MÁM – Dublin Theatre Festival – Review
Teaċ Daṁsa, Ireland – MÁM
Until Oct 5th
Mám 1 : Mountain pass. Mám 2 : Yoke. Faoi mhám an pheaca, under the yoke of sin. 2. Lit: Obligation, duty, function. Mám 3 : Handful. ~ mhilseán, of sweets. Scaipeann sé ina mhámanna é, he throws it away in handfuls.
It is only three years since Swan Lake/Loch na hEala was first staged as part of the Dublin Theatre Festival. Since that time it has toured extensively and continues to win new friends around the world. Michael Keegan-Dolan and Teaċ Daṁsa have returned with a new piece to the Theatre Festival this year, which is simply called MÁM.
It is difficult not to compare and contrast it to their previous work, such is the impact Swan Lake had, but MÁM is more than deserving to be taken on its own merits. The piece starts with an interesting image. A young girl in a white dress is laid out on a table in front of the audience as we take our seats. Behind her sits a beast, a creature with the body of a man and the head of a goat! The beast holds a concertina in his hands, slowing stretching it apart and pushing it closed. When the lights go down, the young girl stands and opens a packet of Tayto crisps! The curtain behind the beast falls and reveals a line of seated dancers, all wearing similar masks. When the cast and the lonely musician remove their masks, the performance begins in earnest!
The piece does not have a strong story line, instead we get a view of an adult world from the young girl’s perspective. She is the focal point of the performance, always trapped between the dancers with a clear sense of detachment and isolation, as if she cannot understand the complexity of what is going on around her.
The music starts with a solo performance by Begley on a variety of Concertinas, but later another curtain falls to reveal the s t a r g a z e collective. s t a r g a z e are a collection of musicians who perform “classical and classical-contemporary music” founded by Berlin-based conductor André de Ridder in 2013. Their arrangement for this performance includes guitar, piano, drums, flute and violin. They often integrate their sound with Begley’s concertina playing. Possibly the most popular refrain they keep returning to is “Dearg Doom” by the Horslips. While for many in the audience, they will know it due to the Irish world cup song ‘Put ‘Em Under Pressure’, produced by Larry Mullen Jr. It’s an emotive tune and creates moments of madness amongst the performers.
The dancers are all dressed in simple garb, then men in black suits with white shirts beneath, the women in long black dresses. At times, there is a wildness to the dance, like they are a pack of barely tamed animals. The dancers howl and snarl at each other. At other times they perform perfectly in unison, spinning and turning with precision. There is one touching scene where one member of the cast moves around the stage, holding and kissing different members of the group.
It is possible to impose any number of views on the meaning of the performance and the number of different interpretations of the word MÁM does little to bring us closer to anything definitive. It is easier to enjoy it for what it is, and not to worry too much about a deeper meaning. Michael Keegan-Dolan and Teaċ Daṁsa continue their pursuit of excellence with this production. It confirms that Swan Lake/Loch na hEala was not an isolated event, and that this team are at the forefront of dance in Ireland.
Cast and Creative Team
Directed and Choreographed by Michael Keegan-Dolan
Music: Cormac Begley and s t a r g a z e
Performers include: Imogen Alvares, Cormac Begley, Romain Bly, Tyler Carney, Kim Ceysens, Lisa De Boos, Aki Iwamoto, Zen Jefferson, Mayah Kadish, James O’Hara, Keir Patrick, Rachel Poirier, Connor Scott, David Six, James Southward, Carys Staton, Aart Strootman, Maaike Van der Linde and Marlies Van Gangelen
Set Design: Sabine Dargent
Lighting Design: Adam Silverman
Costume Design: Hyemi Shin
Sound Design: Helen Atkinson
Illustrator: Dómhnal Ó Bric