Croí á Mhúscailt | Awakening a Heart

Branar presents 'Croí á mhúscailt/ Awakening a heart'.

Branar presents 'Croí á mhúscailt/ Awakening a heart'.

Branar presents 'Croí á mhúscailt/ Awakening a heart'.

Branar presents 'Croí á mhúscailt/ Awakening a heart'.

“Lá amháin, Daideo wasn't in his chair anymore.”

Branar presents a deeply moving and artistic portrayal of loss and childhood in their latest production, Croí á Mhúscailt | Awakening a Heart. Inspired by an image from Oliver Jeffers' picturebook, The Heart and the Bottle, Croí á Mhúscailt tells the story of a little girl who has recently lost her grandfather and explores the relationship between the girl and her grandmother, and their contrasting experiences of grief. Set in the living room of the grandparents' house, and told entirely through masterful puppetry, the focus is on an empty armchair, and the suitcases into which Mamó is packing away her memories.

BranarWe are welcomed to the play by the two puppeteers, Neasa Ní Chuanaigh & Réidín Ní Thuama, and because we are told “níl mór an teanga sa dráma seo”, we are encouraged to pay attention to the “gluaisteachtaí” (movements) and the “ceol” (music). It is truly remarkable the intensity of emotions that can be expressed in the absence of words. The beautifully evocative music, composed by Morgan Cooke, adds a great sense of personality and depth to the Mamó and girl characters. Mamó packs suitcases full of memories of her husband to slow, sad, music which bears the weight of her grief, while the girl's theme is light and full of movement and rising sequences, successfully capturing her childlike sense of play and innocence. Directors Marc Mac Lochlainn's and Bjarne Sandborg's choice to contrast the music with poignant moments of silence emphasises the great sense of loss and emptiness which has disrupted their everyday lives.

The set, designed by Marc Mac Lochlainn and Marcus Quinlan, consists of packed suitcases stacked to the left of the stage, to which Mamó continues to add more cases to bury her grief, and an empty armchair to the right, beside which sits an old gramophone. Daideo's paradoxically everpresent absence is highlighted by Quinlan's lighting design; even when the chair is not the focus of the action, a lonely spotlight fills the space where Daideo should be. The costume and puppet design, by Miriam Donohue and Suse Reibisch respectively, further highlights the stark contrast between how Mamó and the girl are coping with their grief. Mamó is dressed in dark colours, a navy cardigan and brown skirt, and her face is heavily lined with a pained expression. The girl, in contrast, is dressed in vibrant reds which reflect her energetic play throughout.

The physicality of Ní Chunaigh's and Ní Thuama's expert movements illuminate a beautifully devised and directed piece. We see Mamó sigh as she metaphorically carries the weight of her pain in suitcases as she struggles with the memories of a husband who is no longer there, while the girl goes to every effort to keep her grandfather's memory alive, dancing to his favourite song in his shoes, wearing his hat and glasses and reading his diary.

This is a moving and heartwarming piece, evoking tears, laughter, and a pleasure to attend.

Helen Cusack has a BA in Drama Studies and Masters in Children's Literature from Trinity College Dublin.

  • Review
  • Theatre

Croí á Mhúscailt | Awakening a Heart by Branar

24 April - 7 June (on tour)

Produced by Branar
In the Pavilion Theatre, Dun Laoghaire

Directed by Marc Mac Lochlainn

Co-directed by Bjarne Sandborg (Teatre Refleksion)

Devised by Branar

Set Design: Marc Mac Lochlainn and Marcus Quinlan

Costume Design: Miriam Donohue

Lighting Design: Marcus Quinlan

Puppet Design: Suse Reibisch

Composer: Morgan Cooke

With: Neasa Ní Chuanaigh and Réidín Ní Thuama

Audience: 7+