The pub with no beer…Doug Conway
But plenty of music and Irish accents
Trinity students have been spending hours in a pop-up campus “pub”, under-age maybe but with the School’s encouragement and blessing. They have also been sounding more Irish than Paddy’s Day.
The alcohol-free hostelry is otherwise known as the Assembly Hall, which has been transformed into an Irish pub for the Drama faculty’s latest production.
Their rehearsals are part of their commitment to The Commitments, their version of the 1991 musical comedy-drama about a young music fanatic who forms a working-class soul band of that name.
“The pub is symbolic of the heart and soul of Ireland,” said Toby Henry (11La), who plays trumpeter Joey “The Lips” Fagan.
“The characters in the play are all fond of the relationships and the memories they have of the pub and it’s where the band gets together. It’s more than just a pub.”
Hamish Gray (12Ho), who plays the lead role of Jimmy Rabbitte, said the Irish accent was “beautiful when done right” but had proved challenging to many, including himself, with a tendency to “go full pirate”.
Head of Drama Brendan Duhigg said the production’s Irishness was authentic to the story, and he hoped it would remind or educate audiences about Northern Ireland’s so-called Troubles, when tanks and armed soldiers routinely patrolled suburban streets as kids played football.
He said the soundtrack of soul music contained “something that crosses generations and skin colour”.
“It’s a reminder of how important hope is.
“It’s music of the spirit and of the soul; it’s about things that are positive in life that you can’t articulate. It’s the music of politics, the music of the oppressed.
“It was said the Irish were the blacks of Europe, Dubliners the blacks of Ireland, and Barrytown (the play’s setting) the blacks of Dublin.
“It works well linking any kind of oppression.”
Hamish described the music as “feel good, flowy and natural”.
“There’s a line in the story saying the Americans could chain their slaves but they could never chain their souls. No matter how bad life is there’s always another song to sing, always something you can do about it. When you listen to songs like Mustang Sally it’s impossible to remember that looming assignment.”
Both actors interviewed by Trinity News were enthusiastic about the benefits they had experienced from their involvement in Drama.
“At first I was very tense on stage,” said Toby.
“I did not like crowds or public speaking so I would always be extremely nervous and in extreme fear I would forget what to say or do something wrong.
“But through the drama programme you learn how to improvise and work around things. I’m probably bit more fluent and a bit looser on stage now.
“It has diminished the shyness, and reading scripts has improved my memory and also my diction.”
Hamish said Drama staff had encouraged him to get out of his comfort zone.
“I used to be a shy Year 7 who wouldn’t talk or do anything. Now because of Drama it has helped me, not only with the skills of acting, singing and dancing but with day-to-day relational skills of how to talk to people and how to think of ideas quickly.
“You learn how to lend the focus to others, and let them lend it to you. You work in cohesion with others, learning how important teamwork is in life, in making friends and being a good bloke to others.”
He said five hours of rehearsals weekly from the start of the school year, increasing to full dress rehearsals ahead of opening night, were intense but enjoyable.
“It’s been nice to have a block (of time) after school where your brain can relax a bit because you’re doing something you enjoy between school and home.
“In 20 years’ time we’re not going to look back and say, ‘I should have spent those couple of hours doing maths’. But we will look back and say, ‘That was so much fun; we got to do a whole production’.”