A performance commissioned by Earagail Arts Festival for a disused doll factory in the tiny village of Crolly, located in the Gaeltacht (Irish speaking area) in Donegal.
Conceived by producer Róise Goan, the production drew from the dying tradition of Donegal women home knitting aran jumpers. With director Caitríona McLaughlin, Róise and I crisscrossed the county meeting with women in their 60s, 70s and 80s to hear their stories of knitting, as well as visiting woollen mills and tweed weavers.
Over the course of a whirlwind week in July, Caitríona worked with a group of local women who became the performers in the production. Lighting designer Sarah Jane Shiels and I spent each day with two hard working Lir Academy students making the factory performance-ready. At the other end of the warehouse we could hear musician and storyteller Little John Nee composing a series of songs that told some of the stories that had been collected. These were sung beautifully during the show by Lorna McLaughlin of The Henry Girls and Megan Mhic Ruaurí of a local family of musicians, Clann Mhic Ruaurí.
Despite fears of having no audience (who comes to a theatre performance in a factory in the wilds of Donegal?), the five performances were sold out, thanks to Róise’s tireless plugging. Róise’s mother Maighread and her friends spent the days baking loaves of scone bread for the audience to have with a cup of tea in the final section of the performance. The women who took part in the production sold some of their beautiful home knitting to audience members.
She Knit The Roof was a fleeting event that was gone as soon as it was made, but is one of my favourite things to have ever worked on.
Photos and video to follow.
Producer/Dramaturg: Róise Goan
Director: Caitríona McLaughlin
Design: Lian Bell
Composition and Sound Design: Little John Nee
Lighting Design: Sarah Jane Shiels
Video Design: Darren Murphy
Stage Management & Technical Assistants: Evie McGuinness & Jude Barriscale