Hannah Mamalis premieres her new solo show Symphony of Worms at Dublin Fringe 2019 - here, she writes for Culture about exploring the complex nature of expression and creativity, while traversing themes of sex, death, loneliness, intimacy and connection...
We're all going to die. That’s a given. 'You can put that in your pipe and smoke it’, as my old fiddle teacher used to say. I was in a fiddle band between the ages of 10-15 and we used to play at wakes sometimes. We played at lots of different events in the community, so wakes were no different to us really, just another gig.
I sound like an old jaded, chain-smoking roadie when I say that but it’s true, we didn’t really care. As pre-pubescent teens, we had other things on our mind. Mainly trying to figure out what the lyrics to the Spice Girls 2 Become 1 meant. It’s only when I look back now that I see how odd and special those moments were. When death was celebrated by those with a youthfully oblivious joie de vivre. That juxtaposition between such meaning and such triviality.
Symphony of Worms straddles those ideas. It’s a one-woman show I have written and will perform what is first and foremost about my own life and experiences. The style of the show itself is a bit of a hybrid, a jumble of all of the things I love to do. Half stand-up, half story-show, it explores the complex nature of expression and creativity, traversing themes of sex, death, loneliness, intimacy and connection. Growing up as an only child in the middle of nowhere in Connemara, I had to get inventive in terms of how I kept myself amused, and I kind of see the show as a natural follow on from that. Except my audience will no longer be inanimate objects, hopefully. My co-star, on the other hand, is a blow-up doll whom I present as me, from different parallel worlds.
Throughout the show, I continuously imagine how she (I) dies in lots of different ways, from the farcical to the hilarious, to the dark. Each death unknowingly giving me a new perspective on myself and all the moments that make up a life worth living. Until inevitably the lines between the real and the imagined begin to blur and I can’t escape from my own fears and feelings.
Symphony of Worms, a title that sounds more poetic than I should be given credit for, was actually born from me mishearing the lyrics to a Villagers song. The original lyrics are ‘My faith is in the balance, of a million tiny words’. Whereas I heard ‘My faith is in the balance, of a million tiny worms’. That image stuck so viscerally in my brain. It made me think about death and where we go when we die and I started to imagine the musicality of that. There’s a draft of the show somewhere that had me creating worm puppets who would sing on stage whenever one of the versions of me would die. I’m actually still kicking myself a bit that I didn’t follow through on that. What it actually turned into is a show where music is integral to pivotal moments throughout. A lot of it is classical because I find it so incredibly emotive. It reminds me of when I was a kid and my parents would play Lyric FM, and I’d creep around the sitting room inventing stories and worlds that matched the music. Literally nothing has changed since then. Not even my height.
ts essence is about coping. It’s personal but also personable, an invitation to explore those things together. And fun, it’ll definitely be fun.
Symphony of Worms runs at Smock Alley Theatre (Boys School) from September 9 – 15 – find out more here.