We asked two theatremakers, Louise Lowe & Owen Boss, to talk about their work and how it’s shaped by Dublin and its inhabitants
LL: Together, we run a company called Anu Productions. We cross-pollinate between theatre and visual arts to create experiences – artworks, really – that will ask people to question themselves within the work. And the work that we make is about the history of contemporary life, in lots of ways. A lot of the time, we’re asking people to re-engage with a space, or a place or a community. And then to make up their own minds. We never tell people what they’re looking at, but always try and position questions inside the work.
OB: This is a process that has evolved – we first started working together 12 years ago out in Ballymun, doing socially engaged arts practice-type work. We were working with young people, and looking at their lives within specific areas and sites, asking them questions about their lives. In 2009 we decided to set up Anu together, but the seeds were sown in those years in Ballymun. Since then, we’ve looked at the life of the nation, who we are and what we are.
LL: For the last couple of years, our mise-en-scene has been the landscape of the city; that’s grown now, in terms of the international work that we’re being commissioned to make, but I think we’re always drawn back towards Dublin, its stories and its people – its lost histories. Our show Pals talked about the Irish who fought in WWI, and literally on a daily basis people who saw the show came back – they wanted to talk about their relatives who fought in the war, to pay homage to what had happened. Sometimes making this work you just hit upon something, the things that we don’t talk about.
OB: When you perform in real places, a certain thing occurs. It’s just how we work. Going into a site and letting it speak to you, to inform what you’re doing.
LL: Dublin is our town. We’ve both lived all of our lives here. Socially, and culturally we understand it. It’s a place that has captured so much energy, so many stories and experiences that it takes on a character all by itself. We find ourselves uncovering different parts of the city. One house on one street can often sum up so much. And we don’t make any of it up. That’s the critical thing.
OB: There’s something more fascinating about the fact that the stories we’re telling are real.
LL: I grew up in a park called The Basin, in the gate lodge, my Dad was the gardiner there, and I love going back to The Basin, sitting there and watching the world pass me by, listening to the grey heron, just being in that space. Those little pockets of tranquility that appear out of nowhere in Dublin are really special.
OB: I like finding things that I haven’t noticed before, and Dublin is full of little surprises – to be in a city for nearly 40 years and to not know certain things… That’s the fun of it.