DYT member Ruairi interviewed past member Caoimhe Coburn Gray about her Fringe show Two Hundred Deer to Every Lion

Where do one million Dubliners, six hundred deer and three lions cross paths?

Join celebrity historian Bláthnaid Brennan as she embarks into the wild green yonder of the Phoenix Park. Learn everything there is to learn. Rigorously researched; pleasantly presented.

But is there only one history? Your tour is commandeered by a dreamer with an urgent message. There’s a river running where the road used to be. The Wellington Monument has exploded.

A play through headphones, live in Phoenix Park.

Tell us a bit about your show: what is it and when?
C: Two Hundred Deer to Every Lion is a new, site-specific audio experience taking place in the Phoenix Park.
We take you on a journey through history, through dreams both shared and private, through the beautiful surroundings of Europe’s largest city park and challenge you to reconsider what you thought you knew. This immersive piece, featuring original music and re-imagined histories, is for people who know the park inside-out, for those who don’t know it at all and for everyone in between. The show is running over the weekends of Dublin Fringe Festival and has just one run of days left on 22 & 23 September at 1pm, 2pm & 3pm on each day.
Your show is a promenade piece, meaning people will be moving around the park. How did you plan the route?
C: The route came out of what stories we were most interested in telling. Following on from our research and development for THDTEL, we knew that we had more material than could ultimately fit into a 40min slot. We distilled all of our material down to the ideas/histories that we most wanted to explore – some were very much grounded in specific locations within the park and others left more room to play with. Deciding on a route involved lots of walking back and forth and between the location-specific points and finding which routes felt interesting, which felt safe and which felt like a good match for the stories and ideas that were not locked into a specific spot – our walking tracks.
The show is largely centered around the wellington monument, hardly the most popular character in Ireland. What’s the inspiration there?
Although we do meet at The Wellington Monument and we engage with its colonial history (and potential destruction) in the opening track – the piece moves away into other surrounds, and other stories of the park fairly promptly soon after. There’s no avoiding the fact that the obelisk is one of the most well-recognised residents in the park, along with the Papal Cross and Michael D Higgins. As it is also a convenient distance from the nearest bathrooms, car-park and park entrance, it became a natural choice as a start-point that people would find easily.
Will there be live elements or is it all prerecorded?
Although all of the audio in the piece is pre-recorded, there are live elements for those keeping their eyes peeled. The park is such a visually rich and variable space, we love that each show will have a different set of visual cues to accompany it just by virtue of changeable weather and the unpredictability of deer herds and other park-goers. There are some elements, however, that we have ensured are consistent across all showings…
What happens if there is bad weather, or a tree goes down, or a path is closed?
Before each show, a member of the team does a scan of the regular route to make sure it’s still safely walkable – as we found out in our first weekend, in really wet conditions certain parts of the walk become a bit too waterlogged so we do have back-up routes planned!
You’re impressively fluent in ISL. Will there be a sign language performance?
Unfortunately my role within THDTEL means that I’m elsewhere during the performances and wouldn’t be able to offer an interpreted experience myself. As we’re an unfunded production, we didn’t then have the means to bring in an external interpreter this time around. I am however working with the team of interpreters involved with this year’s inaugural ‘ISL Deaf Translations Project’ with Dublin Fringe Festival. This project saw Lianne Quigley, a Deaf interpreter and artist, select 3 shows in the Dublin Fringe Festival programme that would be given ISL interpreted performances, with Deaf interpreters at the fore. I worked with fellow interpreters Ela Cichocka, Alvean Jones and Lianne Quigley on the interpreted performance of This Is You at Smock Alley Theatre on Sunday 17 September. The other shows that were interpreted were Once in a Lifetime and Hothouse, both at Project Arts Centre.
When did the process for the show begin, what’s the process been like?
The show started back in late 2021 when we applied to Smock Alley’s Scene + Heard Festival with the bones of an idea for THDTEL. We spent that January in the lead up to our work in progress showing researching and developing stories around the park and then trying to plot a staged representation of what we’d found. We always knew THDTEL would end up as a site specific audio piece so though our work in progress showing had material that can still be seen in the finished product, it was presented in a form unique to that moment in time in our development.
Beyond the struggle in selecting which stories to include, it’s been a really exciting and challenging process creating an audio piece. Working predominantly through the medium of sound is not something we have done before as a company so there were a lot of unknowns to grapple with. We were all far more familiar with a more traditional trajectory to production too – read-throughs, rehearsals, tech, dress. Instead it was recording, edits, pick-ups, test-runs. Having said that, it’s been really enjoyable working on a site-specific piece – with the park you just get so much for free, visually, and when the weather was on our side for the test-runs, we were beyond delighted not to be sitting in a black-box.
Describe your show in 3 words
Dreamy, immersive & green.
Why should we come see your show?
THDTEL offers a new association, a rethinking of a familiar Dublin space. If it’s your first time setting foot in the park, then it’s an introduction that offers some history, some context, and also invites you to see it as a creative/dream-filled space from the get-go. If you know it well, maybe you learn something you never knew and have a new layer of association. Maybe it even makes sense of dreams you’ve been having…
For young people in youth theatre, what would your advice be for creating work?
Being in a youth theatre is such a fantastic opportunity to be surrounded by people interested in the same things as you. I think the biggest advice would be to soak up as much as you can through the opportunities your youth theatre offers – try it all and see it all and find what you like. Then look around at the people who are there with you and spot the friends who are clicking with the same things. I sometimes think making a start is half the battle and it’s a rare and brilliant thing how much support you have while still in youth theatre – so make use of the supports and space DYT offers to start playing with ideas!
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