Sunday, October 18, 2009

Endings and Beginnings

Me, Maurice and Maroon Shirt on Graduation Day!

Well, this has been a year of Endings and Beginnings. I graduated from a three year Joint honours arts degree at University College Cork in Drama and Theatre Studies and Italian in September, this year, which also saw the beginning of a new chapter in the relationship between myself and my father. My dad, Maurice, who is quite possibly the worst, most terrifying driver on the surface of this planet, is a retired mechanic (ironically!), a gifted singer, dancer and artist. He is married to a woman, who has somehow tamed him into wearing gold jewellry, maroon shirts and anoraks. (Yuck!) Growing up, I was secretly proud of the fact that my dad looked a trifle like a film director in his yellow custard trousers. He appeared to be totally oblivious of the prevailing fashions of the time. He had quite a temper, instilling quite a degree of fear, but sthat would not have been unusual for the post-war fifties and sixties. Now I have more insight into the reasons why, and all that matters is that I love him dearly, have much to thank him for, and that he makes me laugh and sing!

Maurice swearing an allegiance to God Knows What!

I am directing HMS PINAFORE for Clonmel Musical Society in the White Memorial Theatre, which starts on November 17th and runs for five nights. We are into week 3 of production and its mayhem. The stage is small and there are 55 in the cast. Moving a company of this size is a mammoth task and involves excluding some members of the cast from doing some of the main business at times. However, whilst still trying to provide an authentic background and setting of a ship, I have managed to incorporate levels in the form of steps, ladders, ropes, barrels etc. They are a very talented and willing company and the atmosphere is warm and most condusive to what I hope is going to be a lively, fast-moving production. Of course, there is much riding on this production. Other societies will attend and hopefully, if they like what I have done, will employ me to do more work with themselves. Well that is the plan. Eighty percent of the work is done before arriving into the theatre. I am not particularly good at winging anything, particularly with such a large crowd, so it's vitally important, that I am absolutely on top of every note and every stage direction. As director/producer, I am responsible for the finished product...the book stops with me.

I work in three national schools in Co. Tipperary with children from 4 to 12. What fun we have, talking in Italian (I try to teach them something new in Italian every week); experimenting with music, art and drama takes us on so many mysterious journeys. I do a wonderful exercise, where they can only use Italian words like crescendo and diminuendo as they improvise a greeting of a long lost relative or loved one at an airport arrival lounge for example. This stresses the importance of the tone of the voice and the inescapable truth of a physical gesture or movement. In this case the actual words are unimportant, only that the Italian language has a raw sensuality.

I run my own music and drama group in Tipperary town, call Class Act Theatre Productions. I also work with an older age group here, where subjects like drug, alcohol, physical and sexual abuse are frequently discussed through improvisation. We look at the standard options for performance, but it is essential that they explore their own innate creativity and experiment with their own expressions of self. I often bring art materials into the space, play some music and just give them the time to explore the impact that music plays upon their artwork or their dramatic work. This process is quite often extremely liberating for them. The sight of a quiet, shy child unfurling their straps of constraint is particularly touching, and that you are somehow a part of their metamorphosis is humbling.

I have two beautiful daughters, who are both involved in performance studies of one kind or another. Katy is a songwriter/singer/musician, studying in Cork. 'Skate' (her nickname) has a voice of similar texture to Stevie Nicks of Fleetwood Mac and hopes to have an album of her own songs completed this year. Emma is studying classical singing in the Guildhall College of Music, London. 'Mems' (Emma's nickname) hopes to find work as a professional opera singer with aspirations to perform in Covent Garden and other opera houses around the world in the not too distant future. Last year I wrote short pieces for each of them. Katy was quite seriously ill at the time. Suffice to say, and thank God, we are still annoying the crap out of each other! Seriously, she is quite simply the best company.

Katy and Emma in Edinburgh



It is not your time
Not sung your song
Slide back to womb
Long legs first.



Emma leaves for London on Friday! As I lie on a hard floor somewhere in Cork, I think about the day we first met; the day we actually set eyes on each other for the very first time. She had been a guest in my body for a little over nine months. Sheltered, nurtured, she had endured my music. I wondered, had she ever wished I’d switched off Beethoven and Tchaikovsky more often, for the intermittent summer-feelin’blasts of Bob Marley and Barry White. She had been a lady-like tenant, her presence felt, but ever so gently!
It was almost Christmas, my favourite time of the year and with one final festive push, she exploded into a yuletide world in true Broadway fashion, only short of top hat and cane. Wasn’t sure from her first cry whether she was a soprano or mezzo. My legs strapped up and out, a position, that would normally have felt humiliating, enabled a ‘Danny de Vito-like’ doctor to repair her debut gateway with a stitch or two. I provided some background music by chirping a chorus of Abba’s ‘Super Trooper’. I loved everyone and everything, myself included. I was deliciously happy!
Ravenous, after hours of hard labour for a crime of passion, I did commit, a bubbly nurse brought me a gourmet meal, which, to this day, has never been equalled. Hot sweet tea and melted butter dribbled down my chin as I sank teeth into cosy, squelchy toast.
Later, as I held my little miracle so close….so close, I discovered a secret place where lips could whisper their love. Just above her nose, my lips settled into a little nook… soft and downy… the ‘kissing spot’.
Almost twenty-seven years later, I still return to that garden of feathers and whispers.

When I embarked upon my degree, I could just about switch on a computer. I was dragged screaming and kicking into the 21st Century, but now that I'm here...what a place! Well this is my first blog, so that in itself is a beginning of sorts. As part of the introduction to my world and my thoughts, I would have liked to insert photos of my animals, home and garden, but hey...enough is enough technology for one blog!

The fact that we have had dreadful summers for the last three years leaves me somewhat unfazed, when given the glorious gifts of the last three autumns. Driving home following rehearsals, last night, listening to Barbra Streisand, leaves danced across my windscreen, curtseying in the glare of headlamps. I wished I was driving to Australia, instead of relatively nearby Thomastown. Touching base, I was met by creaking trees and singing winds. Wanting to bathe in the magic, I threw on hat and scarf, headed out with torch and dogs, feet crunching, down and up a leafy-faced boreen, which runs alongside our house. Caressed by breath of autumnal majesty, remnants of queen's crown... myself and leaves... danced secretly. No-one saw us in the dark, except the stars.

I lay thinking about it later. In all probability, at the moment of my exhilaration, people were ringing the Samaritans, because of loneliness, desperation, finding themselves in dire financial straits, feeling unloved and uncared for. I was reminded of this short poem by Norman Dugdale:


To renounce the world is one thing:

To be abandoned by it quite another.

I need to remind myself of that, even in the midst of all my joy!

So proud of you dad, inspite of the maroon shirt!


Rose said...

Maureen I'm really enjoying your blogs! It's so nice to get more of an insight into you! You're a wonderful person x

Maureen Walsh said...

Hey Rose. Thank you so much for your kind words! X