I/Thou

premiere Cork Opera House
presented in partnership with Sirius Arts Centre
DATES 7-8 SEPTEMBER 2018
Photo credit Clare Keogh

mesmeric… A beautifully crafted meditation on connections between individuals…
☆☆☆☆

MICHAEL SEAVER | THE IRISH TIMES

A major new piece by Liz Roche Company commissioned and co-produced by Cork Opera House in partnership with Sirius Arts Centre's One Here Now: The Brian O'Doherty Project 2018 and supported by the Arts Council Open Call Award 2018.

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I/Thou

I/Thou is a mesmerising dance piece that responds to the work of iconic visual artist Brian O’Doherty, also known as Patrick Ireland.

Inspired by O’Doherty’s mix of perfection and playfulness, this work echoes the themes of migration, language and identity that are ever present in his work – particularly in his wall painting series One, Here, Now, created for Sirius Arts Centre, Cobh in the late nineties and restored again in 2018.

The moving body is set in distilled landscapes of sound, colour and light, creating a world of possibilities in which, even if for a moment, we can transcend individuality. The result is a beautifully compelling performance exploring the everyday intimacies that form our connection to our surroundings and to each other. 

Featuring a specially commissioned score, I/Thou brings together world-class performers and creative collaborators including composer Linda Buckley, set and costume designer Joe Vanek and lighting designer Stephen Dodd.

I Thou premiered at Cork Opera House on 7th September 2018 as a centrepiece of the Sirius Arts Centre's year-long programme One Here Now The Brian O'Doherty Patrick Ireland Project celebrating O'Doherty's remarkable career.

In 2019 I/Thou performed at Dublin Dance Festival, Roscommon Arts Centre and the Lime Tree Theatre, Limerick.

Performances

venue SAMUEL BECKETT THEATRE
DATES 8 - 10 MAY 2019
AS PART OF DUBLIN DANCE FESTIVAL
VENUE ROSCOMMON ARTS CENTRE
DATE 1 JUNE 2019
A PART OF OFFICIAL RE-OPENING of RAC
VENUE LIME TREE THEATRE, LIMERICK
DATE 21 JUNE 2019
AS PART OF MODES of CAPTURE SYMPOSIUM
I/THOU CORK OPERA HOUSE PHOTO BY CLARE KEOGH
I/THOU CORK OPERA HOUSE PHOTO BY CLARE KEOGH

PRODUCTION CREDITS

Choreography Liz Roche  

Composition Linda Buckley 

Set and Costume Design Joe Vanek  

Lighting Design Stephen Dodd

DancersSarah Cerneaux, Miguel do Vale, Glòria Ros Abellana, Ailish Maher, Jack Webb and Kévin Coquelard

Cello Kate Ellis 

Recorded Singers Suzanne Savage & Robbie Blake

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2018

Singers Robbie Blake, Suzanne Savage, Vivienne Hassell

Cello Ilse de Ziah 

Musical DirectorJohn O'Brien

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Video Paddy Cahill (2018) & Luca Truffarelli (2019)
 
Photography Clare Keogh
 
Creative Producer Catherine Nunes

Company Manager Moyra D'Arcy
 
Line Producer Aisling O’Brien
 
Production Manager Lisa Mahony
 
Stage Manager Lisa Krugel
I/THOU CORK OPERA HOUSE PHOTO BY CLARE KEOGH
I/THOU CORK OPERA HOUSE PHOTO BY CLARE KEOGH

Brian O'Doherty
One Here Now: The Ogham Cycle

O’Doherty/Ireland's One Here Now; The Ogham Cycle is a nine-part series of spectacular, floor-to-ceiling wall paintings at Sirius Arts Centre in Cobh, Cork that encapsulates his career-long concerns with migration, language and identity. Liz Roche was commissioned to respond to this work as part of the One Here Now Brian O'Doherty/Patrick Ireland Project at Sirius Arts Centre Cobh that ran throughout 2018 to celebrate their restoration. I/Thou takes its name from one of the wall paintings that stands alone amongst the others, that was described by O'Doherty himself as “an exploration of light; an action against the rigorous plan of the rest”.

In 2015 Liz Roche had the opportunity to see the work of visual artist and art critic Brian O'Doherty/ Patrick Ireland at the Irish Museum of Modern Art in Dublin. This was the first time Liz had seen his work in the flesh and she was struck by the mix of perfection and playfulness in his Rope Drawings but also the importance placed on the viewer who is empowered to receive the work in a very personal way. To Roche, O'Doherty/Ireland's work felt densely layered and connected and she was curious to find out more. Liz struck up a correspondence with O'Doherty in 2015 which grew gradually into a dialogue about the work. The creative process was also supported by art critic-historian Dr. Brenda Moore-McCann and art historian, curator and critical writer Catherine Marshall. I/Thou was made possible through One Here Now Brian O'Doherty/Patrick Ireland Project 2018 with Sirius Arts Centre, a commission by Cork Opera House and support from Arts Council Open Call Funding, premiering at Cork Opera House in September 2018.

I/THOU CORK OPERA HOUSE PHOTO BY CLARE KEOGH

Archive

Set Designer
Joe Vanek
on I/Thou's
Creative Process

In the final two stanzas of Yeats’ poem Among School Children, he sums up with elegant precision, a fundamental truth about that most beguiling of performing arts.

O body swayed to music, O brightening glance,
How are we to know the dancer from the dance?

With the final words of a novel, notes of a musical score or strokes of a brush, the writer, composer and artist, step away from their creative endeavours to await posterity’s verdict. Whilst a choreographer may similarly distance themselves from their dance, the dancer remains inextricably linked to the movement and gestures that constitute a singular choreographic vision.

In 2008, the celebrated Irish artist, Brian O’Doherty, chose to step away from his politically motivated alter-ego – Patrick Ireland, with a ritual burial – as performance art – in the grounds of IMMA (The Irish Museum of Modern Art). Following a coffin, dressed in white and with his head wrapped in muslin, Brian instigated a ceremony – motivated by the Good Friday Agreement – to ‘ bury hate.’

In 2018, at the Sirius Arts Centre in Cobh, One Here Now, Brian’s series of nine large scale murals, based on the ancient Celtic Ogham alphabet, were uncovered and restored to their former striking and colourful glory. Later that year, during the Cork Midsummer Festival, as Pilgrimage was in rehearsal at the Art’s Centre, I spent several days surrounded by these evocative leviathans. Pilgrimage was in several respects, Liz Roche’s forerunner to I/ Thou  – and when the time came to put a shape on the environment within which this later work would be performed, as the stage design emerged, subliminal influences from the murals, had clearly been at work.

But, alongside these murals, we also looked extensively at Brian’s other paintings, and particularly, his small geometric abstracts. Many were ghosted with fine, radiating white wires, that either followed the inherent graphic qualities of the paintings, or offered a bold counterpoint. Sometimes, in large gallery spaces, the 2D painted element of a work, would take up a whole wall, with the 3D white wires extending several metres in front. On occasions, they broke through an opening into a second space; essentially, transforming these works into installations, and offering us considerable visual food for thought.

During early meetings, Liz and I discussed re-imagining the ‘ wire effect ‘ in the performance space, and how it would relate to the dancers. Subsequently, I worked with white string on configurations of ropes crisscrossing an empty black model box. One day, about a week into rehearsals, on entering the dance studio, I discovered to my amazement and delight, that Liz and the dancers were creating a vast white web; yards of inch wide elastics, tied onto the studio’s window latches and ballet barres, were being manipulated by them into dynamic compositions. Meanwhile, the air reverberated with composer Linda Buckley’s haunting soundscapes. These ethereal sounds, the undulating elastics, and the dancers movement amongst them, was a beguiling combination.

Within these givens, I/Thou now required an overall visual context; providing aesthetic as well as practical solutions as to how the elastics would be fixed – and at times released – to create the web configurations. We immediately drew up an inventory of key visual elements, related to the Ogham murals, small paintings, and various gallery spaces; thresholds, portals and frames, duly emerged, all possessing apposite characteristics worthy of exploration.

In all our discussions, the word frame was very much to the fore. As for the performance space? Liz felt that it should consist of a large downstage area and a
narrower one upstage; a wall with an opening, separating the two. The elastics would be fed from upstage, through this opening, and dog clipped – for ease of reconfiguration – to a black masking system downstage. For definition, and as a direct reference to one of he Ogham murals, I grafted a 3D fractured picture frame in white, to the masking’s onstage edges, and created a wide opening in the wall flat, outlined with an identical white 3D frame. Later, on either side of this portal, doors were added, and as the structure asserted itself, indentations, derived from Brian’s geometric paintings evolved, and these, I outlined in narrow white reveals to tie in with the elastics.

I/Thou inhabited an essentially monochrome world, enlivened by a flagrant strip of yellow ochre dance floor upstage. Together with the white, grey and pastel’s of the dancer’s costumes, the only other colour accents came from Stephen Dodd’s immaculate lighting.

Highlights of the production for me, were the arresting opening sequence with its eerie freeze frame images of the dancers entwined with the elastics, and Jack Webb’s mesmeric, solo. Suffused in deepest blue, during its final moments, and unseen by the audience, a pair of empty picture frames, were flown in; lazily drifting and spinning over the dancer’s bodies – like the sword of Damocles – they provided an apt final image as I/Thou reached its apotheosis; reconnecting us to the artist.

Joe Vanek – April 2021

This contribution has been commissioned by Liz Roche Company

Links & Press

Links:

http://www.siriusartscentre.ie/visual-art/one-here-now

https://www.dublindancefestival.ie/events/festival/i-thou

Press

The Irish Times

“After RIOT’s festival opening, audiences who heeded Pantibliss were well armed with personal affirmation, and this warm feeling of self-worth and supportive community was topped-up in Liz Roche Dance Company’s mesmeric I/THOU (★★★★). A beautifully crafted meditation on connections between individuals, its original inspiration grew from a single yellow panel from artist Brian O’Doherty’s One Here Now on the walls of Sirius Arts Centre in Cobh. Over a door, its muted tone and pleasing symmetry quietly contrasts with the busy bright reds, greens and blues on the other walls. Roche asked the dancers to physically respond to what they saw (a common theme was connections) and this act of individual empowerment led to a work rich through several layers, enhanced by the broad brushstrokes of Linda Buckley’s music and Stephen Dodd’s autumnal lighting. As individual movements led to group consensus, there was much to focus on, but much of the choreography centred on arms as connectors: reaching out, leading the movement or, in the case of a group dance, completely uninvolved, hanging heavy at the side as the dancers move.”

 

No More Workhorse

 

Gallery

Photography Credits I/Thou:
Promotional photos by Luca Truffarelli
Rehearsal photos by Ewa Figaszewska
Performance photos by Clare Keogh

We are proud of our partners.

Liz Roche Company is strategically funded by the Arts Council