Thursday 20 June 2019

Students set to 'takeover' Hawk's Well

Jessica Farry

Secondary school students of Sligo will be taking over the Hawk's Well Theatre tomorrow as part of 'The Takeover'.

The Hawk's Well offered students one day at the venue to run a programme of their interest, of their choice and of their making. Presenting The Ballad of Burke and Hare, the students will welcome you to the venue, sell you your tickets, and usher you to your seats, for two performances of an original theatre show at 2pm and 8pm, produced and devised by them alone.

The Ballad of Burke and Hare, was written, rehearsed and performed in the span of a month and a half by fourteen secondary students. The play has been written and directed by Saul Harrison, Aidan Kelly, Kate Clarke and Oscar Mulligan and the cast includes transition year and fifth year students from Summerhill College, The Ursuline College and Sligo Grammar School. Saul, Aidan, Kate and Oscar are also performing in the play alongside Oisin Davey, Katelyn Rafter, Matthew Eglinton, Eoghan Donaghy, Tara Parkinson, Ben Cunningham, Leo Mullaney, Hanna Gielarowska, RubyMae Wann and Ishbel Clarence-Ray.

The play takes place in 1820s Edinburgh, where down on their luck Irish immigrants William Burke and William Hare spot a grim gap in the grave robbing market, and the second-best surgeon Doctor Knox is growing desperate for a fresh corpse. A series of unlucky coincidences leads Burke and Hare to make bodies of their own. A drop dead comedy of love, murder and betrayal, the all student cast offer a twist on this true tale!

Speaking to The Sligo Champion, Oscar Mulligan described the process: "Since they are Irish a lot of Irish people would know them. We were sitting at my house wondering what to do next because we had already written one play that was about 20 minutes long. Saul suggested Burke and Hare and we thought it would be a good idea for a play. A while later the Hawk's Well gave us the opportunity to perform it with 'The Takeover Project'.

"We had one scene written and we stopped because we thought we had all summer to write it. Then we were told that we had a month and a half to get the whole thing ready."

Kate Clarke added: "Originaly they had the idea for it as a play. We started writing it when we were walking somewhere to film a short film. I was like 'hey Saul, I really want to take part in a musical. And Saul said 'we can't do that because you have to buy the copyright.' He was like 'what we could do, is write a musical so that we wouldn't have to pay for the rights, I have a great idea'. That's how we started working on it initially."

When the group learned about the short window during which they had to write the play, they decided to scrap the idea of a musical, as Aidan Kelly explained: "Over time, when we were told about 'The Takeover' we decided that it just couldn't be a musical. We didn't have the time to write and produce the songs. I would say it's probably best though, the tone of the play changed as we were writing it."

The group are all involved in Sligo Youth Theatre and so were able to work with fellow budding actors and actresses. Although, there are a few new faces among the cast for this production.

They've had to use all the connections they have made thanks to their involvement in theatre. Something that will surely stand to them in the future.

"It's definitely been a process in which we've roped in everyone we could," said Saul Harrison.

They are using whatever contacts they have made, including Dr. Niall Rea, Lecturer in Theatre Design and Performing Arts, IT Sligo.

"We knew him because he did a workshop with us in the youth theatre. So we called him up and he got us a prop that we were looking for for weeks," said Kate.

Oscar feels that they have learned a lot from their time with Sligo Youth Theatre, and it's about more than just getting on stage.

"It's a misconception that youth theatre is about acting only. It's also really about making something, that's what's so good about it."

Oscar, Saul (both 16) and Aidan (17) are all transition year students at Summerhill College. Kate (17), though, is a fifth year student at the Ursuline College, and so has had to commit a lot of time to this project.

She said: "I'm in fifth year. But when you're doing what you love. I'm able to balance everything well. Because I love theatre so much and I love what we're doing I wouldn't give it up."

It's a first for the students, and they have learned a huge amount. Aidan says it has been 'amazing'.

"I've learned an incredible amount. Is this something I want to do ? Is this something I want to pursue? And this was the process from start to finish, no hand holding. They just told us 'this is a thing you can do, you can do it all by yourself, we're not going to guide you through it. It's been an amazing experience just being able to see the whole process."

Kate says she has learned things she never even would have considered. "We learnt things that you wouldn't learn in a book. Like working with a cast, there's 10 people that we have to direct, organise lunch for, make sure they're happy. Managing, along with the creative side, the hands on experience has been huge."

For Oscar, he has had to learn how to dictate, without being a dictator! !Trying to balance that, working with the actors, trying not to be a dictator about it. We're working with people our age, it's not as if we're above them or anything. With this whole process I've learned a huge amount. Despite everything, I would do this a thousand times over. I just love it, it's so much fun."

The writing side of it was what Saul most enjoyed, as he tries to bring this character he has written about to life. "The writing process was the most rewarding part of the whole thing, and the place where I learned the most. How to format a script so that it's easily understood, I kind of acted as the editor, working things out, separating things and then playing one of the main characters I have learned a lot. How to take this character and show it to everyone else. This man who was an existing person already, so working with the knowledge of history of what was known of him and then my own spin on it has been interesting."

The group are delighted that the Hawk's Well presented them with such an opportunity.

"We were very surprised. They came back and said that the Hawk's Well had given us this opportunity. I was so shocked that the Hawk's Well were funding this because there are so many costs that come with it, actors, technicians, stage hands, props," said Kate.

She continued: "We're treated like proper directors, not students who want to put on a show and it's nice."

The group have been delighted with the way that they have trusted with the project, and left to their own devices, although availing of advice here and there.

"The responsibility that they have given us, they've completely trusted us which is a huge honour for us. They've been helping us out in any way possible. If we need help, they will help but they want us to try and succeed through our own means," said Saul.

This is a serious project for the youngsters. They want to be taken seriously. They do not want to be patronized.

"That's the one thing I really don't want is at the end for people to walk out and be like 'that was a nice TY play, aren't they good for trying that out'. I don't want people to look at it in that way at all," said Oscar.

Tickets, priced €10/€5 u18s (plus €1 booking fee) are available now from or call 0719161518.

Sligo Champion