Entertainment Theatre & Arts

Sunday 18 August 2019

The Big Chapel X at St Bridget’s College, Kilkenny: 'A unique experience'

Running until Saturday August 17

The Big Chapel X
The Big Chapel X

Katy Hayes

Asylum Productions’ funky adaptation of Thomas Kilroy’s 1971 Booker-nominated novel ranges across the town of Callan like a tearaway teenager.

It opens in the school at 9pm, goes up the street to the friary, returns to the crossroads for a splendid riot, then finally storms the front of the church; the audience all the time following the players in a raggedy formation.

Kilroy, a native, based his novel on a series of 1870s events in the town, when a renegade priest waged a legal war on his own bishop over control of education. The parishioners took sides and a bitter quarrel endured for decades.

Adaptors John Morton, Medb Lambert and Donal Gallagher have abandoned the historic setting and projected the novel into a future dystopian world, where two ideological sides are pitted against each other.

Young people are to the fore, with Nina (Grace Collender) and Marcus (John Rice) impressively leading the resistance. Neil Sheehy, a sinister presence on his LED-lit hoverboard, is like a perfect villain from Star Wars.

An atmospheric dusk sets around the audience as Paul Keogan’s ingenious lighting sparks up. This is a unique experience, bringing both the original events and the 50-year-old novel into harmony, finding an exciting contemporary idiom to encompass them both. 

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