First Fortnight Festival: National programme includes more than 60 events

Shows include mass physical therapy to theatrical portraits of minds under siege

First Fortnight Festival 

Nationwide
Until January 30th
firstfortnight.ie

It is nine years since First Fortnight Festival launched its premiere programme, with the aim of using the arts to shine a light upon mental health issues in the bleakest month of winter.

That first edition of the festival hosted 10 events across different art-forms, and was limited to Dublin’s city-centre. This year, the programme has a national reach, with more than 60 events across the country, from mass physical therapy to a variety of theatrical portraits of minds under siege.

In Weekend Warrior (Civic Theatre, Tallaght; Until January 5th), writer Tony Doyle’s protagonist, Wayne, sits on the cusp of despair: he drinks, does drugs and gets into fights, but believes that once he doesn’t get arrested, he’ll be fine. Under the direction of Aonghus Óg McAnally, Doyle, who performs his own work, tries to find meaning in the mess of his life.

In Admin (Smock Alley Theatre; January 7th-11th), Óisín McKenna is also trying to find meaning. He has settled in London, but is unsettled by the loneliness of the big city, and finds solace online, buying things he doesn’t need to insulate himself from his psychological distress. McKenna was nominated for his performance when the play premiered at the 2019 Dublin Fringe Festival, and the autobiographical edge creates a soul-stirring finale.

Tadgh Hickey’s In One Eye, Out the Other (Smock Alley Theatre, January 6th-11th; The Hayloft, Long Valley, Co Cork, January 16th, 2020; The Dock, Leitrim, January 17th; Riverbank Arts Centre, Co Kildare, January 18th) introduces the audience to Feargal, a downtrodden but cheery chap who has fulfilled his lifelong dream of becoming an alcoholic.

Addressing the audience intimately, and Irishly, he confesses to “an oh-my-God-I-can’t-take-this-anymore loneliness . . . An Auschwitzian hopelessness [that] would pitter-patter across my soul the odd time, but other than that I’m grand, y’know?” Directed by John McCarthy, Hickey uses humour to penetrate the surface of one-man’s struggle with depression; a story that has universal truths for us all.

Fergal might well be brother to McGoldrig, the heartbroken homeless hero of Pat Kinevane’s Silent (O’Reilly Theatre, January 15th). This well-travelled solo performance piece plummets deep into the psyche of its protagonist, whose mental health struggles have seen him slip into the margins of society. Under Jim Culleton’s direction, the story is bleak but beautiful, and Kinevane’s mesmerising performance will not leave you unmoved.

Proceeds from the one-night only performance will go to Mental Health Reform, the national coalition for mental health in Ireland, making audiences part of, as well as witness, to McGoldrig’s healing.

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