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Tiny Plays for Ireland – Guest Post by Gavin Kostick

Gavin Kostick writes:

Last September Philip Lane was kind enough to let me announce the launch of Fishamble: The New Play Company’s “Tiny Plays for Ireland” on the blog.

The call for submissions with The Irish Times resulted in over 1,700 entries – a word count of over a million. The Irish Times tell us it is the largest creative writing response they have ever hard.

I read the lot, so I had in my mind for a while there a snapshot of the concerns, hopes, fears of the Irish Times reading public at least.

The response and the quality was so overwhelming, Fishamble decided to do two productions of two complete sets of plays. You can read more about the process here.

The first production is now up and running at Project Arts Centre, and the early reviews are in.

The whole project was, in part, influenced by this blog and the comments section, where different characters, voices and perspectives jostle with each other.

Posters, readers and commenters might be particularly interested in coming on the nights of either 28th or 30th of March when I’ll be chairing a free post-show discussion on issues arising from the plays and you might meet the odd person familiar from the blog. Please feel free to say hello.

The show really is selling out (full each night so far) so book in advance here.

Perhaps the kindest comment after the show so far was words to the effect of “it’s like an attempt to take the pulse of the Irish nation – I’m pleased to see we still have one.”

13 replies on “Tiny Plays for Ireland – Guest Post by Gavin Kostick”

Good stuff. Glad it’s such a success.

Not sure about the pulse though…. there aren’t any dead parrot sketches are there?

@Gavin Kostick,

Much gratitude for your (and your collaborators’) efforts and many congratulations on this success. I expect you are well aware that you are simply revealing the enormous reserves of social and cultural capital (to which you referred on another thread) that are the glue that holds this benighted economy together – and has done for many generations.

The Celtic Tiger depleted some of these reserves and we can’t expect to draw on them without replenishing them. We also need to replenish the stocks of economic capital, because the former have only limited ability to sustain the latter’s depletion.

Some if us are fated to labour despairingly in one area. You have the talent and ability to range more widely and productively – and you do it well.

Gavin wrote,

Perhaps the kindest comment after the show so far was words to the effect of “it’s like an attempt to take the pulse of the Irish nation – I’m pleased to see we still have one.”

On the subject of black humour, this piece from the Guardian had some also. BOH.

As the skies over euroland darken, at least the jokes in Brussels are getting better. At a recent gathering to discuss the crisis that threatens to unravel the euro, one former member of the European parliament observed acidly: “They ought to give this year’s Charlemagne prize [for services to European unity] to the bond markets. Who has done more for the cause?”

http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2011/nov/20/eurozone-crisis-european-union-plans

@ Gavin,

Thanks for the link back to the September 25th 2011 Irish Economy blog announcement by the way. I had a little fun time, just now, going back re-reading over some of the comments from several months ago. But it does prompt me now, to ask one question.

There is one thing I am curious about. I am curious to know if a certain ‘theme’ made it into the final (25*2) tiny play productions or not. It is the theme, that in Ireland prior to the financial collapse of 2008, it was so un-fashionable to discuss economic matters, or to seem to be knowledge-able about such things. One could attach all kinds of jokes to this, based on the idea, if one wanted to empty a public house in the mid 2000’s very fast – one of the ways to do so – might be, to pretend to be knowledgeable about economic matters.

What I am saying is, there was a pre-agreed, pre-baked couple of one-liners, that everyone was expected to use in polite public house conversations during the mid 2000’s in Ireland. Phrases such as ‘soft landing’ and such, which were guaranteed not to give public house conversationalists bad hang overs, and nasty dreams, of ‘hard’ landings. Soft landing is a nice phrase, that is similar to things such as soft pillows, that one can lay one’s head upon, after a long night in the public housing, talking about soft landings with ones mates.

But the transformation, has been very marked and very definite. Nowadays, everyone in the public house in Ireland, is an expert about economics. I never realized that Ireland had so many economists – guys I have been drinking with for years – are suddenly, full of conversation about this stuff.

Something else changed quite dramatically though in public house conversations in Ireland though, from the time immediately prior to the collapse, and the time immediately after it. Before the collapse I know people who used to impress others, in pint drinking circumstances, by alluding to the idea, that they knew Bertie Ahern. That they had been in a pub in Drumcondra, Dublin, and had ‘got sorted out’. But a strange thing happened after the economic collapse in Ireland. Suddenly, the same folk who had been so proud of the fact, that they knew something about this ‘inside track’ changed their tune completed.

Suddenly those folk had a new tune. It went something to the effect that: No one in Dublin ever liked Bertie Ahern. He always seems to get elected, but we have no idea who in Dublin votes for him. It was so remarkable really, how much the ‘herd instinct’ in prevalent in the public house culture that we have in cities like Dublin in Ireland. We the herd suddenly decides to change direction, as it did post 2008, everyone ran with the ‘herd’ in the new direction. The whole dialogue, and set of acceptable sentences, statements and messages in polite public house conversation changed over night.

It was a strange thing, to be honest. All of the people seemed to be the same. But the message was totally different. What does this describe about a society like that of Ireland? What does the term ‘conversation’ really mean, in the context of Ireland? Do we all merely stand around with pints in our fists, and act as mouth pieces for something that the ‘herd’ needs us to repeat? In standing around after a production of tiny plays in Temple Bar in Dublin, in 2012 – are we really doing anything different – than I may have done many, many times in Temple Bar myself (with a pint in my hand), between the mid 1990s and the present day.

My question is Gavin, how much of the above, has been picked up do you think by the playwrights, who were involved with the Tiny Play production process? BOH.

@ Gavin,

It was in reading this comment by ‘Billyblog’ from October 2011, which prompted me to respond above, and attempt to clarify a small bit. BOH.

“Because we folks at the Irish Economy blog site didn’t read it, it belongs in a niche.”

This gives new meaning to the term (Emerald?) insularity, and teeters perilously on the brink of the blowhard chasm that OMF tumbled into initially, and is only now possibly trying to claw his way out of, i.e., “ontologizing one’s ignorance.”

And if you’re not sure what that might mean, go ask Brian Snr.

http://www.irisheconomy.ie/index.php/2011/09/27/the-importance-of-economic-history/#comment-177973

Congratulations Gavin, I saw it by accident last week and it was great! Only one sketch/scene/play that I didn’t really like, and quite a few that were brilliant. Excellent cast too.

@ zhou_enlai & Fearghal

Cheers. I’ll probably be in on Saturday night.

@ Brian O’ Hanlon

Thanks for your thoughtful replies.

“Suddenly those folk had a new tune. It went something to the effect that: No one in Dublin ever liked Bertie Ahern.”

He came to Phizzfest the year before last, it was like there was an invisible forcefield around him. No one went near. I thought it odd.

“In standing around after a production of tiny plays in Temple Bar in Dublin, in 2012 – are we really doing anything different”

Well that is the question and also a question that runs through this blog. Some posters seem to think they are almost at the elbow of Noonan chivvying things along – I fall into that trap. Some think that its just a pointless venting. Certainly my views have been informed by debate here, so something is happeneing.

There is highly political theatre of course with a definite aim, but “Tiny Plays” isn’t it – it couldn’t be with the multiple viewpoint approach. At its best I think it pushes the need to judge and consider into the audience. It allows voices to speak.

Maybe, a way of looking at it, is that it takes the human-social-political-economic world around us, translates that into the cultural sphere, which allows an audience the space to perceive itself, if only in glimpses, and take that back into the social sphere.

As I go on I increasingly think that ‘our beginnings do not know our ends’, so I don’t know what exact outcomes there may be because of a production like this, but I reckon it all goes somewhere. I’m not a post-modernist, so I don’t see art as a set of self-reflexive games within games which can at best only deconstruct power or the individual for that matter.

@ Gavin,

At one point, I thought a lot in my own mind about Richard Dawkins book, The Selfish Gene, and how Dawkins sort of developed the idea of the biological tiny unit possessing the larger super body in some fashion. Rather than the other way around. I guess that is what was revolutionary about Dawkins’s way of looking at things. I am no expert in it, but I enjoyed reading his material. In a simliar fashion, Dawkins tentatively looked at the idea, that maybe there is a cultural equivalent of the ‘gene’, that may in fact control something much, much larger and more visible, than the invisible ‘meme’ which he describes in the last chapter. Susan Blackmore and a couple of others I am familar with (Yochai Benkler, author of, The Wealth of Networks), looked at the meme idea more carefully. But I haven’t began to look into it yet.

Certainly, in Ireland in one is to put some flesh on this notion, that one often hears about, of the ‘herd’ instinct in Irish culture, then Dawkins is one reference point, amongst others than we can try to use, to drill down into what it means to operate as part of a ‘herd’.

Minister Pat Rabbitte speaking on television last night, said he did not put much stock into the idea, that it was the ‘system’ that was broken in Ireland. Minister Rabbitte extended the very good argument, that we have had ‘X’ number of governments in Ireland since independence, but they did not behave the same way as the last few governments that we have had in Ireland.

To counteract Minister Rabbittes point, which is a very good one, and one which we cannot ignore, I would like to extend the ideas, that I had developed in my recent economics paper linked below. Before the last few governments in Ireland, the state was all powerful. One thinks back to the early governements in Ireland, with the gigantic majority election wins etc. Also, one thinks of the policies of privatisation, and reigning back levels of state responsibility and involvement in virtually everything, in the last few governments. The corollary to this policy of lean-er state intervention, is that the state has less and less function to carry out. There is the danger, in that case, that the state may in effect, look around desperately for a ‘mission’, something to ‘latch’ onto.

Look even, at the great crisis of Fine Gael party in the early 2000’s, post all of the great battles to do with civil liberties, equal opportunities etc, etc. After the state had divested itself of so much responsibility, and won so many of the great battles, it leaves a large vacuum in which government possesses this very large infrastructure, or mechanism, but it needs to find itself a mission – in order to maintain this profile and prominence that it itself believes – in necessary, for the good of society.

This is the point, that I tried to develop in the economics paper. That by the time we got to things such as NAMA in late 2009, there were many consultants going around the globe, selling play books, for ways in which government in several nations outside of the United States, could model themselves as dynamic entities, playing a vital role in fixing all kinds of problems. We have a totally upside down idea of things such as the Galway Tent, in modern Ireland. The general consensus is that ‘builders’ needed politicians in order to achieve their goals. But this ignores totally, the counter-balancing argument – that by the time of the Galway Tent, that the government had worked its way out of the process, it was out of the information loop, and needed to work its way back in.

I am reminded of something I often heard amongst circles of property developers in Dublin during the 2000’s. The government haven’t a clue who started the boom. We [the developers] started the boom. BOH.

http://www.scribd.com/doc/83196623/Cyclical-Trends-BOH-v04

I wrote above,

Minister Pat Rabbitte speaking on television last night, said he did not put much stock into the idea, that it was the ’system’ that was broken in Ireland. Minister Rabbitte extended the very good argument, that we have had ‘X’ number of governments in Ireland since independence, but they did not behave the same way as the last few governments that we have had in Ireland.

I would offer a version of the theory also, that it was not the system that is broken in Ireland. I would offer a version of this theory, articulated by Minister Rabbitte, which one important modification. It was government in Ireland, that in fact, worked far too well since independence. It worked so well, that it worked its way out of a job.

Many of the problems we have experienced in Ireland, following the previous few governments have a lot to do with the fact, that government no longer had as large a role as it would deem necessary, and that it was desperate, that in some way it would get itself back into the game. BOH.

went to Tiny Plays this eve and it was BRILLIANT. All the actors were excellent. Lots and lots of laughs; very entertaining – rally liked the mixing of two plays [scenes?] (“Unrequited”). Packed house and everybody loved it. definitely “A Triumph”. Will go to the next installment when another 20 tiny plays are produced. This will be a big success wherever it goes.

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