Site Specific Arts Events in March 2015

From Dave Duggan's play 'Denizen' in Londonderry Courthouse to 'The Shawshank Redemption' at Crumlin Road Gaol, there's lots to look forward to next month

The Gift
CastleCourt, Belfast, March 6 – 13

'Magical', 'inventive', 'surprising', 'world class' are just some of the words that Culture Northern Ireland writers have used to describe Cahoots NI, the children's theatre company based in Belfast and co-founded by writer, performer, director and all round good guy, Paul Bosco McAneaney.

Since forming in 2001, Cahoots NI has established a reputation as one of Europe's finest companies dedicated to the fostering of young imaginations. In recent years they have adapted Oliver Jeffers' best-selling book, The Incredible Book-Eating Boy for The MAC in Belfast, and created original shows, such as Egg, which have received rave reviews both inside and outside of Northern Ireland.

Their latest original production is The Gift, from the pen of award-winning playwright, Charles Way, which will be staged in the unusual surroundings of Belfast's CastleCourt shopping centre from March 6 – 13 as part of the 2015 Belfast Children's Festival – a promenade production with no seating and limited capacity.

Billed as an 'installation specially designed for children, and sharing the artist’s fascination with light, shadow and the moving image', The Gift tells the story of two siblings, Mary and Keith, whose lives are transformed after Mary receives a mysterious present – as so many people have in Belfast's commerical epicentre. Suitable for audiences aged 8+, and featuring shows for schools, The Gift is sure to excite minds young and old this March. Book tickets now.

Waterside, Derry, March 14 – 21

Temple, by visionary American artist David Best, marks the return of Artichoke – a creative company that works specifically with arts organisations to 'invade public spaces' – to Derry following the incredible success of Lumiere during the UK City of Culture 2013 celebrations. 

Temple is a huge construction project and decorative work of art, an 80-foot wooden structure that will be built and raised by more than 100 individuals drawn from communities across the city, working together with Best and his crew from the Nerve Centre's FabLab. The intricate wooden structure – which will resemble Best's stunningly intricate work for the Burning Man festival in America – will be erected on a patch of wasteland in Derry's Waterside on March 14, used to host events and pinned with messages of hope, and ultimately burnt to the ground on March 21.

The art work aflame will be seen for miles; the Artichoke team have chosen the location for the piece carefully, drawing on Northern Ireland's long and contentious history with bonfires on community greens, roads and disused areas to give Best's work added poignancy. They hope that people from all communities will take this particular bonfire to their hearts as a symbol of unification.

The Shawshank Redemption
Crumlin Road Gaol, Belfast, March 28

What started out as a short story written by master horror writer Stephen King adapted for the silver screen by writer/director Frank Darabont without much fanfare (though it was nominated for seven Oscars in the year of its release) has since become a cinematic phenomenon, regularly featuring in the upper echelons of industry publication 'best pictures of all time' lists. Film fans agree with the critics: The Shawshank Redemption has been rated top of the IMDb user-generated charts since 2008.

Starring Tim Robbins as Andy Dufresne, a lawyer wrongly convicted of the murders of his wife and her lover, and Morgan Freeman as the jailbird fixer Red, The Shawshank Redemption is one of the most powerful films ever made, and will be projected onto a big screen in the suitably dramatic confines of Crumlin Road Gaol yard on March 28, part of an ongoing series of Movie Night screenings in the recently renovated jail turned visitor attraction. 

As if anyone should need another reason to watch the film, the thought of watching Dufresne playing opera into the Shawshank yard for the spiritual benefit of his fellow inmates in an actual prison yard is beyond exciting. As site specific arts events go, this is surely one of the most anticipated and inspired events scheduled taking place anywhere in Northern Ireland in 2015. Book tickets now.

Magic in the Park
Belmont Park, Belfast, March 28

'The course of true love never did run smooth.' Even if you haven't read or witnessed William Shakespeare's enchanting 16th century comedy, A Midsummer Night's Dream, performed live, chances are you will be familiar with some of the immortal lines featured in it, lines that have since entered the vocabulary as mainstay expressions of the English language – such was Shakespeare's unrivalled power to conjure a phrase.

A Midsummer Night's Dream is, of course, set in a magical forest, where Duke Theseus of Athens is set to marry the Amazon queen, Hippolyta. In truth, there are various subplots, which can make proceedings a little confusing at times, but all occur beneath a blanket of stars in a land inhabited by faeries. One of the Bard's more fantastical plays, Midsummer is beloved of poets, performers and plucky gardeners alike, as much for its enduring literary influence and weird and wonderful cast of characters as its beautiful woodland setting.

What better place to recall Shakespeare's play, then, than in the stunning surroundings of Belmont Park, where Building Bards NI – a charity youth drama group yet to cut its teeth on the Northern Irish theatrical scene – stage Magic in the Park: An Enchanted Afternoon, from 12pm to 3pm on March 28. Billed as a family event, it is sure to provide 'magic and mischief, music and mayhem' after Shakespeare's play to herald the arrival of spring. Book tickets now.

Londonderry Courthouse, Derry April 6 – 8

'In real life, we can make generalisations on an issue while art can focus right in on it. Difficult subjects, forbidden territory, can be approached under the cover of art. George Bernard Shaw said that theatre is our most public art. This is my own artistic response to a sensitive subject, which exists right here in our midst.'

Derry-based playwright Dave Duggan is not the type of artist to rest on his laurels. His latest play, Denizen, is an hour-long verse drama featuring 'iambic pentameters and other classic verse forms', which Duggan had no previous experience in writing. Telling the story of Ireland's last living dissident Republican, who finds himself in the dock, charged with certain crimes, Denizen is a challenging but rewarding play unlike anything produced in Northern Ireland in recent years.

The play will be performed in Derry's Rath Mor Centre from March 30 – 31, what is essentially a dry run for the real deal a week later when life imitates art as Duggan and his producers at Creggan Enterprises stage Denizen for two performances in the Londonderry Courthouse, starring former boxer John Duddy.

With only a 120-seat capacity, it is an unlikely yet fitting venue for a full-scale stage play of this kind – a courtroom drama that has many uncomfortable resonances in a Northern Ireland still struggling to come to terms with its troubled past and hold on to its uncertain peace. Book tickets now.