3 mins


After igniting a RIOT at the Dublin Fringe Festival in 2016, THISISPOPBABY celebrates the act of letting go with a glittering Irish WAKE. Ahead of their new show, writer Oisín Kenny dives into this raucous meeting between club culture and Irish tradition.

Directors Jennifer Jennings and Phillip McMahon have once more brought together a powerhouse family of talent for their upcoming Dublin Fringe Festival show, WAKE. From spoken word to circus acts, they conjure up “the spirits of the good times, of the marginalised, of everything that’s been and gone, toasting yesterday’s passing as we dream up tomorrow, together.”

In 2016, THISISPOPBABY sparked an international smash-hit with RIOT by uniting the hottest stars on Irish stage and screen for a disorderly and glamorous night out. With their upcoming show, they unleash a new, uproarious assembly onto Dublin Fringe Festival 2022. This includes a host of exciting art styles, including works from artists Adam Matthews, Aisling Ni Cheallaigh, Alma Kelliher, Bryan O’Connell, Darren Roche, Deirdre Griffin, Felicia Olusanya, Tobi Omoteso, Jade O’Connor, Lisette Krol, Lucia McPartlin, Michael Roberson, Philip Connaughton.

Speaking about the act of gathering these creative visions, Philly shared, “We kind of traditionally collect family over the years. And one way we have done that is through nightclubbing, clubs that we have run or clubs that we have attended, or clubs at the Edinburgh Fringe, Glastonbury, etc.”

“COVID put a halt to a lot of that because you weren’t seeing as much stuff. And so we kind of had to go on this epic search for people who would slot into our family and who would electrify audiences with singular talents. But we found them,” Philly continued.

The team behind WAKE showcases a deep understanding around the importance of creating support structures to encourage people to learn from each other and have fun with that process. Aerial artist Aisling Ni Cheallaigh shared her thoughts about the initial challenges in learning dance choreography, “There’s something about being in the air that I just don’t feel panicked. So when I’m on the ground trying to learn choreography, I’m like, ‘Oh God, it’s gonna go horribly wrong.’”

Aisling went on to say, “But this process, having had it spread over like three years now, each week is like a whirlwind of new information, new connections, so much support. When I came back a year later, I feel like I’ve taken a lot with me and worked on it. I’m starting to feel a lot more comfortable and get even more enjoyment out of the dance, which has been brilliant.”

While WAKE offers a stomping celebration of nightlife’s power to bring people together, the show also acknowledges that sense of loss which emerged from the global pandemic. Different artists, audiences, and art styles are coming together to tear down the veil between club culture and Irish tradition as a way of spotlighting the magic in collective catharsis.

Jennifer spoke on the importance of providing space for both loss and joy to be felt, “We’re allowing the piece to go to a place, a kind of collective grief. And we’re really acknowledging the power of being in a room together. Side by side. Body by body.”

“We knew that ideas around the Irish wake were going to serve as the kind of invisible backbone to us. We knew we were interested in ideas around transformation and ideas around renewal, death to new life. And very quickly we started to make a connection between the catharsis and the energy and magic of an all night wake and an all nighter,” Jennifer went on to say.

The show’s themes of joy and grief can be felt within the choice of venue, as Philly spoke on what drew the team to the National Stadium Dublin- “Dublin is crumbling in terms of venue. Some venues are more for theatre. And when we walked into this space, we were like ‘Oh, this is it. There’s the ghost of a lot of wild nights.’”

WAKE invites artists and audiences to revel in that transient state which makes up the magic of queer nightlife and loss, exploring the movement from yesterday’s passing into tomorrow’s potential.

WAKE previews on the 8 and 9 of September. Performances can be seen on 10, 13, 15, 16 and 17 of September.

This article appears in the 373 Issue of GCN

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This article appears in the 373 Issue of GCN