Lockout look-in: tenement life, up close and personal
An interactive show to mark the 1913 Lockout is taking place in what was once a grand house but later became a tenement
Luckily Anu has managed to fulfil its own creative ambitions, while satisfying the demands of its heritage and union partners.
What Lowe and her team had not considered, however, was that having their work in a tourist rather than a theatrical setting would bring them an entirely different audience.
That “has been really exciting for us, especially for the actors”, Lowe says. “The audience would not necessarily be regular theatre-goers, and most of them would never have seen one of our shows, so they react in a much different way.”
The shows are performed seven times a day, and some people have come for repeat viewings. One older male audience member came back to the performance the day after his first visit, ready to interact with the actors at those moments when they appeal directly to the audience for advice or help.
At one point, Murray’s mother character asks the audience to “give me a little something”, for example, and “he didn’t say a word the first time he came to the show but it seemed really important to him that he give her something the second time”.
A disparate audience
But if the audience for Living the Lockout is not drawn from Anu’s committed followers, where is it coming from?
The afternoon I visit, a union group has just left and a family of American tourists are arriving, but Lowe says that the largest demographic so far has been people from the local community.
“People who used to live on the street or had a connection with the street,” she adds. “People who even lived in the building. One man lived in this room [the front room that serves as the box office] with his family of 13.”
It has been incredibly moving for Lowe and her team – and incredibly gratifying for the Irish Heritage Trust – to see how emotionally affected these former residents are by the opportunity to revisit the rooms where they played, slept or visited friends.
It has also added to the rich historical heritage that Lowe and her collaborators have uncovered with the help of oral historian Terry Fagan.
“They don’t just leave” when the event is over, Lowe says, “they want to share their own stories”. This in turn informs how the performance evolves every day.
Living the Lockout runs until the end of the summer, but Anu Productions will not vacate the building immediately thereafter. This is just one of the sites for its new project, 13, which commemorates the 1913 Lockout in a different way.
The company was already committed to staging 13 when the opportunity for Living the Lockout came up, and although 13 is far more complex than the cultural-tourism brief, the company’s residency this summer has allowed them to do “the fundamental historical research we needed to do for 13”.
In this production, the company will interrogate the very nature of commemoration and protest across 13 days of the Dublin Fringe Festival and in various formal and informal venues.
Many of the events will be free in public places, others will disrupt the daily business of the city. The theme, Lowe says, is “provocation. I suppose we want to ask people today what it is they think it is worth fighting for.”
Living the Lockout: The Dublin Tenement Experience runs at 14 Henrietta Street until August 31. dublintenement
experience.com. 13 will run daily throughout the city as part of the Dublin Fringe Festival. dublinfringefest.com