PuSh Blog

A city on the brink: Dublin Oldschool—A curatorial statement by Cian O’Brien

January 26, 2018

Dublin Oldschool
Photo: Ros Kavanagh

I first experienced the world of Dublin Oldschool in a 10-minute except at Dublin Fringe Festival 2014—I knew immediately that this was a special show. The energy crackled, fizzed and jumped off the stage.

The show began as part of an initiative called ‘Show in a Bag’ run by Dublin Fringe, Fishamble: The New Play Company and the Irish Theatre Institute. I saw potential in this raw, uncompromising story of two brothers told simply but in a way that felt revolutionary. Emmet Kirwan knows how to speak to an audience and when he, along with director, Phillip McMahon, agreed to work with myself and Project Arts Centre (PAC) team to further produce this show I was delighted. Since 2014, Dublin Oldschool has played to over 11,000 people in venues across Ireland and the UK—including a sold out runs at PAC, the Edinburgh Fringe and the National Theatre in London. This play is universal; it connects with audiences, taking them on a journey through Dublin, through music, through the lives of two brothers on a warm summer’s night.

This production is built on collaboration and equality—PAC’s ethos is rooted in the philosophy that artists are capable of making their own decisions. The trust we place in artists and their work allows them to flourish—this is Emmet’s story beautifully realized by Ian’s performance along with Philip and the design team. Our role is to give the production the life it deserves, to create the conditions of support which allow Emmet, Phillip and the whole production team to realize their vision.

For me, Dublin Oldschool is a play about hope. This play was written in an interesting time in Ireland’s life—coming out of a punishing recession which was hugely destructive for the cultural community, when neo-liberalism and austerity have all but destroyed our public services, a time when our world around us seems to be fracturing; the simple interactions between two brothers living in a city on the brink can bring courage, possibility, joy and ultimately hope.

Bringing this work to audiences outside Ireland is important. It is vital storytelling, it represents a modern, flawed Ireland but one which has heart, soul and a whole lot of fun. I am thrilled to be bringing this wonderful production to Vancouver, to PuSh and The Cultch and I am grateful for their support, along with Culture Ireland, The Arts Council of Ireland/An Comhairle Ealaíon and Dublin City Council.

Cian O’Brien
Artistic Director
Project Arts Centre