OUR TETHERED KIN
Peacock stage, Abbey Theatre
If fairy tales are often allegories with a surface storyline and a darker underbelly, then Our Tethered Kin seems to be the darker underbelly itself. An original theatre piece from BrokenCrow collective, this doesn’t fit neat boxes. It’s a sort of a fairy tale for adults, based on a short story by the BrokenCrow founder Ronan FitzGibbon and carefully workshopped.
The ensemble of eight performers plus creatives includes members of the established think tank and production company, plus several others, and draws on dance, puppetry, music and song.
The story arc personifies a battle between dark and light, bad and good. In dark woods, an old couple (George Hanover and Raymond Keane) tend a tree with life-giving fruit. The old man finds two babies in the woods and brings them home. As they grow, everything changes: for the woman and man, and for the girl and boy (Katie Honan and Graham Butler Breen), who go one towards light and the other towards darkness, influenced by what and whom they find in the woods. Around them, around their world, are beasts or shadows who are mostly invisible, guiding and echoing the humans. The butoh-inspired beasts (Emily Kilkenny Roddy, Claire Keating, Dylan Kennedy, Rosie O’Regan), choreographed as a malign undercurrent, are creepy, threatening and manipulative but occasionally playful.
Light and dark are the dominant motifs in a play laden with metaphor, reference, symbol and myth, layered one over the other and creating a textured and sometimes confusing tale. How to read it? Babes in the Woods, obviously, but also shades of Adam and Eve and maybe even barren earth and zombie apocalypse. The fruit is a light, and its greedy consumption is transformative. Emily Donoghue’s composition and Fiona Sheil’s sound design are an undertow paralleling the evocative staging. The performances personify that light/dark dichotomy, the tug between them, in the individual mind and also in the mythic sweep of a world forged by forces of good and evil. We Walk Before the Dawn (libretto: Eadaoin O’Donoghue) is the key.
All of this is done with skill and deliberation, directed by Gavin McEntee and Evan Lordan, with movement direction by Charles Sandford. It is beautifully staged and beautifully performed.
These are hard concepts to put on stage. What seems complex, and inscrutable at times, is ultimately simple. It’s also something to just go with, drowning in both the light and the dark.
Runs on the Peacock stage of the Abbey Theatre, Dublin, until Saturday, February 11th