Concert is a dance-theatre show that explores the music of Irish fiddler Tommie Potts, directed by Sinéad Rushe and performed by Colin Dunne (Olivier Award nominee) and sound designed by Mel Mercier (Drama Desk Award Winner and Tony nominee).
The show premiered at the Centre National de la Danse in Paris and the Dublin Dance Festival, 2017. Subsequent performances took place at MA Scène National Pays de Montbéliard, La Comète, Scène Nationale de Châlons-en-Champagne, Kilkenny Arts Festival, Groningen Performing Arts Festival Holland, Tramway, Glasgow and The Pit, Barbican as part of Dance Umbrella 2018. The show continues to tour internationally.
In this new solo work, Irish dance artist Colin Dunne confronts the music of virtuoso traditional Irish fiddle player, Tommie Potts (1912-1988). A singular and complex figure in the history of Irish traditional music, Potts rarely played in public, and his 1972 album, ‘The Liffey Banks’, was the only recording of his music released commercially before his death. This iconic solo fiddle album reflects the complex contradictions in Potts’s musical career: his deep appreciation of traditional music alongside a desire to break it apart. Although renowned for its delicate, melancholic and playful qualities, the album’s rhythmical irregularity renders it practically impossible to dance to. Nevertheless, Dunne sets out to ‘dance’ this controversial album in a concert like no other.
The research imperative for this project is to investigate how far the devising of a new dance theatre work can be design-led, in particular how sound design and its ‘staging’ can determine the dramaturgy of a performance at large. Concert is a live performance with a ‘recording’ at its centre, and this paradox lies at the heart of its mise en scène. Dunne, Mercier and Rushe co-design an audiovisual landscape with many moving parts: a dancing body, mobile floor speakers and portable sheets of flooring. A variety of ‘portals’ such as a tape recorder, a record player, a set of tiny hand-held speakers, a piano and fiddle all create the sonic topography in which Potts’ recordings are played and played with; this negotiated, ever-shifting scenographic terrain determines the emotional drive and narrative of Concert.
The project is informed by Rushe’s current research on Michael Chekhov’s interdisciplinary acting technique, and in particular, his lesser-known theory of aesthetics and scenography. She has presented these ideas in her practitioner’s book on Michael Chekhov technique (Bloomsbury Methuen 2019), a chapter in the edited volume, Michael Chekhov in the Twenty-First Century: New Pathways (Bloomsbury, Methuen 2020), a public talk at Pushkin House, London and a series of practice-based workshops, in collaboration with scenographer Aldona Cunningham, for actors, designers and directors at The Street Theatre, Canberra, Australia, The Actor’s Centre and Goldsmith’s College, London.
Concert follows Dunne and Rushe’s first collaboration, Out of Time, which was nominated for an Olivier and Dance Critic’s Circle Award and gave over 100 performances worldwide. Concert won the Gradam Comharcheoil TG4 2018 Award for Musical Collaboration and the televised gala concert and award ceremony took place at The Waterfront, Belfast on 4 February 2018.
*Photography by Peter Hallward.