More Samhain, less Hallowe’en – up with this sort of thing!

More Samhain than Hallowe’en these days in Cavan.
[possible alternative title – a tale of two Dohertys].

Samhain is the Irish for Halloween. It is a very old and scary festival. Turnips carved into voodoo shrunken head shapes, ducking for apples, doing stuff to scare the bejeezes out of the neighbours. Anything to take the sting out of the impending winter doom. We just had a good Samhain weekend here in Cavan. There happened to be a Doherty brother involved at every occasion.
First up – the Cavan Conker Championships. Thanks to David Cullivan for this idea. He gathered and season conkers, strung them on old shoelaces, and called for businesses in the town to send their champion to Farnham Street on Friday, and send their donations to local charities. The tourney took place under the giant chestnut trees outside the library, beside the greening statue of Lord Farnham. David reminded participants and onlookers of the rules that so many had forgotten, and the games began. The competition was fierce – it was a hoot to watch some of my mildest gentlest friends turn into medieval jousting mode. [I’m glad they were armed with only chestnuts, and not swinging maces.] It was a knockout tournament, and the one who emerged as absolute champion was the ruthless Neil Doherty, literally smashing all about him in every round. Hopefully this will be expanded next year, so gather ye chestnut while ye may in preparation.

Next up – the Festival of the Dead 2017 action at the Town Hall theatre, with two shows – Frankenstein and Prometheus Bound. The Doherty at the centre of this one is Philip. He is founder, writer, choreographer and producer of the Gonzo Theatre. This is the third year of the Festival of the Dead in Cavan and it is already a ‘not be be missed’ calendar mark from many.

The Frankenstein show devised by Philip and musician-genius Robbie Perry ran on Friday and Saturday night, starting outside the Town Hall, then the mobile audience followed the action inside, round the various stages in the hall and back outside again, and followed round the block to the old abbey  for the finalé. It was a happy-sad musical telling of the story of Frankenstein, with a few manic prog-rock-hillbilly-burlesque-modern-media twists woven through it. The script, the score, the acting, the choreography, the musicians, the casting, the costumes, the lighting, the use of technology and pyrotechnics, the use of the settings – each was deadly. The large cast (mostly amateurs, locals – it is all very democratic, if you want to be involved, you’re in) and the purposefully small audience meant an almost 1:1 player:audience ratio, a feature of the three Hallowe’en ‘extravanganzas’ to date (the previous two being sited in the See House at Kilmore). This makes for a surreal atmosphere for both players and watchers who can be literally eye to eye at times, making it was a delight to take partake.

The other Gonzo-Perry devised show of the Festival, more compact but no less mindbending, took us into a post-apocalytic imagining of the mythology of Prometheus. It was shorter, which suited the standing audience (dunno how the actors didn’t freeze, specially the scantily clad!). The continual drum beat was gorgeous, the chorus and musicians were irreverant and lovely, the principal actors/singers were brilliant. The audience – many families (the Frankie shows had been an adults ) of every age seemed to enjoy. The use of the car wrecks and siding panels in the set was genius. It was Cirque du Soleil meets Mad Max the whole way.


As well as both Gonzo shows, there was the 72 Hour Wake presenting all sort of art over the weekend, and a fabulous steampunk’d makeover of the interior of the Town Hall. Thanks is due to everyone who makes this happen, on a shoestring budget, with a lot of trust and fingers crossed and goodwill from the community. I hope that Cavan authorities, the ones with the fingers on the budget and grant allocations, are taking note of the priceless valuable stuff going on in their Town Hall.
Up with this sort of thing.







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