Bliss – Mermaid Arts Centre – Review
by Frank L
Bliss – An Audio Walking Experience on Bray Seafront
Written by Emily Gillmor Murphy
28 Mar – 18 Apr 2022
You need a smart device (e.g. a mobile phone and headphones) for this performance. The audio experience is designed to be listened to while walking on Bray Seafront.
When you turn on the smart device, it will tell you where to start. You are at the northern end of the Promenade with the vast expanse of the sea ahead of you and the sea-front stretching away from you towards Bray Head on your right. But Mary the narrator asks you to observe the terrace of houses painted in pastel colours on your left. In one of those houses, she was born. Mary introduces various characters and the voices which you hear are those of Deirdre Molloy, Aisling O’Mara, Ciara Ivie, Niamh McPhilips, Val O’Connor, Michael Sheehan and Donncha O’Dea.
In the first part, Mary tells you about her childhood and her family. She has a fractious relationship with her mother, her father has issues with the drink and gambling. She has an elder sister and a younger brother. She describes her faltering steps in discovering the opposite sex while you are asked to walk behind the terrace of houses to the harbour and to the marvellous Swan beach. Mary describes in detail the meeting with her first date and how the evening ends in a manner she can never forget.
At the beginning of the second part, you are asked to walk along the Promenade towards the sadly now boarded up Bray Head Hotel at the other end. Mary reminisces about the time when she was almost thirty on another date. By this stage, her two siblings have left home and she is living with her mother and her incapacitated father still in the same house. You walk past the hotel and a short distance up the path that leads to Bray Head and then back along the beach to a group of rocks. Mary tells of her frustrations and her fears.
The third part begins when you have walked along the beach to a second pile of rocks which is more or less at the centre of the Promenade. Mary is now almost fifty, her parents have died and the house has just been sold. Her brother and the sister are back for one last visit. They have views on what Mary ought to do but Mary has views of her own. She has a clear vision of what she wants to achieve with her life now that she has no immediate family obligations. Her brother and sister are taken aback.
Through the ups and downs of her life, Mary has had the sea as a unique, vast immediate comfort and inspiration and it is the backdrop to all that happens in her life, it is a constant. It is always there as you too traverse Bray Promenade and listen to Mary’s story. The seafront architecture of Bray is full of memories of people having fun and enjoying themselves but there were always people who lived there 365 days of the year. It makes for an ideal location to look at fifty years of one person’s life and there are all sorts of little nuggets revealed that you may have not noticed like the two piles of rocks and of a past now forgotten when a glamorous couple stayed in the Bray Head Hotel.
The entire creative team including Ryots Productions and the Mermaid Arts Centre are to be congratulated on making an adventure that celebrates one of the glories of Bray and its seafront. After a period in the doldrums, there are many signs that it is once more being loved. This unique audio experience is another manifestation of that love. At times the script appears to be a little forced but the variety of Bray seafront and the grandeur of the sea combine to dominate your thoughts. This is an event to experience and enjoy.