For this year's Bram Stoker Festival, aerial acrobatic troupe Loosysmokes' new show, Night of the Shifting Bog draws inspiration from the landscapes of Stoker’s imagination.
Choreographer Jonah McGreevy writes for Culture about the production...
Our new work, The Night of the Shifting Bog, is set to premiere later this month as part of the Bram Stoker Festival in Saint Anne’s Park, Clontarf. This original work of modern circus draws from images and moments in The Snake’s Pass, Stokers’ only work set in Ireland. Visual and textural inspiration for The Night of the Shifting Bog also comes from the work of Harry Clarke, an Irish stained-glass artist from the early 20th century. His intricate and virtuosic work has been mined by both visual and physical artists for inspiration. As a company we work in dreamscapes, seeking to create synesthetic spectacles that swallow an audience; where they feel the movement as the bog shifts and rises; tense as the sky melts into the twilight and gasp as twisting and contorted bodies climb, gnawing the night sky; catching a mind between the surreal and shimmers of reality. We work with the shapes of waking dreams, the glimpses at the edges of eyesight, and the intensity of lighting struck to create a visceral experience that ends deep in the gut of an audience.
Producing work outdoors in Dublin at the end of October is challenging, to say the least.
The process of choreographing site-specificic work began with an examination of the landscape; finding the dips, mounds and pathways where an audience and performers can move. The forest presents a stage far more intricate and twisted than we could ever hope to achieve in a theatre. The trees form the central structures that allow performers to move into the air; to this end, a thorough visual inspection of the structural makeup of specific trees was conducted and suitable healthy and strong trees selected. Trapezes, ropes, ladders and steel are then brought into the trees and secured.
The process of rigging, experimenting, testing positions, and rejigging takes over two weeks onsite. A research period incorporating an exploration of physicality on site with performers informs the capabilities and limitations of the site itself and form a basis of movement that is designed and rehearsed in a studio before returning to the woods at night, where it truly becomes something else. The visual, design, and audio artists then begin melding their work with the movement of the performers. The collaborative nature of our work causes these elements in development to strongly influence one another.
We work with the shapes of waking dreams, the glimpses at the edges of eyesight, and the intensity of lighting struck to create a visceral experience that ends deep in the gut of an audience.
At this point reality tends to rear its ugly head. A certain tree blocks half the audience’s view, water pools where an acrobat is set to flip, backstage turns out to be a field of nettles. Producing work outdoors in Dublin at the end of October is challenging, to say the least. Making a theatre out of a woodland is not a simple undertaking, but the worthwhile outcome is an entirely surreal experience for an audience, where they are drawn entirely into another world of our creation.
Bram Stoker Festival presents The Night of the Shifting Bog from Friday 26th – Monday 29th, 8.30pm & 10pm - find out more here.