“I feel like I’m on holiday!”… Our director Louise Lowe was voicing a thought that had probably crossed all of our minds during day two of development work on our new play Across the Lough. Myself (the writer), Louise, actor Steve Blount and Show Manager Sean Henderson recently spent two inspiring, intriguing, invigorating days out on the waters of the lake at Larch Hill, Co Meath (home of the very generous Michael and Louisa de Las Casas). It was part of our preparation for this new piece which, if you’re into four-word descriptions, is our “show in a boat”. If reductive isn’t your thing then let me just say the piece attempts to: “explore themes around life, death, the after-life and the choices we make on life’s journey”. And if neither of those descriptions do it for you, then let me just remind you that “messing about in boats” and being out on the water is just a lovely thing to do. Yes, there were showers and we got soaking wet, but then we had a double rainbow to make up for it, followed by spring sunshine on our faces and a pair of swans doing a fly-by before splash-landing just metres away from the boat. Not that I’m trying to do the hard sell either because our capacity is… “limited”. 3 passengers per show, 5 sailings per day – we’re hoping for a sell-out. In fact I’d bet my boat on it, if I owned a boat.
So how did this all come about? Well, it started with an invitation from Mayo County Council Arts Office to propose ideas for a fantastic project called Landmark. They were looking for work to showcase during a weekend festival of work that responded to the park at Lough Lannagh, on the outskirts of Castlebar. During my first visit, I clearly remember liking the park but being much more attracted to the water. And suddenly I found myself with a lot of questions. What would it be like for the audience to go on a boat journey with an actor? What are the physical and emotional sensations we get from being together in such a small space? What is the symbolism of crossing a body of water? What are the stories and legends we associate with lakes? Etc. etc.
And that’s how we ended up on the lake at Larch Hill – to test out how it feels and what it means for an audience to make a journey in a small rowing boat with an enigmatic, charismatic ferryman (the wonderful Steve Blount). So yes, at times it felt like a like a holiday, at times it felt very intense, and at others strangely moving – to experience it for yourself you’ll have to make the trip to Castlebar.