A Different Wolf, the new dance opera by multi-award winning Junk Ensemble and innovative music-theatre company Dumbworld, receives its world premiere at Cork Opera House as part of this year's Cork Midsummer Festival.
Below, Junk Ensemble Co-Artistic Directors Jessica Kennedy & Megan Kennedy write for Culture about their creation process and the inspiration behind the show...
Fear and its many incarnations prompted our first conversations with John and Brian from music-theatre company Dumbworld as we began the creative process for A Different Wolf.
We spoke about gripping, paralysing fear; the subsiding yet ever-present fear (like a dull ache); the niggly fears that burrow their way deep in, and invisible fear. We also spoke about the power of sharing our fears with other people, to make the monster come out from under the bed.
Watch the trailer for A Different Wolf:
The wolf, as a manifestation of all things fearful, was present in all our early conversations. Many of the fairytales that we read portray the wolf as a predatory male which hunts young girls and children. We have been reading Angela Carter’s short stories The Bloody Chamber, which takes classic fairytales (often including wolves or werewolves) and skew the stories in a grotesque and beautiful way. In Carter’s stories the female protagonist embraces her fate rather than falling victim to her attacker.
Other inspirations for A Different Wolf are films by Alfred Hitchcock, Stanley Kubrick and David Lynch. We are interested in how fear and horror is portrayed in film through music (sinister, high-note strings full of tension) and eerie, dramatic lighting - and, of course, the quiet suspense before the shock that has you jumping out of your seat.
As part of our research for A Different Wolf, we interviewed a number of people from different communities in Cork, asking the questions: ‘What is the wolf at your door? What are you trying to escape? What does the wolf mean to you?’. We began to see a pattern in the answers that arose from the conversations. The contemporary fears that we have now were probably the same fears a hundred years ago and maybe even a hundred years before. They appear timeless: the fear of loneliness, the fear of the other, the fear of dying alone, the fear of not being good enough, the fear of the world ending.
The Cork conversations informed the movement tasks that we then brought to the studio with the dancers, the libretto for the music, the choir compositions, the moving images and the text.
Together with an extraordinary ensemble of four dancers, three solo singers from various disciplines, a choir of 80 people drawn from Cork School of Music and Cór Geal, and musicians on drums, keyboard and brass, we are working together to create this dance opera which we believe will be visually surprising, visceral and ultimately reassuring.
During this process we’ve realised that talking about our fears has helped us grow closer and made us a little less afraid - we don’t have to face them alone. Fear is the same as it was centuries ago, it just has a slightly different name.
A Different Wolf is at Cork Opera House until June 17th, as part of this year's Cork Midsummer Festival - more details here.