Imigéin: The Irish Scattering

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‘IMIGÉIN’ is a new production by the National Folk Theatre of Ireland, based in Siamsa Tíre, Tralee. Funded by Limerick City of Culture 2014, ‘Imigéin’ is a dramatic show about one woman’s journey to find a place she can call home. It celebrates Irish traditional culture through live music, song and dance .
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There is no direct translation for the word ‘Imigéin’, the title of Síamsa Tíre’s production coming to Lime Tree Theatre this weekend. The word describes a scattering of people across the land or a scattering of people abroad, according to director Joanne Barry.
Inspired by the Irish Times blog Generation Emigration, Joanne Barry set about creating a production that reflected the stories that are as prevalent to today’s Ireland as they were in previous decades of mass emigration from the country. “It’s very much in the mindset at the moment and it was something that we wanted to explore,” she explains.
“This was the first show that I directed, and you want to have a connection to the theme. One of those things we like to do in Siamsa is run productions with general themes that everyone can relate to, no matter what country you come from. We use the Irish language but we want the themes to be universal.”
“There were so many stories we uncovered during our research for ‘Imigéin’ and this production is just one of these stories revolving around one girl and one family. I hope audiences will be moved by our truthful portrayal of one aspect of emigration, the difficult decision to leave and make a better life in another place.”
When it came to set design the National Folk Theatre of Ireland broke new ground when it invited set designer Conor Murphy, who is long associated with design for opera and ballet. He trained at Wimbledon School of Art and completed an MA in Scenography in Utrecht, Holland.
“He designs for opera and would design big, majestic sets. The story in ‘Imigéin’ follows a girl as she leaves her rural cottage home for a large city. What Conor did was design this abstract tower like a skyscraper which was really dramatic and worked really well with the choreography.”
Tralee’s Siamsa Tíre is not only a venue, it is a resident company called The National Folk Theatre with five full time members. 2014 will be their fortieth year running shows from May to September from their Tralee headquarters delighting tourists and locals alike.
As part of National City of Culture, Limerick’s Lime Tree Theatre will be the only venue outside of Tralee that will host ‘Imigéin’ this year. Minister Jimmy Deenihan, who was Arts Minister at the time, took a particular interest in the Shimsa Tíre production and was keen that the show from his native Kerry would be part of the Limerick City of Culture programme.
Joanne adds, “Jimmy Deenihan has been a great friend of the company for many years. He saw the production, he loved it and he wanted us to take it further. Sometimes, I think we suffer from being in Tralee. It seems very far to travel to see a show, so I think its great that we are getting outside the county.
“It’s been a while since we have toured.”
Choreographer Sue Ellen MacCarthy has choreographed theatrical productions, several television commercials and music videos. “She is originally Australian, but she has worked with us on other productions. It is fantastic that she understands Irish dancing but also knows how to fuse it with contemporary stuff as well.”
‘Imigéin’ plays at Lime Tree Theatre on Saturday August 30 and Sunday August 31.