By Ger Cody
FROM THE time Adam was running naked in Eden, the world has experienced pandemics and plagues.
So if you thought that our Covid crisis was a new phenomenon, consider this list of pestilences that spread the fear of the Almighty across the world: The Spanish Flu (1918), HIV pandemic (1981), Smallpox (Yugoslavia 1972) and Swine Flu (2009).
Those who have a bible at their bedside can check out the Book of Exodus in the Old Testament. There you will be met by 10 or more plagues.
Confinement is nothing new but how we deal with it has changed.
In 1815 Mount Tambora in Indonesia erupted, spreading toxic ash, freezing rain and a cold chill across Europe.
Some 10,000 of the island’s inhabitants were incinerated instantly. Some 90,000 starved to death.
Devastating effects even reached a small chalet in Geneva, Switzerland.
That’s where 19-year-old Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin quarantined with her brooding writing pals – future husband Percy Shelley, Dr John Polidori, Claire Clairmont and the notorious Lord Byron.
They were forced inside to protect their lungs from toxic volcanic fumes.
Byron challenged them to pass the gloomy days by seeing who could write the most bloodcurdling ghost story.
Mary Shelley used the isolation as an opportunity to be creative.
She wrote a tale about a scientist who creates a creature from stolen body parts and brings his creation to life with a bolt of electricity.
The story was titled The Modern Prometheus. We know it by its more popular name – Frankenstein.
Written during a time of enforced isolation it sold millions of copies and inspired over 40 movie adaptations.
Fast forward to 2020 and Kilkenny’s Barn Owl Players wondered how to stage their work during a pandemic.
The video app Zoom provided the answer. With an online audience of almost 300 tuned in, The Barn Owl Players presented a series of monologues dealing with confinement.
Topics as diverse as the joys of plastic surgery, the trials and tribulations of psychosis, the fear of physical abuse, mental illness and depression were put under the microscope.
In itself, confinement is as diverse as it is deep, so it was not surprising the combined work of directors and actors covered so many topics.
One aspect that didn’t make it to the table was the benefits of confinement.
There are many, including artists, for whom a period of isolation would be seen as a blessing where one welcomes the peace and solitude that comes with it.
I would have liked to have seen this looked at. That is an observation rather than a criticism.
On solitary confinement, Nelson Mandela said: “It is what we make out of what we are given, not what we are given, that separates one person from another.”
Those involved in the arts will know the heartache that the absence of performing to a live audience creates.
However, one of the characteristics necessary and required by any theatre company is that of improvisation.
The Zoom production was a blessing to those starved of live productions.
Barn Owls Theatre Company has been responsible for bringing wonderful shows to audiences.
They staged The Whiteheaded Boy by Lennox Robinson at the Watergate Theatre, Big Maggie by JB Keane at The Barn and Love Hearts at The Home Rule Club.
One-act shows include Laundry and Bourbon, Lone Star, Here We Are, Cocaine’, Costa Del Packet and Blood, Bats and Barn Owls.
Most of its work is completed under the watchful eye of Philip Hardy, artistic director.
Although a former professional actor, Hardy concentrates on his role as artistic director and allows performers to work on their own initiative. However his eagle eye is always focused.
When speaking about confinement American essayist, Henry David Thoreau, said: “If I were confined to a corner of a garret all my days, like a spider, the world would be just as large to me while I had my thoughts about me.”
Having viewed the Barn Owls production, one can only surmise that the nocturnal birds of Church Lane viewed life, whether in confinement or otherwise, with the same outlook as Thoreau.
Cast: Carmel Furlong, Rosey Hayes, Cara O’Doherty, Mags Whitely, Jim Carroll, Gerard Brennan, Mary Woods, Aoife Reilly, Aaron O’Dea, John
Prendergast, Lucas Lopes.