You’d be forgiven for thinking that The Faerie thorn and Other Stories has been helped along by the Fair Folk themselves. Within two weeks of publication Zoe Seaton, Artistic Director at Big Telly Theatre Company, had read the book and expressed an interest in adapting some of the stories for the stage.
The first development workshop took place in December 2015 and 16 months later, on Friday 21 April 2017, The Faerie Thorn opened at The Riverside Theatre in Coleraine – the first show in a 32-performance tour.
Over the course of several development workshops between December 2015 and July 2016, ideas were ‘auditioned’. There was then a preview at the Open House Festival in August 2016 which let the development team know what worked [and what didn’t]. In November 2016 I set about writing a new story for the production to add to the two that had been selected for the show, and in February 2017 the pace really started to pick up.
March 2017 was pretty full on: the cast [Nicky Harley, Shelley Atkinson, Seamus O’Hara, Rory Corcoran and Colette Lennon] were in rehearsals for 6 days a week; the set got built; costumes and props were made and bought; dances and set pieces were choreographed; music got composed, and lighting and sound were layered in to the performance.
During this final period of preparation, I was still very much involved with the whole process. I wrote lyrics for songs and new material for the the scripts and I learned a great deal about how theatre works. It was great to watch the composer and sound designer, Garth McConaghie, at work: I was astonished at how he could evoke the spirit of the stories with the underscore and the songs. Kevin Smith, lighting and special effects, knew exactly what to do to create a dark faerie tale atmosphere; and Maree Kearns , set and costume designer, built a set that, although simple, offers the perfect vessel for the cast’s colourful performances. Sarah Johnston, choreographer, skilfully echoed many of the conventions associated with the oral tradition and came up with some astonishing movement sequences.
I watched how Zoe Seaton shaped and perfected the piece, and how she left enough space for each performance to develop its own energy and for the actors to take the piece and make it their own.
I was there on the opening night in Coleraine and I’ve seen the performance a second time in Coleraine and once in Belfast. It’s wonderful to get caught up in the performance. It’s wonderful to see the actors enjoying themselves on stage. And it’s really wonderful to share the experience with different audiences.
There are still another 27 performances to go, and I’m really looking forward to seeing how the piece matures over time. If you enjoyed reading The Faerie Thorn and Other Stories, I’m convinced you’ll love this show as much as I do. Please go and be magicked by it 🙂 .