Having just poured a glass of wine to relax this Thursday night I'm immediately remembering this time last week. I had just left the the Playhouse Derry and gone for a drink with some friends to the Anchor Bar. Mind you my tipple then was a mug of coffee! We had ventured there to analyse our experience of Dave Duggans most recent play Makaronik. It had just showcased it's second and final night in Derry.
Makaronik is Duggan's latest play, set in the futuristic Belfast of 2084. The Empire is in crisis and clearing up dormant stray elements of language that if ignored, may well turn into threats in later times, is the goal of officers from the Imperial Centre. Gráinne and Diarmuid are the guards sent to the Béal Feirste post to arrange for the remnants of Irish stories, poems and songs to be archived by its last remaining resident, Makaronik. It will then be 'job done job done' with 'loose ends no'.
The mother tongue of Gráinne and Diarmuid is Empirish, but they've picked up loose pieces of English which has been 'dead dead' for many years. They are a little horrified when Makaronik expresses her knowledge of other languages including Latin, English and even Empirish.
Language is paramount to this play. Although primarily in Irish, one doesn't need to be fluent to follow the story/plot. Duggan's writing enables the audience to follow with the use of translation on screen and sheer dynamics on stage.
Makaronik doesn't want to leave the centre in Belfast and Gráinne decides she would like to stay. The story has many echos of the Irish mythology tale, Diarmuid and Gráinne. And yet I hear echoes of Huxley's 'Brave New World' in there somewhere. There's also strong echoes of Friel's 'Translations' turned on its head, as the play progressed.
There was no evidence of any real affection between Grainne and Diarmuid until Gráinne decides that she will stay. Then we see Diarmuid touching her arm and the love that's between them becomes clear. Just like the myth in Irish literature when their love is forbidden, they must elope. Here,they must part. What becomes of Gráinne and her baby we must decide for ourselves but one certainly hopes that a follow up will be on the cards at a later date if Duggan decides such.
Can a language really survive, we are constantly asking ourselves throughout this production? And also can we ever really have freedom of our language. Language is a weapon, it is a tool. Duggan showcases this spectacularly in Makaronik.
This a play about language, about problems, about survival. It is about the human condition, the human experience. It is about choices and how we as people choose to deal with them. It is a play filled with integrity and intelligence. And it is a play of brilliance. Just like it's author, Duggan is a survivor....Irish language is such too,
Produced by Aisling Ghéar, written by Dave Duggan, Makaronnik is a piece of contemporary theatre well worth a viewing.