WillFredd Theatre Company-Farm-Dublin Fringe Festival 2012
While waiting to be led into the warehouse that had been taken over for the production I could smell animals and looking down I noticed bits of straw on the floor. The audience was led into a small quartered off area where immediately we found ourselves observing a discussion on selling plots of land for farming. Two were negotiating while the third person plotted out the shares of land using paper on the floor. What initially seems like a corporate meeting devolves into a game of farm as toy cattle and fences are brought out. Suddenly a large warehouse door is thrown open and a workhorse pulling a cart comes barreling through. The outer walls of the “office” disappear as the rest of the warehouse is revealed and the audience, referred to as cattle, is ushered in.
There are bales of straw, fences, light bulbs hanging from the ceiling and a man plays the guitar. The woman who was driving the cart unhitches the horse, explaining what she is doing as she goes along. The horse is then led away into a corner where he can rest. Lights illuminate imaginary plots of land; a man leads us over to them. He instructs us as to how plots are divided and showing us his plot he tells us about the carrots he has planted and how they are much better than ones bought in a store. A woman dressed in scrubs stands over blood on the floor. She tells us about a heifer giving birth to twins, only she tells the story from the perspective of the cow.
In another corner is a square of dirt. A man with a pitchfork begins turning the soil. It turns into a slow dance-like movement as he shuffles up and down the length of the dirt. Three others join him and they continue the dance with their arms over each other’s shoulders. A text is projected on the wall behind them detailing the hardships male farmers face during times of economic difficulty as they feel it is their masculine duty to persevere.
Next we are told to cover any of our exposed skin as we will be going into a room with bees to learn about how they make honey. We are led into a separate room where there is the sound of bees buzzing and a screen for the audience to sit behind, though much to my relief, there were no bees. Instead a woman is dressed as a bee and in a cabaret style explains the bizarre hierarchy of queen bees. She is joined by three men who sing a hilarious song in the style of a barbershop trio about bees and honey.
We are led back into the warehouse space to an area where there are a variety of chairs and stools to sit on. A man is eating a meal at a table. He tells us a story about his mother hatching a tray of goose eggs by warming them in the oven after the incubator they were in had been shut off. I hear a honking sound and see that there is a goose under the table. The others clamber on top of an old tractor and talk about the first time they went to a farming association meeting and how important it is to be a member of that community.
Finally we are herded to one final area where we sit on bales of straw and are given a cup of mead. The musician plays his guitar and sings. It is a peaceful moment. A girl sings another song and then the last song is played and the audience is asked to join in on the chorus. We do and suddenly we are apart of this group of farmers who have spent the last hour sharing their lives with us. They have taught us what they know about farming and about being a part of something that is bigger than ourselves. I was sorry that it had ended but I left feeling very happy giving in to the urge to skip down the street.