Barnstorm’s new play The Ice Child, promises to be a ground-breaking “must-see” for all ages but especially for children aged 8 years and older. Billed as ‘a new Irish fairy-tale’ by award-winning writer Mike Kenny The Ice Child is a dazzling once-upon-a-time tale told by fairy-folk about people.
It opens in the Watergate Theatre, Kilkenny on Thursday, February 27 at 11.30am, Friday, February 28 at 10am and 12.30pm and Monday, March 3 to Thursday, March 6 at 10am and 12.30pm. There will be a family gala at 7.30pm on Sat urday, March 1.
Rehearsaks were going well and audiences can expect to have goose pimples having experienced it.
The fairy-folk in the play (a mischievous raggle-taggle bunch, a motley crew) are based on Irish fairy lore but are re-imagined into contemporary Ireland. These fairy-folk are baffled and bemused by humans. They like people when they are still babies, full of fun and play. But they don’t understand grown-up behaviour at all…”Going to school, doing what you are told. And love! What is that?”
But you can’t trust the fairy-folk. They stole the baby and left the Ice Child in its place. The Ice Child is lost in a world that doesn’t understand and doesn’t welcome him. He doesn’t fit in. And how does a mother love a child that can’t be touched?
A video camera becomes a portal, linking the worlds of the fairies, people and the once-upon-a-time world of the Ice Child. This is essentially a story about our capacity to adapt in the face of adversity, and to find love.
At the heart of the play are four versatile and multi-faceted actors who weave the tale for us. Jack Walsh is immediately recognisable as Jimmy Burke from television comedy series Killnaskully, a role Jack played for all 5 series, and enjoyed immensely. If you are a question-setter for pub quizzes, here’s one for you: What do Killnaskully’s Jimmy Burke and Marcel Marceau have in common? Answer: Both featured Jack Walsh! Jack trained for three years at the Marcel Marceau International Mime School in Paris. He lists some of the disciplines he trained in “…mime, dance, fencing, acrobatics and movement - the kind of skills that stand me in good stead for The Ice Child, which is a very physical piece of theatre.”
For over thirty years Jack has appeared onstage and screen across Ireland and Europe. He visited Kilkenny most recently when he toured to the Watergate with Guerilla Days in Ireland, playing no fewer than 11 characters! Jack features regularly on the small screen – he has appeared in a slew of television series: Penny Dreadful, Ripper Street, Titanic Blood & Steel, The Tudors, Fair City and Sky1’s Moonfleet.
Actor Bryan Quinn says: “Having played music gigs in Kilkenny – Cleere’s and Eddie Murphy’s in Thomastown, it’s nice to be back in Kilkenny for something completely different.” Bryan has worked as a musician performing with bands The Frames, Ham Sandwich, David Kitt and Tucan.
He’s also acted and created work with comedians Maeve Higgins and David O’Doherty. Bryan’s own unique brand of comedy acting is regularly seen on RTE comedy and in music videos. Since he’s been doing lots of commercials work – Meteor, No Nonsense and Dublin Bus television ads – he’s happy “to get back to theatre performance, The Ice Child is a wonderful opportunity.” In 2012, Bryan and Jack Walsh created a show together – There Are Strings – about a man whose father is a puppet. It featured in Dingle’s Féile na Bealtaine festival.
Recently graduated from IT Sligo with a Performing Arts degree, actress Caoimhe Cassidy brings previous experience of playing to young audiences to Barnstorm. Caoimhe performed in The Grinch Who Stole Christmas with Livin’ Dred Theatre at 18 schools and the Ramor and Backstage theatres.
“Children are challenging audiences – they don’t let you away with anything! But with that, they give a lot back. We played to audiences of Juniors right up to 6thclass, so as an actor you’re challenged to keep them all with you. It’s great experience.”
With grounding in dance from an early age, Caoimhe is intensely aware of the importance of movement for children and its visual aspect. “In The Ice Child, which is collaborative and very energetic, you must be aware of how your body is in the space, alone and in relation to the other actors. We’re moving as individuals and as a group.”
“I grew up shouting against the cats on Hill 16- I was shouting for Brian Corcoran and Sean Óg”, says Cork native Aron Hegarty, “so it’s interesting to be in the city of DJ and King Henry. I actually played hurling up to minors until a cruciate ligament put me out. So my wingback career on the pitch was swapped for wingback on stage! “
Aron was recently seen performing in Cleere’s Theatre with Fregoli Theatre’s Dorset Street Toys. His performance was noted by reviewers for its ‘ferocious energy’ in the affecting two-hander. He studied for his MA in Drama and Theatre at NUI Galway. He says “being from a household with a psychotherapist father and artist mother, I am interested in exploring all aspects of human behaviour. In rehearsals now we are analysing what humans are like, from the fairy-folk’s perspective. That’s the challenge - to shift the perspective”.
Schoolchildren connect with design team
Costume designer Catherine Fay is now working on bringing these contemporary fairy-folk to life. In a recent Barnstorm letter to local schools, children from 3rd to 6th classes were invited to send in their ideas of what the old Irish fairy-folk might look like now, in Ireland of 2014. As part of the research for this, children were advised to talk to relatives at home about folk tales and stories they might have heard growing up. Barnstorm were delighted to get feedback from schools – this will be posted on their website: www. barnstorm.ie.
R and D
In a first for a Barnstorm play, The Ice Child incorporates video projections and real-time video being operated during the play. Local videographer Darragh Byrne and director Philip Hardy travelled to the highlands of Scotland last month to film the snow sequences that play a key role in the story. Darragh is now spending time with the actors during rehearsals to advise on using the on-stage camera. For the look of the play, the video sequences are integrated with Carol Betera’s subterranean set design.
These video technologies form an exciting part of the story-telling, but for the talented and multi-faceted cast and director that has been assembled for The Ice Child; this is simply another aspect to their work in creating the best possible performance of the story in this play. It’s an innovation that emerged naturally from the story itself, rather than a decision first to put video in the performance.
Composer Jack Cawley is back on board, having composed scores for the last two Barnstorm plays. The actors are intensely engaged in the process: singing, harmonising, playing instruments as Jack weaves the musical theme into the play’s narrative, giving it a highly-charged emotional resonance.
The Ice Child is a world premiere of a play commissioned especially for the company. Writer Mike Kenny is an Olivier Theatre Award winner – his adaptation of The Railway Children at Waterloo Station in London won the Best Entertainment Olivier in 2011. A Teachers’ Resource pack will be provided to all teachers; it contains a series of practical exercises to explore and discuss themes raised during the play, and aligns with SPHE themes.