Caca Dana Review: “All the World’s A Cage” – By Niamh Ryan

Caca Dana Review: “All the World’s A Cage” – By Niamh Ryan

By Cathy Lee

The brilliant “All The World’s A Cage” engages and grips an audience from the beginning. On entering the small secluded dimly lit made-to-do theatre at “The Teachers Club” Dublin 1, the actors we had not yet been introduced to were already present on the background of the stage. This set a relaxed sort of mood into the air as the stage was at ground level, we relaxed into the comfortable couch-like audience seats and all I could experience was the feeling of curiosity the entertainment to come, and I wasn’t to be disappointed by this expectation! I would wholeheartedly describe this play as another success for the fantastic playwright and star Niamh Ryan, who plays “Jill”.

The very limited stage space was essential and fitting for the story. This one room setting exposed the character of the lives that the three young women held together, tightly bound in a not exactly cluttered scenario but one of great importance we are to learn to each of them, particularly “Tina” – played by Marie Hegarty. We discover each of these young women, graduated from college in Galway in their early 20s, as we watch the hilarious lack of interaction unfold between the ladies and the driven TV License inspector. We later discover that maybe indeed that this authoritarian figure isn’t the only one of his kind in their lives. Be it boyfriends, co-workers or closed-minded directors – these young women are really up against it.

The placement of individual striking lines in the play were exceptional for me as they were very captivating and allowed me to further my belief in the talents of Niamh Ryan as a script writer. Most of the comedy was physical at the beginning of the play, from yoga fitness moves of “Jill” to exaggerated facial expressions of “Amy” and the improper placement of some lemons and limes. But as the themes of feminism and power in the play further, lines from Tina and of course Jill, played by Niamh Ryan were hard hitting and to the point.

I found the characters to be strong with each possessing a distinct individuality and their own world view, strongly expressed at differing points in the play. Niamh Ryan as “Jill” and Katie Reid as “Amy” were headstrong and often outrageous bringing in heavily the humour and dominance into the scenes but I feel too that “Tina” played a distinct role in balancing out the possibly deeper strength of characters in the acting of Niamh Ryan and Katie Reid.

The play addressed a form of modern day millennial message or struggle and a strong feminine message which broke down barriers of fear in that of being a woman, the restrictions and draw backs found that we see existing here as the story unfolds. Through strong will and true togetherness in friendship, the girls overcome their challenges and the energy within the play can be felt, through the honesty of humour and the true sense of belief in one another as women and as good friends.

Although the play only held one setting due to the limited stage space available, the actors made this work through their use of physical space to depict time passing and also the excellent use of selective lighting present was visually important. Props were used to a good affect, from the weapons to the couch – which both united and separated the girls at different stages. I think this also added some colour to the play in a different way than the strong comedy did, as sometimes the atmosphere was dreary as the sense of hopelessness became present for the characters at their current and somewhat fixed reality.

Niamh Ryan is clearly a multi-talented young woman, with excellent script writing skills and is a capable actress herself included. Having seen another Caca Dana production “Eternal Youth” before,” All The World’s A Cage” showed me a new side to the writing of Niamh Ryan and I think her talents are very diverse with the potential for a vast future to explore, which audiences of all kinds should enjoy.

I wish the team at Caca Dana Theatre company all the best for their ventures stateside and I look forward to their future productions, wherever they may be. You can check out their website here for further information: https://www.cdtheatreco.com/

A Political Poem

Back in March of this year, I competed in the National Slam Poetry final which was held in NCAD, Dublin. It was sponsored and judged by members of Poetry Ireland and altogether, it was an incredible experience to see poetry so alive within the youth of today.

Afterwards, I kind of didn’t know what to do with the poem. It’s a performance poem so I thought maybe a video, a recording or a live set would suit it best. But then I remembered I’m a writer not a stand up, more-so anyway.

I was informed yesterday via email that I had made the Longlist for the Irish Blog Awards 2016 (yipee!) so I thought no better way to celebrate than releasing this poem to my very own place, this blog.

I hope you enjoy it, thanks to everyone who has taken an interest in “Cathy In Conversation”.

 

A Political Poem”

By Cathy Lee

 

I don’t write political poetry

But I can

There’s nothing stopping me

Just a bit of research and insight,

Little bit of brain power:

It’s never out of sight,

The power is mine

 

I don’t swim long-distance,

But I’m sure I could.

A little bit of resilience and resistance.

Give it some time,

Sure didn’t my mother have me swimming since I would walk?

And my legs are still mine

 

I haven’t painted a masterpiece,

But I could try.

Little bit of focus, my hands and my mind.

Keep the point to the brush and visit the hushed galleries,

We all need a bit of inspiration –

And my hands are mine

 

I don’t have a PHD

But really, what’s to stop me?

I always did want to reach higher.

I have a brain inside this skull,
and I really should use it to the full

Sure isn’t it mine?

 

I could use my legs for good,

To flee from this green isle.

Go on a trial, somewhere fresh and new

Not like the Catholic school grounds I knew.

I have a passport, the ability to pack

What’s to stop me never coming back?

 

I have used my hands for good too

Recently,

I used my hands to make demands

I put my views down on ballot paper.

 

I voted for change, I wished and hoped

And saw a slap returned to me.

A national let down,

 

But as I said, I don’t write political poetry.

 

I also don’t have abortions

And I can’t

Because the state has rules over my body.

It doesn’t matter what my legs, hands, brain or power can do

This fact remains the same.

 

say goodbye to a stable government,

say slán to repeal the eight

and hello to a mixed range of politics

of TD’s filled with hate

 

thanks for letting the progression digress,

cheers for the recession

and the maintenance grant that I didn’t get,

because only one of my parents is in oppression.

 

Old fiends now friends, those FF’s

I remember the cunning smiles of your devils dressed

The suits and ties, telling the lies

On repeat far and wide

 

Keep smiling, it’s what you are trained for

Don’t Nama own you all?

Or was it the Treaty of Lisbon,

That fix or “change of mind”

 

Are we to see the same again,

When the decision makers can’t do just that.

 

Don’t say you called it,

Don’t go down to Paddy power and try your luck

Can’t make a buck around here anyway,

Have you seen the tax rates?

 

Inflation fluctuates

While we wait in hope

For the coming of the centenary year,

So we can be “different” from our peers

 

Those Europeans didn’t invent republican revolution,

No sure it was just Irish

Weren’t we told that in school?

 

The school that has religion compulsory

And demands you’ve had that dash of water tossed over your head before entry,

Are you saying I wasn’t born holy?

 

Ah let’s then talk about the unborn.

Probably has more rights than me now

The state have a say don’t they?

 

In Ireland we talk about the weather over tea

Pity the same isn’t done by the rulers of the country.

Choosing to be concerned about a concept

When the time suits.

 

Climate changes isn’t waiting for us to finish up our economic plan.

Neither are the women traveling to England each day.

 

But sure time doesn’t exist,

There’ll be another election yet.

 

What waste?

“The dust and sweep of the city” (2014)

“The dust and sweep of the city” A Descriptive Essay about twenty-four hours in the life of a city:

Have you ever felt irrelevant within the goings on in the world around you? As if it wouldn’t make much difference if you were present or not. Well, most would say that’s what being part of a city is like. I however disagree. You see I’m the square-shaped clock with the discoloured face that perches above the Eason’s bookstore in Dublin’s city centre. I see your apparent irrelevance every day. I see everything really: the 4am silence and the junkie that phases out beneath me, the early morning rush hour as you all frantically attempt to get to where you’re going to, right up until the eccentric nightlife in our capital city. Maybe I’m the one who is irrelevant because, to me, it is the life in it that makes the city what it is.

The contrast I witness in this city in twenty-four hours is something extraordinary. For example, it’s 9am and the city has life again. It’s Friday so everybody has that ‘Friday feeling’ they all seem to strive to get. I notice a man and woman walking happily together. They are dressed in suits and discussing the business headlines. The man stands out for me. He is dignified sure, but I notice the trickle of the ink of a tiger tattoo running from the back of his neck downwards as they pass. Next comes a young schoolgirl. Her body is weighed down from the weight of her schoolbag. She takes out a cigarette and lights it before checking me for confirmation of the time I provide her with. She is satisfied now but stressed. I constantly see the tension of the youths as they cope with the pressure of exams. I don’t know whether I pity or envy them, as sadly an old clock never gets educated. She stubbed the cigarette into the brick wall and I watched it fall to add to the dust and sweep of the city floor.

The usual morning hours passed with lack of any definite level of busy intensity. Buses came and left again, tourists snapped photographs of the Spire and one even stood beneath me for a photograph. I noticed the bland and vibrant colours that differed from person to person, styles and fashions clustered together into one city blur. The collection of people really accumulated at about 12:30pm. The midday sun beamed as people surrendered to their bodily needs and swarmed the city in search of nourishment. It really is a time of rush when everyone is hungry. The food differs from the savage ‘BigMac’ to the petite garden salad. The name of the game seems to be to eat your daily catch as quick as possible, while on the move to the next thing on your agenda. One must wonder ‘while there’s a breath of life in our bodies, we are determined to rush to see the sun the other way around?’

There comes a time in the city day when the clouds dim and evening appears to roll in. Everyone I see is on edge as they attempt to flee from the city chaos, all at once in want for their weekends to start. The public transport systems are compact and clogged, filled tight with indifferent people thinking of their own destination alone. The fumes of exhaust unravel from these moving boxes and I notice the discomfort of the surrounding city people. Those in cars drag themselves slowly, hardly moving, through the packed streets. The traffic warnings boom loudly from the car radios and although each person is to their own, there seems to be a sense of commuting community as everyone is stuck together, trying to break free from the city hold up. This finally dies down at a time close to 7pm. There is a sense of ease and calm as doors of shops are shut and the sun disappears to its final resting place after the working day.

What surprises me really again is the contrast. The hours drift into night until finally the second world of the city is upon us. At about 10:30pm, that’s when the city begins to flourish again. The demand to be here in the ‘in-scene’ is huge. The nightlife is peculiar to me. People surround themselves in the dark atmosphere of a pub or nightclub and light up, chug down or snort some awful concoction and tell themselves they’re having a good time. I hear the high-heeled shoes click by me again and wonder how girls are immune to the cold night temperatures. Some fall and skip and trip below me but laugh it off like its all part of the fun. This is a new life form than the daytime one. I see the same humans but there is a definite difference. Like the chameleon who can change colour but remain the same creature. I, the clock, am disregarded as these few hours of the Friday night drunken slander roll into one combination of a ‘good time’.

Ice forms above me on the roof of the building I’m attached to. As the night turns to morning of approximately 3:30am, I recognise the man. The tiger tattoo printed on the back of his neck. He is still being the man of business at this hour, but I feel it’s probably a different line of work than his daytime regime. He pushes the girl around a bit as she doesn’t seem to take him seriously enough. She appears dazzling in a short sparkling dress but more dazed as I notice her distant eyes.  A black car pulls up in front of us. The woman smiles as she is rushed into the car. Money exchanges hands and our pimp walks away with the lout. The car turns and vanishes as I see the obliviousness of the woman, as the man rests his hand on her thigh.

It’s a rare time when I experience silence. I can actually hear myself tick. It never does last long, but it’s a time I treasure. See, I don’t get to embrace the beauty of the flowers in St. Stephens Green or the treasures of the libraries or museums. I rely on the views of the life of the city. Twenty-four hours goes by quickly to me, maybe it does for you too I don’t know. The life starts again for me at about that time just before the sun rises. The woman who was earlier sold returns to shoot heroin under the shelter I provide to her. Her face is tear-stained and desperate. I watch for the few minutes it takes for her to gain her desired feeling. Her pimp returns momentarily to provide her with some damp cardboard and a sleeping bag – he needs to keep her alive at least. She finally loses all sense of this city we’re all a part of and passes out below my place of stance. The sun comes up and the man clears away, not before spitting on the helpless girl and mumbling an insult. I savour the final moments of quiet before my twenty-four hours begin again.

You see, they say the city never sleeps but here, I’m the only one who can’t rest. The injustice I witness in daily life is something of strangeness that I can’t help but notice about the human lives in the city. The man goes to work at the beginning of the day discussing business headlines and ends it spitting on a prostitute he sells for profit. If you look deeper into the hustle and bustle of the dust and sweep of the city, you may not see the twenty-four hour detail I see, but the fact of what the reality means in our beautiful, yet tainted, capital city. Time is the essence, I as a clock would know, but a lot can change in a little over twenty-four hours.

Yeats Exhibition Review (2013)

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On the 29th October 2013, some enthusiastic sixth year English students, with a keen interest in poetry and culture, made the trip to The National Library of Dublin.

Here at the library located on Kildare Street next to Dáil Eireann, the students visited the fantastic exhibition of the life and works of the poet and playwright William Butler Yeats.

The award winning exhibition was first opened to the public in 2006, with the intent of being open for a single year only. Nine years on, the excellent exhibition is still as popular as ever with visitors of Irish nationality and for foreign tourists.

We were welcomed into the exhibition by our friendly and helpful tour guide, organised to assist us throughout. On first step into the exhibition room, we saw the poetic works of Yeats brought to life visually, as the poems were read aloud to changing images which one could sit and enjoy.

The exhibition was organised in a way that captured the changing times within Yeats’ life.

First we saw protected heirlooms from Yeats’ childhood, including a school report and pictures of his childhood home and surrounding area, which he later captures and refers to in his escapist era of poetry. This was followed by a glimpse into his teenage years, where we see him explore some more complex issues in attempt to gain understanding about the world around him and indeed himself.

The next section of the exhibition focused on the women within Yeats’ life and the role they played in his works as a playwright and poet. This particular room had framed photographs of different mistresses and love interests of Yeats, from Countess Markievicz and Maud Gonne to his own wife, Georgiana Hyde-Lees. This was interesting to see the total amount of women and how crucial their involvement with Yeats was in such ways to which they influenced his writings.

Following this we saw Yeats’ special connection to the older Lady Gregory, who Yeats was very close to in having similar interests with artistic and cultural projects, the major one being the setting up of The Abbey Theatre.

In glass cases were original letters Yeats and Gregory wrote to each other and it was clear to see the exceptional bond they held. Yeats in middle age explored different cults and religions. The exhibition portrayed this graphically with detailed robes and symbols from different cults and religions Yeats became fixated on. It was interesting to see how this influenced his works, bringing forth new ideas of self expression in a slightly romanticised fashion.

From the exhibition it was clear to see how Yeats was heavily involved and interested in politics. From his poems ‘Easter 1916’ and ‘September 1913’ Yeats comes forth holding  his own stance as a well established poet in society at the time, as he notes his reactions and views to these national social and political events which he lived through.

In later life he furthered his political input becoming a member of the Seanad. His objective as a Seanad member was to be a representative for the area of arts and literature, although he often ignored this and got involved in heated controversial debates on topics such as divorce. Within his final years of life he was still a persistent poet and won the Nobel Prize for Literature. At the exhibition, the top hat which he wore when receiving the award was on display and also a replica of the award itself.

In the final back room within the exhibition there was a place to sit to watch a film playing of literary and public figures speaking about Yeats, the late poet Seamus Heaney featured speaking here which was great to see their own appreciation of Yeats.  The exhibition had an excellent mixture of factual information, social history, politics, romance and religion which gave a detailed look into these aspects of Yeats’ life and works.

All artefacts present were donated by Yeats’ family, and it was really a capsule of dedication to the great poet and playwright he was and so much more. The mixture of multimedia modern technologies alongside original manuscripts was great to see, as the original works of Yeats were brought into focus to modern access.

To take the virtual tour online visit www.nli.ie/yeats .

The Yeats exhibition is just one of many free attractions to visit in Dublin. For those who wish to discover more about the attractions within our cultural capital city, log on to http://www.dublin.ie or www.visitdublin.com .

A Message Amidst The Madness Series: Lessons Learnt.

By Cathy Lee

A lot of not very “every-day” things happened in my every-day life last week.

Let me just say before we get into this that you shouldn’t worry as this won’t be a diary entry.

Last week I began my usual college student routine, doing what I was supposed to be doing. By Saturday, I had had three cover stories in three different newspapers.

I also won first place at a competitive Poetry Slam (but that’s a different story).

The overused term that comes to mind is “that escalated quickly”, but if the shoe fits.

The irregularity of these events come from the content of the cover stories and the fact I was even involved in a Poetry Slam.

The stories were an analysis of changes in property prices in county Dublin, Wicklow and Carlow which were spread across three pages each.

That’s altogether nine pages of house prices, analysis and content coming from a student journalist who doesn’t own a home and isn’t an amazing tenant either.

Also currently I live in neither Dublin nor Wicklow and believe me, not even Carlow.

The point of this post is that life is quite unpredictable and basically I believe you need to take every opportunity, big or small, that comes your way.

I will tell you just how I did that this time around.

Back in December, I met with the editor of the papers to do an interview about the upcoming general elections in Ireland in 2016.

I had completed work experience at their “Wicklow Voice” paper over the summer, a two week stay at a paper I grew to really enjoy writing for.

He was very willing to talk and gave a good interview, I was happy with how it went.

He told me during our talk that day that he would have some upcoming journalism work for me and also mentioned the magic and underused word of “paid”.

Of course, I was delighted at this.

Then, the horror of the words hit like a ton of bricks on the horizon of a ghost estate, (now growing from ghostly to homely I might add).

“Property”.

I sunk at the thought, knowing that property was not in my vocabulary never mind my journalistic abilities.

15,000 homes were sold in Dublin 2015. I looked at the name, location and price of each property.

500 homes were sold in Carlow and 1,300 in Wicklow. That’s nearly 17,000 homes.

With the extremity of excitement in uncovering information such as this, I was beginning to lose faith in terms of whether anybody would even want to read this endless jargon of stats.

I soon learned that I was wrong. People love putting their nose in others homes, to see how the other half lives in some way.

I listed the cheapest and most expensive sales and also the top ten homes in the counties.

People go crazy for these things and such stats, I found out when I saw the spread of numbers and cartoon homes on the published papers.

I also noticed that each other national paper and locals had property stories too, so I didn’t feel alone in my extensive investigative research into the “Property Price Register”.

I think I got the shock when the killer headline was in big bold print and I had the beloved by-line to go with it.

I almost felt like a spreader of my personal property propaganda that the poor readers in Dublin, Wicklow and Carlow had just me to read on the cover of their locals.

Last year in the first year of my journalism course in Galway, a speaker from thejournal.ie told us that you can’t predict what stories readers will like the most.

That idea flashed into my mind all through last week.

I think in this game I’m now invested in, you have to just take it as it comes.

Never say no, nod along and figure out the ins and outs later because a high percentage of the time, you can figure out the best way around a tough situation.

We are born survivors aren’t we? Embrace that inner strength and grab at these chances.

Who knows, maybe when I buy my first home. I’ll know where to go and look, because the stories stick with you, no matter how far gone you are.

Carlow

 

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I attach links to the property stories and photographs of the cover stories, feel free to browse and thanks to Wicklow Voice, Dublin Voice and Carlow People papers.