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FUEL – Druid Emerging Artists

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FUEL 2015 | Artist Profile: Fionnuala Gygax

FUEL 2015 Artist Residency 2

Artist name: Fionnuala Gygax

Project name: Hostel 16

Tell us a little bit about previous projects you have worked on:
As an actor, I have performed in dozens of theatre productions, some of which include Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, In Camera, Stockholm (Samuel Beckett Theatre), Sometimes We Break (Junk Ensemble), The Critic (Rough Magic), The Last Post (Dublin Fringe), various Macnas productions, a one woman show, Noodle, which I wrote and performed as part of the Galway Fringe Festival, 2014 and most recently Eipic (Magamedia Productions)which will be aired on TG4 in February. Last year I devised and directed a large ensemble production MASS in the Samuel Beckett Theatre, which examined the influence of the Catholic Church in Ireland. In 2011 I interned with Pan Pan and since then have worked on The Seagull and Other Birds (2014), Amercanitis (2013) and Everyone is King Lear in His Own Home (2012) -all Dublin Theatre Festival. I assisted Maeve Stone on Red Room (Peacock Theatre) and Wake (a co-production with Chamber Made Opera, Melbourne).

Describe your project:
Hostel 16 is an examination and interrogation of the Direct Provision system in Ireland and the conditions in which asylum seekers are expected to live in. Our project is theatrical and political, based on a play written by me, Seekers, which follows the stories of asylum seekers living in Direct Provision. The play focuses on the lack of privacy and claustrophobia within the world of the hostel, as well as boredom, depression, lack of independence, sexual frustration and abuse. Hostel 16 will incorporate elements of this script and also include new devised material based on further research and fresh discussions in the rehearsal room.

Why are you making this piece?
As I have grown older, I have become more and more aware of the culture of institutionalisation and marginalisation that is deeply rooted in Ireland as a nation. Within these institutions there has been hierarchy and corruption, the disregard of minorities and the normalisation of voicelessness. To me, the Direct Provision system is yet another symptom of this, one that I believe to be one of the most pressing humanitarian issues in contemporary society. When I learnt of the conditions that large groups of vulnerable people were subjected to, particularly the hundreds of children, I felt compelled to make a piece of theatre based on this subject. This is a an issue we feel is urgent and hope that theatre as an artform can bring more into the public forum.

Who or what are the main influences in your work?
My main influences as a theatre-maker are artists who take risks, either through experimentation of form or tackling a subject that is urgent. I have always admired the work of Pan Pan for this reason and their focus on atmosphere in the work they make. I greatly admire Anu Productions who tackle big subjects in ambitious, creative and surreal ways through a more devised approach. DruidShakespeare was exemplary in terms of scale and ambition, as well as top class performances where the representation of gender was questioned.

Where would you like to bring your finished piece?
When we have a finished piece, we would like to present it in an arts festival in Ireland, i.e: a platform such as the Galway International Arts Festival. As there are many Direct Provision hostels located around the country, we would then subsequently hope to produce the piece in theatres nationwide where the message is particularly relevant. Down the line, we would love to create a co-production between Irish and international artists, to have a cast of all different ethnic backgrounds.

If you had to describe your performance style in one word, what would it be?

What elements of your piece do you hope to develop during your FUEL residency?
We hope that by deepening our research and understanding of the subject throughout the residency we can develop the script, dramaturgical structure and characters of the piece. We also hope to interrogate the form the piece should take and hone in on the specific themes we feel are most important. FUEL is also an opportunity for us to engage with the local community about the subject, something we hope will richen and texture the final product.

Tell us about the people you will be working with during your residency:
I will be working with Danielle Galligan who graduated from the Lir with a first class honours degree in 2015. Recent productions include The Train (Lynne Parker, Dublin Theatre Festival) and Contractions (Annabelle Comyn). While at The Lir, Danielle devised a production with Annie Ryan. She was passionate about the experience and is eager to make her own work as a professional actor.

Ailish Leavy is a recent graduate of Drama and Theatre Studies, Trinity College Dublin. Her recent credits as an actor include MASS (Samuel Beckett Theatre) and Ciarán’s Aisling (Smock Alley Theatre) and as director,
In Camera (Samuel Beckett Theatre). Ailish was involved in the devising process of MASS and has a keen interest in collaborative theatre-making.

What are you most excited about, with regard to the FUEL residency?
With a project like this, research and interrogation are paramount. I am excited for the opportunity to be fully immersed in a focused, creative and experimental environment for a week, working on a subject we feel is extremely important. I am also looking forward to the team being based in Galway, a city which is fuelled by culture and creativity and which also has a lot of geographical significance with this particular project because of the two direct provision hostels located near the city. And of course, we are all incredibly excited to be working in the Mick Lally Theatre under the supervision of a company like Druid for the week.

What do you think will be your biggest challenge during your FUEL residency?
If I am being honest, I am nervous about tackling such a huge social issue. Sometimes I feel ‘Who are we to be representing these people? What right do we have?’ Our biggest challenge will be to do this subject matter justice and to capture the voices of these characters as truthfully and as respectfully as possible. If I feel we have done this at the end of the residency and created an important piece of work, I will be happy.

When is the last time you were excited or inspired by a performance?
I was recently inspired by TG Stan’s The Cherry Orchard in the Dublin Theatre Festival. The company’s experimental approach brought the text to life with vigour and colour, while still remaining truthful to Chekhov. The performances were spontaneous and clever, yet always sincere. I was most excited by the ability to experiment with form without alienating the audience and also witnessing international performers at work, performers whom I had never seen on stage before.

What would you be doing if you weren’t participating in a FUEL residency?
Dreaming big dreams and doubting big doubts – the constant struggle.

Fionnuala Gygax is FUEL Artist Residence from 30th November – 5th December


This page was archived on 28/03/2017 and is no longer updated.

The contents of this page may be out of date or incomplete. Go here to browse our current site