Sky high with art of collaboration on In Clouds

Peter Power looks to examine the human struggle to understand scientific theory, natural phenomena and human behaviour in In Clouds, writes Eoghan O’Sullivan

With a degree in biochemistry and being no stranger to Cork Midsummer Festival, having worked on shows such as Neon Western and Prodijig in recent years, Peter Power has melded artistry with science to create In Clouds.

A piece specific to Triskel Christchurch as the Tobin St venue celebrates its 40th birthday, Power is director to a cast that includes writer Sara Baume, his co-composer Michael Gallen, and dancer/choreographer Stephanie Dufresne.

“I struggled a lot with bringing science into my work and allowing it be artistic,” admits Power.

Michael Gallen and Peter Power of In Clouds, running at Triskel from tonight. Picture: Jed Niezgoda

In this piece, he looks to examine the human struggle to understand scientific theory, natural phenomena and human behaviour.

“What we’re trying to engender in the work, I hope, is that people fall into it and disappear a little bit more comfortably than trying to have these hookholds of understanding all the time.

I don’t know will it work but I’m certainly up for trying it.

The idea germinated with Power before the team of artists held numerous meetings over the first half of the year to thrash out ideas before Baume created a 5,000-word essay that and became the cast’s bible.

It will only be revealed in chunks to the audience, however.

“It’s amazing to see how something I did alone at my desk has infused and spread so much,” says Baume, author of the novels Spill Simmer Falter Wither and A Line Made by Walking.

“I’m in no way physically present in the piece and there’s so much going into it now that I have nothing to do with.”

While a new experience for her, Power is an old hand at this stage, though In Clouds finds him putting a lot on the line. “This is the most personally involved thing I’ve been in. It’s taken over my life more than anything I’ve ever done before, because I’m so nervous about it and it’s such a weird idea.”

Discussing the collaborative aspect of the work, he says: “It is very strange to come into a room and see anything you’ve created being taken on by others. I’m writing music for Junk Ensemble at the moment and it’s so weird to watch your music being used by other people and seeing what they see and hear in it. It’s the magic of why I do what I do.”

Baume adds:

All writers should try and do more outside because it then feeds back into how you work and how your ideas work, to see something embodied.

Power says there’s no frame of reference for this complex work. “I don’t think there’s a particularly strong culture of music theatre in Ireland — and that’s not musical theatre but music theatre — which means I think a lot of people will go to it in the same way that dance was disrespected for so long, where people were annoyed by the fact that they didn’t know what was happening…

“I worry about that stuff, not just for my own ego but for everyone that’s contributed. I hope that when it’s presented people feel, not necessarily know, it’s a rich, full, rigorous, and beautiful thing that we worked very hard on. That it’s given a chance to be experienced.”

Power urges audiences to feel it first, and understand it second.

I’m not nervous about the music sounding good or anything like that because I think the musicians are brilliant, but I just hope people come out and go, ‘I’m not sure what happened but god-damn it felt great.’

In Clouds, Triskel Christchurch, Thursday to Sunday

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