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Gull review: On a meander through Dublin, the subtle power of this piece becomes clear

Dublin Fringe Festival 2022: Shanna May Breen’s thoughtful, meditative environmental intervention directs our attention to our relationship with the city


Meeting point: south corner of Abbey Street and Marlborough Street

This gentle environmental intervention from Shanna May Breen brings an audience on a “gull meander” through Dublin’s city streets. Aping the community of her avian interest, Breen has assembled a flock of artists to respond to her specimen of study: the city gull, whose presence and impact can be seen all over the urban environment.

We are treated to an observational microdocumentary from Benjamin Burns, playfully presented between the columns of a railway bridge, and a dance piece from Kate Haughton that mimics the movement of the birds to create an act of physical empathy. A poem and song from Eoin Geoghehan, meanwhile, form an act of imaginative empathy in which he attempts to stand in the webbed feet of the bird. The performance artist Fiona Breen traces the evolutionary history of the gull using a timeline of mussel shells, with UCD’s school of biology and environmental science providing some hard facts.

Thoughtful and meditative, Gull subtly directs attention towards our relationship with the city, and this is the piece’s real power. Burns’s short film closes with an image of a gull swimming in the litter-strewn Liffey, and as Breen herself brings proceedings to a close what we see around us is the dereliction of our environment and human responsibility for it. The gulls should surely be more afraid of us than we are of them.

Runs until Sunday, September 25th, as part of Dublin Fringe Festival

Sara Keating

Sara Keating

Sara Keating, a contributor to The Irish Times, is an arts and features writer