Bringing the works of Samuel Beckett from the sprawl of urban Dublin to the peace and tranquillity of Inis Oirr is currently inspiring theatre director and producer Sarah Jane Scaife during a month-long residency at Aras Eanna.
Sarah Jane has been a frequent visitor to both Inis Oirr and the arts centre for many years and is currently collaborating with translator Micheál O Coinniola and actress Brid Ni Neachtain to create a “site specific” Beckett show which will be staged on the island in September.
It is really important to Sarah Jane that she can stage the show at an outdoor venue on the island where she has taken so much inspiration, between family holidays and artist retreats, over so many years.
She fell in love with Inis Oirr when she was just 21 years of age and brought her children to the island every summer when they were young.
“You couldn’t even begin to describe or pay for what you get when you come. First of all to Inis Oirr. I would always be going to the back of the island. Different people go to different places on the island, but I would always go to the back of the island,” she says.
“The room I am in upstairs, the studio room, it’s really hard to put into words. Because you are sitting there working away and then you raise your head and there is this vast landscape of rock and sea, especially when you come down here a lot.”
She says that the inspiration for the Beckett piece she is working from came from walking all around Inis Oirr with her late husband, sound engineer Tim Martin, and the family dog. Tim also loved the island and she feels a close connection with the islanders.
As an artist in residence, Sarah Jane takes inspiration from the rocks, the flat stones, the views of Inis Meain, and the sea all around the island.
She is bringing Beckett’s theme of urban alienation in one of the most special and tranquil places in Ireland.
“Beckett talks about the void. Someone who is out of their head, living on the streets, with no connection with society. That’s a symptom of where we have come from in our past. The haunted bodies that are wandering around the streets of Dublin. That’s a void. And then it’s here in the landscape and the stones which have been here way, way, way before people arrived,” she says.
“Inis Oirr is only a little microcosm of the whole of Ireland. It reflects the best and the worst of Ireland. It reflects the pain of our past and the unbelievable beauty of the country. It’s those two things that I find so deeply moving.”
O Cionniola has helped Sarah Jane to translate a Beckett play into Irish and they are both excited about putting it on here in Inis Oirr in September. They were rehearsing with Brid when Cormac Coyne took some photos this week.
We will have a lot more about Sarah Jane’s production in September before she returns to the island to stage the show.