Listen In

“Passing on stories through language and through performance is innately what makes us human…”

When was the last time you sat and listened to a story?
I mean really listened?
Without texting?
Or scrolling through social media?
Or filing your tax return?
Or your nails?

Just you, a storyteller and total immersion in the events unfolding before your very eyes and ears?

In a world of quick-fire entertainment where speed and spectacle have somehow grown to be lauded over structure and style, mindless content consumption has become the norm.

A desire to champion the core story, rather than all its packaging, is what drove Terri Brabon to select The Weir as Theatre iNQ’s first offering in their 2019 Season.

“I’ve wanted to do [this show] for a long time,” said Terri. “It’s just something that focuses on acting: that isn’t about spectacle, that isn’t about filling a park or big sword fights or dance pieces, it’s just something small and intimate.”

The Weir, by Irish playwright Conor McPherson, takes place in a pub in a rural Irish town. The arrival of a young woman spurs the locals to engage in a contest of one-upmanship as they take turns telling ghost stories to impress the new-comer. Eventually the fanciful stories make way for more personal ones, ultimately highlighting the connective power of storytelling.

“When you say what it’s about, it doesn’t sound like much at all, but it’s the theatre equivalent of sitting around a campfire telling ghost stories,” Terri said. “The audience is such a part of the listening. It is the magic of storytelling in one person’s voice that the audience must then colour in for themselves. There’s no spooks … but the writing is so descriptive that anyone with an imagination can paint it all in.

“When I first read it, I had to put it down because I was so scared! I was reading this all alone at home in my bed and I just got to the point where I thought ‘OK, I can’t read this any more I’m getting really scared’.”

While the stories themselves are entertaining, Terri said the connective power of those stories is what makes The Weir so special.

“Passing on stories through language and through performance is innately what makes us human and what makes us different from other animals,” she said.

“Every other thing that we have created, or do, or think we invented; we just copy from nature. There isn’t a colour or a shape or [anything humans have created from scratch] – cars are based on horses, planes are based on birds, computers are based on brains. Every chemical we create is based on trying to make something that already exists.

“The only thing that we actually do or have done that doesn’t happen in other animal kingdoms is tell stories. That is what makes the theatre so powerful!

“Storytelling now – even news – is all for the money. It’s not storytelling, it’s entertainment. And none of us process it, because we’re not given the time to process it. We just watch season after season and then four days later can’t even remember what we watched on Monday.

“We don’t take the time to stop and sit and do nothing for a while – that’s why I believe in the theatre. It’s still the place where you have to turn your phone off and you have to commit for a length of time that no one in the real world does at all anymore; probably with the exception of church. It’s strange just to be able to sit and listen and it’s a dying art form, listening. But you can’t do anything else in the theatre.

“So a show like The Weir, that pulls all the razzle dazzle away and goes back to the art of storytelling and honing in on the audience’s love and need to share good stories being told. I think that’s the power of the piece.”

Theatre iNQ will stage The Weir in their space on Allen Street, South Townsville from 27 February – 9 March. Click here for tickets.

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