Jens F. Laurson was present for the final rehearsal of the early music jamboree.
Queen Elizabeth and Philip II are goofing around behind chairs to the left and right of the U-shaped stage before both break out in a dash through the marvelous Great Hall of the Royal Hospital Kilmainham in Dublin. What are Elizabeth and Philip doing in Dublin, and why is the former wearing ankle-high silver sneakers and a blue dress, and the latter waving a feather and making silly faces?
Abby and Robert are actually eight years old, and they play their royal parts in Shipwrecked, a production of the early music ensemble eX which took place in the truly Great Hall of what is now the Irish Museum of Modern Art. The two are impossibly cute child actors who patiently sit through the long rehearsals: almost until midnight the day before the premiere: and they have quickly become the mascots of the production.
Later during the final rehearsal, Queen Elizabeth, who barely reaches up to Caitr‹ona O'Leary's belt, pipes the tune of Greensleeves in duet with O'Leary, which sounds absolutely adorable and moderately musical. Then the little Queen gets her wig affixed while rummaging through her Hello Kitty bag and Philip II chats with Kate, the make-up artist, and crinkles his nose as her brush applies white powder to his face.
Shipwrecked is an early music jamboree, a soundtrack of the (literally) incredible journey of a Spanish captain of the Armada who strands in hostile 16th century Ireland, and is then chased, maltreated, and occasionally helped by murderous Englishmen and local savages until he barely makes it back to safety in the Spanish Netherlands. If only half of his account, a twenty page letter, is true, Francisco de Cuellar is a mixture between Voltaire's Candide and George McDonald Fraser's Harry Flashman. Music directors Caitr‹ona O'Leary (an expert researcher on : and performer of : early Irish music) and Lee Santana (lutist extraordinaire, Los Otros founder) cobbled together the musical tapestry from lute books, 16th century Spanish composers, traditional songs, and improvisations.
Members of Los Otros, Sequentia, and the Harp Consort fortified with Irish music experts provided the music, breaking out in an early music jam session for the finale that had the pint-sized Queen and the King wave their hands in rhythmic excitement. Director Eric Fraad, meanwhile, had the performers: all in full costume: work out the semi-staged element of the performance which included actor Keith Dunphy, as one of three incarnations of Captain Francisco, reading out (and sometimes shouting) excerpts of the actual letter, thus providing the story line upon which the pieces of music are hung.
The battle of the percussionists Mel Mercier and Francesco Turrisi and Steve Player's renaissance tap-dance (a combination of brute force and Fred Astaire) ring in the conclusion of an early music spectacle that emerged, seemingly out of buzzing chaos just a few hours earlier, into something akin to perfection, delighting some 150 attendees who found their way up to the Royal Hospital on a mild Dublin Sunday night. While the music could hardly have been more passionately played and the singers delighted: especially O'Leary's early music soprano and genre-defying vocalist/guitarist Clara Sanabras: the costumes of Alessio Rosati nearly stole the show. Especially the historical replicas of the costumes of Queen Elizabeth and Philip II were masterpieces.
The most applause was, expectedly, reserved for the little monarchs, who did their cutesy bows, nearly stepped on Lee Santana's vihuela, and were then whisked off to bed by their parents.
Visit www.exireland.com for more on the company.
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All photos by Eamonn Doyle.