Interview with Joanna Crawley – Writer of The Eurydice Project – Project Arts Centre
The Eurydice Project – Project Arts Centre – 21 March 2017-01 April 2017
We had the chance to talk to Joanna Crawley about her latest project, The Eurydice Project, which opens at the Project Arts Centre next week! You can see the results below…
This is a multidisciplinary project. How did it come about?
If The Eurydice Project is aimed to be a total experience, it’s simply because this is the kind of theatre we crave, miss and want to watch. On this team, we are all hungry for theatre that absorbs you entirely, and engages all the senses. The theatre I know from Poland borrows from German and Russian avant-garde, it’s physical and ritualistic, pop and sexy, angry, dark and loud. Theatre shows there are something that politicians feel threatened by and argue about, something that the most progressive artists from all disciplines want to be a part of. Even after four years in Ireland I still physically suffer watching one-man shows with no set or light, they feel to me like some cruel experiment in sensory deprivation.
It’s also about playing to our strengths. A multi-discipline approach is simply what we know and understand best.
Our director Lee Wilson spent years in Toronto, working on large-scale, complex productions, from “Jersey Boys” to epic stagings of Shakespeare and the Greeks. Composer Jane Deasy is strongly influenced by German director and composer Heiner Goebbels, who created multi-layered, philosophical, poetic collages. We know of course that bells and whistles don’t come without financial cost.
We’ve set up White Label collective to push the boundaries of what’s possible in the Irish funding context. And as it turns out – a lot can be done with relatively little. Our previous project, Stacey Gregg’s bionic love story “Override” (Fringe Festival 2016) featured a live hologram, fantastic sound design and a quarter-tone worth of beautiful, glass projection screens.
Who planted the initial seeds?
It grew from a fantastic collaboration with Jane Deasy and director Rosemary McKenna on “Way to Heaven” staged in 2013 as a part of the Rough Magic SEEDS showcase. The show earned Rosemary McKenna a nomination at the Irish Times Irish Theatre Awards, we felt on top of the world, we’ve decided to follow the momentum and create a story with a strong female protagonist facing an extreme challenge. A myth was something that we all felt naturally drawn towards. The scale, the extreme passions, the universal themes. The project had two “in development” showings, in 2014 and 2016, and has been picked up by Cian O’Brien for a full production in Project Arts Centre.
How did you work with the composer Jane Deasy, was it a close collaboration?
We love working together. Jane has an amazing social sensitivity, talent, edge and appetite for everything that is dark, rebellious and unsettling. We share the same fears and frustrations with the world. We send each other a lot of links to articles on politics, the housing crisis and nature’s wonders. We’ve spent hours in Books Upstairs Café over “Unicorn Tears” tea, drawing elaborate plans of taking down regimes and changing the world. In other words – we care, talk and work.
While securing the funding for The Eurydice Project we’ve created a music-theatre show “Kaperlak – Time of Darkness” (Fringe Festival 2016), a post-apocalyptic essay on mental breakdown and natural disasters.
The tale of Orpheus and Eurydice has been told many times. How will this one differ? Does it stick to the original story?
Well, first of all, we dropped on their doorstep a serious humanitarian crisis (taken from mythology) that they have to overcome together. And allowed them to have some fun together before the world tears them apart. We didn’t want the de-clawed and sanitized version that we all know so well. Artists who wrote plays and operas about the doomed lovers usually based their work on the late Roman version of the story. In that version Eurydice is impossibly passive. She’s lovely, she dies and then is unsuccessfully rescued. Roman tradition removed the sense of Eurydice being a hamadryad, a wild, carnivorous tree nymph; dangerous and able to fend for herself. Also Orpheus is usually portrayed as a frail lyrical singer, lamenting his beloved. We want to remind that Orpheus was also a political leader, who after years of wars, trauma and sailing with the Argonauts came back to reclaim his kingdom, Tracia. In our story both Orpheus and Eurydice experience more than love and loss. They face moral decisions, they struggle understanding and accepting each others words.
The cast and crew lists projections by ‘Algorithm’. Who or what is Algorithm?
Algorithm are a Dublin collective of fine artists, technicians, producers and entrepreneurs with experience in multimedia installations, projection mapping and animation. They were brought to the the team by our producer Hugh Farell and became an absolutely essential part of the project. We’ve learned a lot from them, we spent a great day on a green-screen video shoot in the National College of Art and Design and we cannot wait to see their design brought to life on stage.
Have you been involved on a day to day basis with project?
I’m in the room everyday, encouraging more cuts, feeding the team cookies, making promo-videos, strory-boarding the show with Lee, Jane, Hugh and our set designer, Ger Clancy. It’s wonderful to see everybody challenging themselves and rising to the task. In the first weeks we’ve nearly physically broken our actors, India Mullen, Michael-David McKernan and Barry Kiernan, now they are flying through the space as if there was nothing more natural in the world.
It must be quite a task for Director Lee Wilson to hold all the various strands together?
Lee is a man of amiable patience and humour. He can easily disarm any tension in the room. He radiates confidence and can get the actors on board with the most demanding, crazy idea. He has a lot of support from Hugh, our movement director Monika Bieniek, stage manager Fodhla O’Brien and assistant director Rachel Bergin.
Do you suffer form opening night nerves?
I just don’t want the process to be over. Ever.