An Féileacán agus an Rí – The Butterfly and the King at Cultúrlann McAdam Ó Fiaich, Belfast
Myra Zepf is a well known Irish children’s writer by now. Most recently her teen novel, Nóinín, was shortlisted for this year’s KPMG Children’s Books Ireland award. Her retelling of the Irish myth An Féileacán agus an Rí came out as a picture book with beautiful illustrations by Shona Shirley Macdonald late last year and so I was intrigued to hear about a new dance piece based on the book at Belfast’s Cultúrlann on the Fall’s Road.
One of Ireland’s most beautiful legends, ‘The Butterfly and the King’ tells the story of Éadaoin, turned into a butterfly by a jealous rival for the love of King Mír.
I am not an Irish speaker. I can’t even blame my Protestant education on this (Irish is still not taught in the vast majority of state schools in the North which means that learning it falls on heavily divided religious lines, unless you’re lucky enough to attend one of our Integrated schools). My husband who also grew up a Protestant at a state school in our highly segregated system learned Irish as an adult, partly through the Cultúrlann, and he now teaches it. So it is always with a degree of embarrassment that I attend Irish Language events, but not so much that it would stop me going. I mention this because it’s important to say that anyone I have ever met who was an Irish language enthusiast has only ever left me with positive and inclusive feelings. They draw you in. Unionists up here can be very suspicious, but I’d urge anyone with an inkling to attend an event in the Cultúrlann to do it. It is a lovely, warm place. And they have incredible scones.
The dance show, An Féileacán agus an Rí, was read by Myra in Irish with English subtitles shown on a screen, something I needed but I have to admit her lovely reading and the power of the scenes we were witnessing made me forget several time to look for the familiar words. Choreographed by lead dancer Clara Kerr, Irish dancers from the Aisling School of Dance joined with contemporary dancers to perform this magical tale of jealousy and love in thrilling scenes that had us straining to take in everything we could. My husband and I sat at the front and I felt like I could have attended the following evening’s performance as well; each scene was so energetic but so precise – dramatic tableaux, acrobatic physical theatre, the light touch of Irish dance, and the storm of hard shoes conjuring high drama. Clara Kerr thrilled us all as Éadaoin and Lizzy Drew as Fuamnach; Clara Adgey was wonderful as the child, Éadaoin; and I for one would go to see Andrew Reece and Eirik Dreyer Sellevoll in a spin-off show about the further adventures of Eochaidh and Mír (next book, Myra?!)
An absolutely joyous event showcasing some incredible talent. Many congratulations to all involved and I hope that further audiences will get a chance to be moved and delighted by this story.
Author: Maire Zepf
Choreographer: Clara Kerr
Illustrator: Shona Shirley Macdonald