Bodach an Chóta Lachna

Fíbín Teo presents 'Bodach an Chóta Lachna'.

Fíbín Teo presents 'Bodach an Chóta Lachna'.

In a piece I wrote for The Irish Times about the health of Irish language theatre in this country, the artists I spoke to proposed that one of the biggest concerns held by 'would be' audience members was a fear of not understanding the story they've paid to see. Companies working through the language and, more often than not, with children, tend to keep their audiences engaged by putting an emphasis on the physical – using mask, puppetry and exaggerated physicality to knuckle sense out of what those without a fluency in the language might fear. Recent excellent productions from Branar (Spraoi) and Moonfish Theatre (Tromluí Phinocchio) have proven just how accessible and enjoyable work performed through Irish can be with shows aimed at babies and teenagers, respectively, but that spoke to all ages.

Perhaps the most flexible company working through the language is Fibín. In the past 12 months they have staged two shows for adults – Setanta at the Peacock Theatre and SAINT in the Fringe, which catered to all levels of comprehension of the language. SAINT was even performed by actors who had no Gaeilge at the beginning of the two-week devising/rehearsal process, proving that it works both ways. At the 2012 Baboró International Arts Festival for Children, Fibín debuted their latest work, Bodach an Chóta Lachna, aimed at children aged 7-12, based on an ancient tale from the Fianna cycle. In terms of audacity, imagination and sheer entertainment, it's another hit for the company.

A smarmy prince comes ashore intent on making himself King. He's not here to make friends, laying waste to the Fenian soldiers who take him on, throttling a reigning ruler and raising his own flag above the stone castle, a grey hunk of rock that shadows the piece, mutating into various different things throughout.

He meets his match in the Bodach, a friendly giant, and an agreement is made. Should he beat the beast in a race from An Daingean (Dingle) to Binn Éadair (Howth) the Fianna will bow down to him. However, it will be toodles for the loser who will pay the ultimate sacrifice for failure: his life.

So begins a thrilling and gruesome chase across the land, with the dopey Bodach trying to make pals with the nefarious Nabob who in turns saws off his legs, kicks him in the crown jewels and slaps him with his own helping hand. There's a dainty yet duplicitous maiden to avoid, Jackeen brigands to overcome, and a particularly crude and stinky toilet break.

It's a hoot from start to finish – from the moment the three-person cast burst into the theatre, engaging the children directly, whipping them into a frenzy that adds to the marathon-like atmosphere and pace of the piece, to the curtain called cry of “slán”, every aspect of this production was clearly focused on showing its audience a good time.

The creepy eye masks worn by the supporting characters, the comical puppets, the smoke belching set, the smallest of moments were decorated with some delightful touch (a smattering of feathers) that added to but didn't overmilk the comedy. The use of repetition combined with the physical expressions that accompanied the words helped overcome any confusion that can arise from bi-lingual productions (this show was in fact tri-lingual with Irish, Hindi and Gujrati used by the main cast but you could really say it was quadri-lingual if you count the hilarious and often spot on observations roared by the children). The performances by the two leads were outstanding. You are unlikely to find a more endearing performance on the Irish stage this year than that of John Currivan as the Bodach, while Shadaan Felfeli does a wonderful line in vile pomposity as the 'Prionsa'.

It was an unrelenting visual feast that complemented the clowning and gags on stage, and, while there were some moments within the show that made me wonder “Is this appropriate for this age group” (a cutesy baby seal whose insides appear on its outside), I'd mark that down to my grown up projections about just what children can take. They, as with every other aspect of this show, loved it.

Caomhan Keane is a freelance journalist who has written about theatre for The Irish Times and the Sunday Independent, and is senior theatre writer at

  • Review
  • Theatre

Bodach an Chóta Lachna by Brendan Murray

Produced by Fíbín Teoranta
In the Town Hall Theatre

Written and Directed by Brendan Murray

Lighting Design: Mike O Halloran

Set Design: Ali Cairns, Pete Nelson

Costumes: Blathnaid Ni Nuanain

With: John Currivan, Shadaan Felfeli and Áine Ní Laoghaire


Age Range: 7-12

Presented as part of the 2012 Baboró International Arts Festival for Children.