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Sruth na Teanga

15.01.2020

– an unforgettable journey through the story of the Irish language.

Sruth na Teanga by Irish theatre company, Branar Téatar do Pháistí will take young audiences on an immersive, theatrical journey through the history of the Irish language.

 

Creating big stories for little people has always been the trademark of Branar Téatar do Pháistí, one of the leading theatre companies making work for children in Ireland. As part of the Galway 2020 European Capital of Culture programme, the company will now take the audience on an epic journey through the crucial periods in the history of the Irish language through an immersive theatre experience.

Sruth na Teanga is a poetic and fantastical interpretation of the language based on Branar’s unique approach to storytelling. The journey occurs across five magical spaces, with a walk-through performance combining puppetry, music, video-mapping, interactive digital technology, animation and live performance.

Artistic Director Marc Mac Lochlainn constantly reinvents what it means to put on engaging theatre for children. In 2018 alone, Branar carried out seven different productions with over 192 performances across 26 Irish venues. The company also upholds an impressive international reputation having toured Europe, the USA, China and Japan. As Branar Téatar do Pháistí approaches its 20th year as a thriving company, Marc considers that “this is the show I was meant to make.” He continues, “I’ve been mulling it over since 2015 and now with Galway 2020, it’s a chance for us to stretch our legs and do something on a large scale that would cover the story from the very first utterance of the language up until now. I want the audience to understand that the Irish language is not just the words themselves. It’s our heritage in that it is the way we speak English, the way we think, the way we work together as communities. It’s embedded in everything that we are.”

 

Sruth na Teanga needed a space large enough to match the magnitude of this story, and this provided its own challenge. The old terminal at Galway Airport was a fitting location. “We want the audience to feel like they are in a vast magical space where anything can happen,” says Marc. “I always like to build the atmosphere of a show first, then heighten the tension as you move through the different worlds and this warehouse-type space is perfect for that.”

 

 

“this is the show I was meant to make.”

Irish is one of the ten most ancient languages of the world still spoken today. Marc attributes this resilience to its vibrancy as “a language of story, song and poetry.” The first thing the audience encounters in Sruth na Teanga is the waterfall,” he says. “In Irish literature, water always symbolises the barrier between two worlds. From there, the river is the metaphor for the life cycle of the language as we follow it right through the different rooms.”

 

At the beginning of the performance, the language is portrayed as a living, breathing entity. A magical woodland area with animated images and puppets introduces Fianna stories and glimpses of mythological cycles that set the scene for the rest of the adventure. The children are also given a small stone with Ogham (the early Medieval alphabet) letters to accompany them throughout their journey.

From here, the audience follows the historical routes that Irish culture took through Europe in what Marc calls a “fully animated space where stories flow from one to the other, culminating in an explosion of images. Sounds representing old and middle Irish show the evolution of the language, and it is after that that the English came and started to break it down. We then see how the language was driven underground through the representation of a cave where the audience hears the language but it is hidden behind walls. 3D imagery portrays how the language emerged again and is preserved in a reservoir which is where the language is now.”

 

Along the way, the audience interacts with the performers, the landscape of each world and the technology. Pressure sensors throughout the various stages light up and tell individual stories – little windows opening into other worlds and exploring the depths of the language. E. The performance culminates in a reflective space where members of the audience can choose how their adventure ends. ” Ultimately, he wants the audience to leave in the knowledge that there is much more to the language than they imagined. “I want to spark that curiosity that drives people to dig deeper.”

 

Sruth na Teanga is designed for an audience of children aged 8+. Be it a day out for the children or the child within, you will be exposed to the richness of Ireland’s native language and folklore in a way that you have never seen, or heard, before.

 

Images: Julia Dunin
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