An inside look at a special upcoming performance by Final Students from the UCC Department of Theatre by Séan Edna Donnelly

‘L’homme est né libre, et partout il est dans les fers.’ 

Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains 

Jean Jacques Rousseau 

A supernatural redemption. A utopia with a terrible secret. A Kafkaesque tale of artistry. When linked together these three narrative pieces, twenty minutes apiece, make up Chained Bodies, a performance organised by the final-year students of UCC’s resident Department of Theatre. Though at first glance these stories are worlds apart, there is a common thread tying them together: the ties that bind us, constrain us, limit us. They may be self-imposed, or shackles placed on us by others, society as a whole or fate itself. But are these chains so permanent as to be unbreakable? Or are we condemned to wear them forever? That is what Chained Bodies seeks to explore and understand in a display of startling theatricality. 

The students have been tasked to adapt a previous literary work, from short stories to myths and legends of yore. This is no ordinary adaptation however; indeed these performances challenge our perception of adaptation as something that should treat text as gospel. Chained Bodies was largely informed by the students’ study of Linda Hutcheon’s A Theory of Adaptation. Hutcheon’s text rubbishes the notion of faithfulness to the original text as a benchmark for its artistic quality or as a basis for critical evaluation. The original text is merely a springboard for an adaptation to leap from, creating a final work that may deviate from the work in radical and unexpected ways. There is plenty of inspiration to be cultivated from these original works, written by authors as wide and varied as Ernest Rhys, Ursula K. Le Guin and Franz Kefka, and students are permitted to seize upon these inspirations in a host of different ways. A minor character may take the spotlight. A secondary theme may be expanded on. An excerpt could be spun off into its own story. 

There are no limits with this approach, which is especially ironic when you consider that all three plays — An Corpán by Briste Gaeilge Productions, The Happy Place by 18 Peaks Productions and Craving by the Red Group — engage so overtly with the idea of constraints and limitations. Nor is there any risk of confounding or alienating an audience who may not be familiar with the source material; each play is constructed to work independently of the source material and can thus be understood by any unknowing audience. Of course, any savvy audience member familiar with the source material will enjoy a fresh perspective on literary classics that strive to be as bold and daring as possible. ‘Repetition without replication,’ as Hutcheon calls it, is instrumental to the success of adaptations and perhaps storytelling generally, which is already full of nods, echoes and allusions to past works. Chained Bodies highlights the best and brightest of tomorrow’s acting talent and is well worth a look when it premieres in the Granary Theatre next week.

Chained Bodies is a showcase of UCC’s final-year acting students and can be viewed in the Granary Theatre, April 5th and 6th, at 7PM.

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