VIDEO | The Longford Leader gets a sneak peek at Marguerite Donlon's latest work, premiering in the Backstage on Friday

Double dose of works as Marguerite Donlon premieres 'Heroes' and 'The Last Lifeboat'

Jessica Thompson

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Jessica Thompson

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jessica.thompson@longfordleader.ie


What do the Titanic and David Bowie have in common? Well, both are featured in Marguerite Donlon's latest show, which is coming to the Longford this weekend.

This will be a double dose of Marguerite Donlon as she prepares for the world premiere of her latest work, 'The Last Lifeboat', which takes place this Friday and Saturday night in the Backstage Theatre.

Marguerite will also be staging her popular work, 'Heroes', inspired by the music of David Bowie.

"We'll be presenting 'The Last Lifeboat' first on the evening and this really will be a world premiere," Marguerite told the Longford Leader earlier this week as she took a break from rehearsals.

"And it's a piece that has been growing. It started as a solo and now it's a duet. And it will keep growing. But most importantly, it's a story about my grandaunt who literally had the last place on the last lifeboat off the Titanic. She was 16, going on 17. She had James Farrell from Killoe to thank for saving her life. He came to her cabin and said 'there's something wrong; we've got to get out'."

This is a local story about a local hero and Marguerite explained that the evening is all about heroes because of David Bowie's music but also because James Farrell was a hero in his own right.

The work of art will be danced to music and a recording of an interview with Marguerite's grandaunt, Katherine Gilnagh.

"I worked with an electronic composer who took the original interview from my grandaunt when she was 60 recalling the incident all those years back when she was a 16-year-old girl and saying how it all happened so fast, until she said the most horrific sound was the boilers hitting the ocean and the explosions and, of course, the people in the water," said Marguerite.

"She also explained how they would pull in wet bodies into one boat and then transfer the dry people into another."

The work has a lot to do with emigration, she added.

"There are so many people who emigrate or leave their countries in the hope of a better future or escaping an awful situation. She was lucky enough to survive. She said that James gave her his cap just as she got on the lifeboat. He threw it down to her and said 'I won't be needing this where I'm going'. And she kept that cap on her mantelpiece all her life."

A lot of people suffered survival guilt following the sinking of the Titanic over a hundred years ago. And Katherine was no different.

"She really was on the last lifeboat," said Marguerite, explaining that Katherine felt so guilty that she survived while her saviour did not.

"The other thing that's very interesting is that she often said she felt very bad about a white lie that she told. She said that her sister was on that boat. It was her best friend. But she just knew she had to get on there. And she was afraid. It was dark. She didn't want to lose the people. So she said 'but my sister is on that boat' because they had actually said to her that there was no space.

"So I think there was a lot of guilt. But also a lot of gratitude and thanks to James Farrell for saving her."

Marguerite's second piece has been performed many, many times since she created it with my dance company in Germany. The work is called 'Heroes' and features some classic Bowie hits.

"It's with five dancers. Normally it's five men, but here we have four men and one woman. And basically, they are heroes as well. Each of them speaks a part of their biography - a story about themselves. Sometimes it's very touching, sometimes it's funny. But I invited the dancers to really come up with a story - something that really represented them.

"Some of them talked about their journey to becoming a dancer and how that happened. 'Heroes' is not the only song. But we took it as the title. There's also 'Fame' and 'Ziggy Stardust' and all those great Bowie pieces.

"This is a piece where it's these bunch of friends sharing stories and sharing a space in time and they're either very funny or quite touching and emotional. But they're just 100% honest. And that's why it's so touching. There's nothing to hide."

Tickets for this fantastic contemporary dance show can be purchased via the Backstage Theatre box office, www.backstage.ie, or by calling 043 33 47888.

Anyone with tickets to Friday or Saturday's show is welcome to attend the rehearsal this evening (Thursday) and those in attendance will be invited to learn part of the choreography.

This event takes place at 4.45pm and spaces are limited. Book by calling 043 33 47888.