The Ballad of a Care Centre

Riverbank Arts Centre is one of the supporters of The Ballad of a Care Centre, an event taking place in June as part of Brightening Air | Coiscéim Coiligh, to be performed to an audience of older people connected to the Naas area.

The Ballad of a Care Centre is a contemporary theatre work for an audience of one, shared over a cup of tea in McAuley Place, weaving virtual reality and live performance to recount the oral histories of older men and women living in Naas.

Visual Artist John Conway began developing this work in 2019, building around the individual and collective oral histories of older people who attend the Naas Day Care Centre. Recorded during an Age and Opportunity Artist-in-Residence programme in 2019, these stories are transformed into a contemporary theatre piece under Conway’s vision. 

“Strands of memories and life stories are entwined to form a new life story,” John Conway says. “Presented under both a nostalgic and critical lens, The Ballad of a Care Centre explores the romanticising of certain experiences and the minimising of others, whilst acknowledging mortality and the challenges of social isolation, aging, and age-related illness.”

Combining site-specific theatre, virtual reality, and cutting-edge motion capture technology, Conway aims to create “worlds-within-worlds-within-worlds,  where the viewer is taken on an out of body – out of time experience.”

The project brings together some of Ireland’s leading practitioners in socially engaged arts and health, documentary theatre, and virtual reality:
Written and directed by John Conway
Starring Dee Burke and Fionnuala Gygax
Dramaturgy by Aisling Byrne
Lead digital artist Elaine Hoey / NOHO
Digital technician Aisling Phelan
Digital sets Tess Treacy
Digital props Al Duffy
Voice over recording Hugh Dywer
Production Manager / health and safety Stephen Bourke
Consultant producer Carolann Courtney O’Malley
Design & print production One Strong Arm

John Conway is a visual artist working extensively in community, youth and health settings. His work is characterised by the production and coproduction of innovative projects which respond to sensitive and often challenging themes in a variety of contexts with different communities. His practice seeks to challenges target communities’ understandings and expectations of visual arts. He is the Director of Other People’s Practices and Kildare Young Filmmakers, and is a studio artist at Rua Red South Dublin Arts Centre.

Aisling Byrne is a freelance theatre artist, director and educator based in North Kildare; and has worked extensively in the fields of arts and disability, community drama facilitation, contemporary theatre & socially engaged theatre practice with an emerging practice in filmmaking. Aisling is the founder and Artistic Director of ‘Run of the Mill Theatre’ and the award-winning Dublin based theatre collective Talking Shop Ensemble alongside writer Shaun Dunne.

Elaine Hoey creates interactive VR based installations, appropriating contemporary digital art practices and aesthetics to explore the politics of digital humanity and our evolving relationship with the screen. Utilising virtual reality technology she immerses the viewer in performative and often uncomfortable roles within her digitally constructed worlds.

Dee Burke‘s theatre work includes Hedda Gabler (Abbey Theatre) Glorious Madness, Angel Meadow, Vardo Corner, Thirteen, The Boys of Foley Street, Laundry, World’s End Lane, Memory Deleted and Down the Valley (Anu Productions), Beautiful Dreamers (Performance Corp and Anu) Meat (Smock Alley), Locked (Philip Kelly), Always Alone Together (Game Theory), Macbeth (Boil in the Bag Productions) and Revolution (Tracy Ryan). She holds a degree in Social Science (UCD) and trained as a Youth Theatre facilitator with Youth Theatre Ireland

Fionnuala Gygax is an actor / theatre-maker based in Dublin. She is dedicated to making ambitious, contemporary work that experiments with theatrical form through collaborative, devising processes. She is the co-founder of Chaos Factory with Rachel Bergin, Venetia Bowe and Danielle Galligan, and teaches Devising in Trinity College Dublin.

If you would like to attend this performance at McAuley Place (Naas) on Saturday 19th June, please contact our Box Office on (045) 448 327 to book a ticket or call in to Riverbank Arts Centre during our opening hours 10am-2pm, Monday-Friday.  The performance (which is for one person plus their optional companion) takes place at 11am & 2pm , is free to attend, but booking is essential.  Please note, places are limited – early booking is advised.

We would like to advise audiences that the work features some sensitive themes and references the experience of bereavement by suicide.

The Ballad of a Care Centre  is funded by the Arts Council, Brightening Air | Coiscéim Coiligh, Creative Ireland, and Kildare County Council, and supported by Riverbank Arts Centre.

Brightening Air | Coiscéim Coiligh is a ten day, nationwide season of arts experiences brought to you by the Arts Council, funded by the Government of Ireland and curated and produced by Schweppe Curtis Nunn.