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Artist Maeve Clancy brings audiences on a truly epic journey

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Part of the set designed by Maeve Clancy.

Part of the set designed by Maeve Clancy.

Colm Hogan

Part of the set designed by Maeve Clancy.

A Wicklow artist has designed a unique theatre experience being staged as part of Galway City of Culture 2020.

Maeve Clancy created the sets for 'Sruth na Teanga', a show by theatre company Branar that takes audiences on an epic journey of the Irish language.

The Hollywood native first worked with the theatre company in 2013 when she designed a fully paper set for their show 'Blath'. Since then, she has designed sets for several productions. According to Maeve, 'Sruth na Teanga' is her most ambitious collaboration yet.

'Kids come into a welcome area, then they go through four distinct spaces like little mini worlds where they experience different things. There's performers, music and sound effects in those rooms. Then, they go into a response room which is quite bare.

'It's little like building four shows but they have to all work together in tandem. It's been a reasonably long process but a lot of the final designing took place in autumn and then we started making in December so it's been very busy to get it all done for now.'

The old Galway Airport Terminal Building in Carnmore has been re-purposed for this site-specific production where audiences travel through five worlds that bring the story of the language alive. An ambitious project, 'Sruth na Teanga' is one of the first major projects to be staged during Galway's year as City of Culture.

'It is a totally built space within the airport so we've built new rooms in what was the Galway City Airport.'

During the design process, Maeve had many discussions with Marc Mac Lochlainn, Branar's creative director.

'I started with the content he wanted in there and what themes I thought would work. The first room is all to do with the tradition of heroes and Irish myths and legend. The second room is a lot to do with the golden age of the Irish language and culture.'

Artwork from the 'Book of Kells' was among the inspirations for the design of characters and animations used in the production, Branar's storytelling combines puppetry, music, video mapping and live performance to create theatre for children that is also accessible to adults.

'The first room is a woodland so we're trying to make it as magical and exciting as possible. You want the audience to come in and feel like they are in a completely different space and then performers guide them around the myths and legends. The four rooms are tied together but you're trying to create different experiences in each room to reflect the different stages of the development of the language and culture.'

An artist who works in installation, animation and comics, Maeve is full of praise for the collaborative nature of working with Branar.

'Marc is amazing at pulling really good people together so it's always enjoyable, really good fun and everyone on the team is looking to make the show as good as possible and that makes it easier.'

Maeve's parents live in Hollywood and she says she is 'back to Wicklow quite a bit' from her home in Achill.

Her current work includes an ongoing project telling the story of two recent refugees from Syria now living in Ireland. Her graphic novel about Dr Kathleen Lynn is also set to be exhibited at this year's Rathdrum International Cartoon Festival.

Maeve is passionate about encouraging people to see 'Sruth an Teanga' during its run.

'I don't think we'll be able to put it up again in that form. We're hoping to show parts of it again.

'I think there's something really special in it, but it's probably going to be a once-off.'

'Sruth na Teanga' continues at Galway Airport Terminal Building, Carnmore on March 14, 15, 16, 17, 21, 22 and 28. For bookings, call Town Hall Theatre, Galway on 091 569777.

Wicklow People