In this theatre performance, Marc Mac Lochlainn, the company’s artistic director, combines original live music, storytelling, physical theatre and puppetry to create this magical bi-lingual story set in the 1940’s about a town called Ballybrack.Ballybrack is preparing for its first Christmas with electricity. Electric light meets candle light, and the townspeople are entwined in the action.
The set primarily consists of an arrangement of boxes on stage positioned around a rectangular carpet mat. Some boxes are cardboard wrapped in brown paper and others wood. Of the cardboard boxes some are made into miniature houses. A deceptively simple set designed by Olan Wrynn, intrinsically bursting with much hidden detail. When the house lights went down and the play began, the set transformed – hidden details revealed – a box was no longer just a box – it was a radio, a seat, a present, a post box… Ciaran Kelly, set builder and technician, should be renamed ‘Enchanter.’ The audience could be heard vocalising their astonishment periodically during the play as the lighting arrangement dressed and undressed these boxes and the set as a whole.
Actors’, Helen Gregg, Ionia Ní Chróinín, Jonathan Gunning, Máire Greaney and Pat Hargan range of talent was awe inspiring. The amount of skill showcased by this cast of five was extra-ordinary. The transitions, from one character to the next were seamless and a sweet pleasure to watch. In one scene, Ní Chróinín and Gunning are playing brothers who own the local bike shop and love to Irish dance. Their take on Irish dancing is something one won’t forget anytime soon! Laughter exploded from the audience when these brothers broke into dance. One could sense the audience’ near-yearn for more dancing.
Music by Michael Chang and costume design by Miriam Donoghue are linchpins to this production. Branar’s ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas’ is a must-see this Christmas. It is just an amazing performance; educational and inspirational not only for children, but for grownup children – adults – too.
Caroline Slattery is an educational consultant living and working in Clare