Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Short plays and Party Pieces with Ciara Ní Chonchubhair, Nicola Spendlove, Tadhg Mac Uilliam and Jamie Flynn, which was performed at The Fat Angel during the Modwords Festival.


Pat McEvoy’s weekly reviews as published in the Waterford News & Star


ANNA Jordan loves words. And her brainchild of Modwordsfest 2019 – now the third festival in a row – gives Waterford writers the opportunity to showcase what they have to offer in the spoken word. Anna explains: “the mind of a writer works in different ways to others” and acknowledges that “it can be a struggle sometimes”. That’s why she initiated a spoken word open mic in various venues around the city to “encourage all types of writers to stand up and be terrified but to know that their words matter”.

“All kinds of words splat about our city,” Anna says. “This is a non-funded, non-profit showcase of what our city has to offer.” Focusing mainly on words, shown through open mics, short plays, music, readings, deadly music, a comedy club and a lot of whatever you’re having yourself. “Two full days of our hearts through art, free for our city to enjoy.”

It all kicked off in the Theatre Royal with a workshop on creative writing from Robert Doherty. Nicola Spendlove gave a special writing workshop organised by the Brothers of Charity. I tuned into a potpourri of short plays and party pieces that floored on the main stage of the Royal. Dubliner Emmet O’Brien intrigued with a drug-fuelled stream of consciousness that travelled between time from the sixties to the present to encompass many issues in contemporary Irish society. I loved the energy Emmet’s end-rhymes injected into his dialogue and his strong stage-presence; his love of words carried along on a torrent of dialogue that ranged from the banal to boundless enthusiasm for singers such as Bob Marley.

Anna’s son-and-heir Eliot Jordan-Kennedy is quirky and smart with his origin of the world ‘hoopla’; Catherine McKiver has a reflective piece on a pair of lovers who spend their lives together with songs like ‘The Very Thought of You’ flooding romance and regret across the stage. Jennifer Kavanagh has a short play on two erstwhile friends who meet in a bar to catch up on current gossip and romance. And find the subject of their affections to be the same Michael. Now there’s a twist. Wayne Power’s ‘Well Girl’ is a hot pot of gossip that’s dished up by a pair of nattering know-alls who have a very colourful turn of language with tongues that could tar roads.

One word of advice to all the performers: speak up. If you’ve agonised over the spoken word, at least let’s hear it!

I took myself off to the Vestibule to catch some of local historian Joe Falvey’s talk on the history of the Theatre Royal. Joe has that magpie’s habit of collecting shiny things in local history and the small audience get full value for their journey. Tales of assembly rooms for Quakers and big London stars that commanded big fees and yarns and gossip about shows and committees filtered through the reverb of the vestibule that made it difficult to catch Joe’s words. Still… an interesting if not always audible talk from genial Joe Falvey.

Saturday’s fest moved onto Momo’s for some more spoken word, advice on conducting research down in the Munster, a comedy club in the Hub and a hooley in Jordan’s Yard.

Sunday lunchtime finds me in Tric Kenneally’s delicious wine bar ‘The Fat Angel’ in Greyfriars for some pretty impressive short plays and poems that is flooded with wordsmiths in search of a venue and resting actors in search of a part. Nicola Spendlove’s ‘A Blast’ sees four thirty-somethings in a tangle of pretence doing some hard self-searching in a love-island all of their own. The four have all discovered that life and love doesn’t always deliver and Thomas Kinsella’s truism that “we are not made whole that reach the age of Christ” rings true. Sadly truths are not shared, locked up in self doubt and only spoken to the self in accusations of how have I come to this?

Colette Delgarno Rockett has a short piece on a posh-sister who could make Donald Trump as inclusive as Francis of Assisi imposing herself on a struggling sibling that brings laughs. Dean Sullivan has a comic turn on a mad tale of an uncle who actually claims to be the son of Elvis and has a granny to confirm the yarn.

Casey Shelley rattles off poems of feminine protest and angst that strike a chord. Natasha Everett is a real star-turn as she weaves arguments of ‘Temper, Temper’ in lessons of female stereotyping with glasses of revenge on ice. Beware of rattling Natasha’s scaffolding. Any girl who can pen lines such as “my love was Viagra to your flaccid ego” is not to be trifled with. Still, I’m pretty there are some fairly all-right males out there and some of these fragile heroines could do with a victimhood audit.

Hannah Carbery’s play starred young Megan Kelly and Des Kavanagh as two leaving certs swopping notes during their classics exam as the old supervisor slumbers off in the booboos. Teen loves and issues swirl between the lines of the notes. But the device is cumbersome and, despite some quality playing from Megan and Des, the constant swopping of notes becomes tedious and drags. Still, Modwordsfest brings the opportunity to experiment and many a fine script emerges from experimentation before a sympathetic audience.

Petra Kindler, Waterford’s favourite Teutonic blaa, is all blah-blah and jaw-jaw on the dining habits of Irish people. It’s an entertaining and cautionary short talk on the lines of self-improvement and I’m thanking the Lord that she didn’t see me with the cornflakes earlier on.

It’s not all fun-and-games, however, in the Fat Angel and a pair of in-yer-face realisms disturbs the bonhomie of the Greyfriars lunchtime. Ciara O’Connor has a disturbing piece on an uncle’s sexual-manipulation and grooming of a twelve-year-old with money and cigarettes and special secrets and sex-instruction-videos that no-one knows except themselves. I loved Jenni Ledwell’s warts-an’-all stories on a carer’s relationship with her Alzheimer mother that tells it as it is. This is a woman who has walked the 100 yards in the carer’s shoes and knows the hyphenated old: the old-and-grieving, the old-and-desperate, the old-and-despairing. Fuddy-duddy humorous stories of a forgetful mum give way to a woman, lost in her kitchen, and bitterly resentful towards the daughter who loves her most and who, in return, just wants a smidgeon of respect for all her sacrifices. Jenni Ledwell’s piece is as uncomfortable and unsparing as sitting on a thistle. Jenni has a lot to say and she gives in both-barrels in a poem that is warted with detail and frustration and spares no-one. Brilliant.

Then it was off to Geoff’s for an art sale and more performances. The Book Centre hosted a panel discussion on literature before Jordan’s Bar facilitated some much-anticipated pints, pizza and craic.

The weekend had its highs and lows but well done to Anna Jordan and her crew for a jam-packed and interesting festival of words.

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By Pat McEvoy, Arts Correspondent
Contact Newsdesk: 051 874951

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