She hasn’t missed a single Issue of WERK thus far (well, she didn’t make it to the Melbourne one, but apart from that)…Soracha Pelan Ó Treasaigh, from Dublin, is blogging for IMMA today about what makes the shows so special. She has dedicated her life to culture both high and low, and when not attending events (or watching 90s sitcoms), she works in the Irish Film Institute, with previous roles in the Dublin Theatre Festival and the Festival of World Cultures.
Jenny (one half of THISISPOPBABY) and I were working together when she and Phillip (the other half) were figuring out just what this club would be that the Abbey Theatre had agreed to let them do in the basement. And Jenny was nervous.
Jenny’s fear of starting a club night was that she would end up alone in the toilets crying while the DJ played to an empty hall – but supporting a friend wasn’t my only motivation in buying a ticket (just before it inevitably sold out!). This seemed like a chance to go to something different rather than your typical club night out in Dublin – which generally involved an ill-advised trip to any late night bar that would still serve you after midnight and you might get a (cheesy) bop out of it. So: performance and art as a club, Thisispopbaby, the Abbey Theatre = great expectations.
It came at a time when things in Dublin, and things in the arts industry had become pretty depressing; if you were lucky enough to actually have a job, and even one you actually like, you still could barely make the rent (not much has changed on that front.) The people of WERK promised to take you out of this for a spell, and create an alternative, creative, ridiculous space for you to dig out some thrift store finds from your wardrobe that you never found quite the right occasion for and let your hair down.
I had no idea what to expect – the Peacock Theatre bar I didn’t remember being all that big, or somewhere you’d want to spend an entire night in – but it really was completely transformed. Glitter and gold curtains and lights and all the rest. No space wasted. Performance in the cloakroom, in the jacks, on the drinks menu. Not half assed, and total commitment and attention to detail in order to submerge the audience in the thisispopbaby world.
It’s hard to paint a clear picture without experiencing it – and each time I’ve been it’s something different. It’s a combination of neo-cabaret, performance and then clearing the stage (or getting on the stage) and dancing the night away. My (blurry in some cases) memories are all about having a great night – the crowd scream singing Things Can Only Get Better in unison as if we were the only people in Dublin that night, The Banana Boat Song with actions performed ala Beetlejuice led by DJ Chewy Chewerson, and then quieter moments from artists experimenting with the space – Ciaran O’Melia in his underwear singing Someone to Watch Over Me, Megan Riordan’s emo- kid rendition of LCD Soundsystem, the hilarious Rubber Bandits (before they were famous), the wonderfully talented Lisa Hannigan – and in such intimate surroundings where the boundaries between performer and audience feel non-existent. All that and then they also manage to slip in some beautifully subversive, challenging and honest moments – one in particular has stuck with me, when compére Neil Watkins performed a lip synch rendition of Michael O’Brien’s harrowing account of abuse from RTÉ’s Questions and Answers.
What makes WERK special is that it can be all at once frivolous, meaningful, wild, fun and subversive – a rare and full experience for a night on the tiles – so bring an open mind and go with it.
And of course, there’s that night it all ended up in a rave at the back of a Chinese restaurant on Parnell Street.
Soracha Pelan Ó Treasaigh July 2014