John King from Murmuration introduces the collective's new live theatrical audio show, You're Still Here, which explores expectations and resentments that have built up between siblings over the years, as they find themselves together again – the show premieres at this year's Dublin Fringe Festival.
Murmuration is a Dublin-based collective of theatre artists, making live, narrative sound installations in unconventional spaces. They create performances with rich, intricate soundscapes that invite audiences to listen closely.
Over the past few months, we’ve been thinking about how best to reassemble after time apart, as we come cautiously, eagerly, hopefully, back together. We’ve been reassessing what it means to be part of a collective, whether family, friend-group or a theatre company. How do you mind yourself in trying times while also being mindful of the group? What happens when those two things come into conflict? These are some of the questions that have found their way into our new piece.
You’re Still Here follows two siblings, Niamh and Sam, whose comfortable, if stultifying, routine is shaken up by the arrival home of their older brother Jack, after some years spent living undocumented in America. His arrival, and the assumption that he’ll be welcomed back into their lives, opens up questions for all three siblings about what they owe to each other, and the kinds of dependencies, expectations and little resentments that have built up between them over the years. There’s a lot in it that I think will speak to where many of us find ourselves in 2021, questioning the old trajectories we had previously set for our lives, and adjusting our relationship with the future. It’s funny and sad and quietly big-hearted.
Making theatre during the pandemic has been strange and challenging in both obvious and surprising ways.
In our work, we try to find language for the unspoken, and set it in contrast with what characters do say aloud to each other. There’s a lot of humour, as well as tragic near-misses, in that contrast. When giving an audience direct access to a character’s inner thoughts, it’s impossible to really villainise anyone, because every character gets to advocate for themselves, and to justify their actions on their own terms. We’re coming up against plenty of challenges writing in this way: good dialogue usually holds a lot back, and packs its punch with subtext and silences, and with what’s lurking behind or underneath the words. We’re always looking for reasons for characters not to think crucial information too early, and to distract them so they don’t give the game away with a stray thought!
As with our previous work, You’re Still Here sits somewhere between live theatre and sound installation. The audience sits together, with the actors, under a shared roof outside Dublin Castle and listens through headphones to a textual score of both live and pre-recorded voices, mixed with original composition by Jennifer O’Malley. We hope to offer people that shared and recently-missed experience of coming together to hear a story.
Making theatre during the pandemic has been strange and challenging in both obvious and surprising ways. We’re trying to really look after each other throughout, and not to lose sight of the initial, core impulse that drew us together to tell this story in the first place. While most of us are in Dublin, some of our team are based in New York and in London, and are contributing text and a great number of producing hours, remotely, in the creation of an artwork they won’t get the opportunity to experience in person. Our ongoing process has had to shift a lot to accommodate the unexpected.
What has remained constant has been the incredible support from Ruth, Dee, Bee, Ciara, Marcus and the team at Dublin Fringe, and from our supporters at St John’s in Listowel and field:arts. It’s a real privilege to be figuring out this show at this time, and we cannot wait for it to meet live audiences at Dublin Castle in September.
You’re Still Here runs from 22 - 26 September outside the Printworks at Dublin Castle Gardens, as part of Dublin Fringe Festival 2021 - find out more here. pic: Ellius Grace