Beneath the stage of the Hawkswell Theatre there is an actual well – maybe I was the last to know? I was informed of it recently by one of the technical staff as we contemplated the small lagoon that had temporarily replaced the front row – the recent biblical weather had caused the river to rise more than it had for a long time. When the theatre was built there was no need to seal the well off fully – “sure we’ll never let global warming go that far!” the workmen may have been heard to chuckle. Of course the well isn’t the actual Hawk’s Well of Yeatsian and Saint Patricksian fame – that, as far as I’m aware, is out on a hill in Tullaghan. I used to live below it and quiet pilgrims would sometimes make their way past the house and up the hill. When I was a boy, a friend of my mother’s lived in that same house and we went there after school; I didn’t like the waiting and I often slipped away to hike in the hills around Hawk’s Rock and the Hungry Rock, destroying my school uniform on branches and thorns, trying to find a way through close-packed Coillte forests. This is one of the reasons I feel lucky to have been brought to Sligo as a child and to remain connected to the place; the dolmens, cairns and ringforts that surrounded my childhood; the knowledge that – according to tradition at least – me and my schoolbag were traipsing the same hills that Cuchulain himself had walked. We drank from the same well.
It was one of the themes of my short film Foxglove, which debuted at the Cork Film Festival recently, and it’s also connected to the first piece of writing I’m doing for the Hawkswell Residency. Bless the Mark is about the Civil War in Sligo, and it’ll be presented in a rehearsed reading on March 18th – more on that later. The Theatre Residency is generally off to a flying start, and I haven’t yet been asked to sleep in the well; apart from the work on Bless, we ran workshops examining one-actor performance (from the starting point of Lecoq’s Langue du Geste) in connection with the tour of Bryan Burrough’s Beowulf: The Blockbuster – and Bryan was good enough to participate in a post-show chat. We’ve also had courses for performing arts students, and next Monday acting courses for beginners are starting again. The New Year will see lots more, including postshow talks with Mikel Murfi on The Man in the Woman’s Shoes, and with the cast of The New Theatre’s Madame de Markievicz on Trial; and there’s two pieces of new writing to come. It’s going to be an interesting year.