Collapsing Horse are a theatre company in a fierce hurry. Their debut show Monster/Clock enjoyed tremendous success in 2012, and toured to further acclaim in early 2013. It was followed by Human Child, a play inspired by the poetry of WB Yeats, in June of this year.
Now their new production, Distance from the Event, opens next week as part of the Dublin Fringe Festival. It’s the third show they’ve mounted in the space of six months – a risky undertaking even for an established company.
“We’ve had a really enjoyable journey over the last 18 months,” says Dan Colley, the company’s resident director “But we’ve got to keep the fire under us.
“It’s been good for us to have produced such a shot of work early on. Right now we have loads of ideas and energy and people seem really interested in us putting on the work. So while we’re still happy to work together, we’ll keep going on, before the inevitable break-ups and the Yoko Ono stuff happens.”
As a director Colley has enjoyed success outside of Collapsing Horse, as indeed have other members of the ensemble. Two of them – Aaron Heffernan and Jack Gleeson – are cast in big TV shows. Heffernan has a central part in the new season of Love/Hate, while Gleeson has been playing the sinister King Joffrey in Game of Thrones for three seasons.
As a calling card, Monster/Clock was a wondrous debut. With a stirring aesthetic that featured everything from puppetry to miniatures, song to shadow-play, the show pitched Collapsing Horse as purveyors of ‘total theatre’. Like its successor, Human Child, it was tailored to a young audience, but with enough to seduce grown-ups too. Distance from the Event, by contrast, is the company’s first show consciously geared toward a mature audience.
“We wanted to tell a more adult story,” says Colley. “It’s definitely very funny, but it is a little bit darker. It’s a sci-fi/Irish noir story about murder and intrigue and love. It’s set in an alternative futuristic vision of Dublin, a world in which paper has become a valued commodity. We follow Mel, a detective who is on the case of a paper smuggler. But Mel has also been getting these weird dreams connected to another story, a story about a colony of humans on another planet who have just completely disappeared.”
For the ‘Irish noir’ aesthetic, Colley says that they took as their starting point the idea of “Blade Runner meets Flann O’Brien”, and he believes the fission between the two proves very amusing. It’s significant that while Colley and his colleagues at Collapsing Horse are committed to telling engaging stories, adorned with a bookish charm and a precise visual aesthetic, their first concern seems to be with entertainment value.
“That’s certainly how we see ourselves,” says Colley. “The price of entry is relatively low and the rewards are high. Our shows are slightly philosophical, not unchallenging, but also not un-entertaining either. I like the idea that, potentially, our theatre has a wide audience.”
The company has just kicked off a year-long residency in the Civic Theatre, Tallaght, and are due to bring Human Child to Baboró Children’s Festival in Galway this October. Clearly, there’s no fear of Collapsing Horse slowing down to a canter any time soon.
* Distance from the Event runs Sep 5-21 at the Samuel Beckett Theatre