NighttownBehind the Scenes Volunteering Experience: Making NIGHTTOWN
by Laurie Ingram

NIGHTTOWN is a play based on a chapter from James Joyce’s Ulysses that records the feverish experience of Dublin’s sordid nightlife in the early 1900s. Adapted by director Joe O’Byrne and presented by Co-Motion Media and Carnation Theatre Company, this performance brings into action the plethora of eccentrics, deviants and situations that characters Bloom and Daedalus encounter on their nightmarish wanderings. With the imaginative use of puppetry, props and movement, the performers of NIGHTTOWN work in a narrative flow that sheds a dusky light on Joyce’s incredible prose.

This event is the outcome of the efforts of many individuals that contributed to the physical construction and rehearsal of the play. As a volunteer, I had the chance to be a part of this process, and experience first-hand the collaborative and creative exercises that go into a festival performance. Situations can change at any moment, as is the nature of a festival, keeping everyone on their toes and requiring resourcefulness as a key quality.

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A behind-the-scenes shot of the set being created for Nighttown

Due to a venue change there was much rearrangement of the Marino College space needed in order to prepare for the performance. This meant that a lot was to be done in a short timeframe and the creative and technical gears of all involved were in full pelt. Along with another volunteer named Engin, my role was to help paint the backdrop for the set, and we were given the task of creating a surrealist visual mood that would complement the performance. I was thrilled at this chance to bring out the paintbrushes again, and thoroughly enjoyed watching our sketches move from pencil on paper, to chalked up on set and then finally filled out with paint – all in the course of just a few hours.

Only a few nights beforehand, Marino College’s space had been ready for a performance of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, so it was fascinating to see the venue stripped back and ready for a brand new show. This gave me the opportunity to observe the effort it takes from all involved to bring a production to stage and present it before an audience. By tuning into a certain creative frequency, each aspect of the production, from sound to lighting, directing, acting and design, all work together in order to make possible the finished theatrical experience.

Behind the scenes, actors playfully engage with the props and experiment with new visual expressions, finding innovative ways to advance the performance. Along with the liveliness of behind-the-scenes production, there is still a sense of working towards a whole in which everyone’s creative influences are directed. This is especially heightened in a festival atmosphere, in which spontaneity plays a large role, as unforeseen circumstances arise and call for ingenuity. This often leaves room for creative processes to find new angles, leading to performances that are fresh and unexpected.

There is still time to see NIGHTTOWN, as the final performance is on Saturday 5th of March at 8pm at the Marino College. There are also plenty of other theatrical productions to see throughout the Five Lamps Arts Festival, such as The Rising (9th-11th March), Midwife of a Nation (11th March), Fractures (14th-15th March) and The Flood (16th March).


About the Author

Laurie-IngramLaurie Ingram is a recent Social Anthropology (LSE) and Material & Visual Culture (UCL) graduate with an enthusiasm for the all things creative. Having spent time immersed in the anthropology world, Laurie is keen to be a part of breaking the borders between the humanities and the arts, creating new communication and ideas as a result. She is currently pursuing her interest in film and blogging for Dublin’s Five Lamps Arts Festival.