East Antrim influence in Tinderbox Theatre Company’s nightmarish new production

An award-winning theatre company is serving up a nightmarish visual feast this autumn with a strong east Antrim input.

Producer Meg Magill.

Tinderbox will premiere Jonathan M Daley’s thrilling new play ‘Sylvan’ live in forest locations.

The acclaimed local cast includes Ruby Campbell, from Larne and Maria Connolly, Carrickfergus.

The producer, Meg Magill, is also from Larne and her cousin, Seamus O’Hara, who has appeared in Game of Thrones and a host of other productions, takes on the role of Paul

Ruby Campbell - ‘Deirdre’

Sylvan, which is directed by Patrick J O’Reilly, will be performed in Belfast and Coleraine over the Halloween holidays and will also premiere as part of Imagine Arts Festival in Waterford.

With design by Stuart Marshall, it is presented as an immersive live experience with the amalgamation of digital film, horror, sound design and live performance.

For over three decades, Tinderbox has championed new writing, producing world-class performances from Northern Irish writers to critical and international acclaim.

Looking forward to the performances, Meg Magill commented: “I took over as producer for this theatre company last December and Sylvan is the first live production I’ve produced for them.”

Ruby Campbell, who plays the part of Deirdre, is a former pupil of Corran Integrated Primary School, Larne and Ulidia Integrated College in Carrickfergus.

She said: ”My family still live in Larne and I was back there during lockdown last year - I felt grateful for the chance to reconnect with the beautiful nature around Larne during that time,”

The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama-trained Ruby comes to the Sylvan role fresh from the recent hit play, ‘Rough Girls’ - the untold story of Belfast’s first all-female football team - at the Lyric Theatre, Belfast. She has also featured in film and TV productions.

Maria Connolly, who is Rosie in this new show, is a familiar face to theatre-goers, having worked with all major companies in the province.

Seamus O’Hara - ‘Paul’.

She was recently awarded the Aisling Award for Arts and Culture 2020 for creating and performing the show ‘The Broads,’ which she has taken to thousands of people living in isolation.

Maria was also honoured with a National Lottery Portrait of the People for her work in continuing to bring the arts to isolated and vulnerable communities during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Meanwhile,the theatre company has announced its commitment to the Theatre Green Book baseline standard for the upcoming season of work ‘off the grid’. The theme of the play and locations have been inspired by the pandemic and climate change and this project is not-for-profit. 

Patrick J O’Reilly, artistic director for Tinderbox Theatre Company, said: “As we move forward into a post-pandemic society, there are two significant priorities that we wish to address through our artistic programmes: the need for artists and audiences to be part of innovative theatrical experiences to re-connect, engage and entertain and the call to action for our responsibility towards the environment and the climate crisis. Our ambitious production Sylvan in October will unite innovation, entertainment and climate activism.”

The show is an amalgamation of digital film, horror, sound design and live performance.

Tinderbox sets the scene for the Sylvan story as follows:

Paul and Deirdre are trying to adopt a child. In their world, adoption is shameful and embarrassing, and discretion is key. When Rosie, the adoption agent, arrives for a home visit, Paul and Deirdre struggle to impress her; casting doubts over their chances of getting a child. But Rosie’s visit threatens a much larger secret; something Paul and Deirdre have hidden their entire relationship – the illegal forest in their spare room on the top floor. Sylvan is a delicious nightmare for the senses.

Caoileann Curry-Thompson, acting head of drama, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, said: “A new offering from Tinderbox is always an exciting event. This production, Sylvan, testifies to Tinderbox’s commitment to supporting and nourishing the creativity of our individual artists, and to pushing the boundaries of what theatre work can look like and where it can be made.

“The creative team drawn together is superb: featuring Jonathan M. Daley, a very gifted playwright and theatre professional, and three local actors, Ruby, Maria and Seamus. The Arts Council of Northern Ireland is proud to support this original new work and we wish the team all the best with it.”

Tour dates and locations for Sylvan (age guidance: 16+) are as follows:

October, 23- 24, WIT Campus, Waterford, Imagine Arts Festival;

October 29 – November 1, Victoria Park, Belfast;

November 4 - 5, Ulster University Campus, Coleraine, Riverside Theatre.

For more information about Tinderbox go to www.tinderbox.org.uk


Click here to read: Loose Threads Quilters’ Larne exhibition shows ‘There’s No Place Like Home’


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