Recently I watched an animated film called ‘Spirited Away’ by Hayao Miyazaki. I really gravitated to the theme of spirits in the film and the seen and unseen world. I am no stranger to this theme in my art work. Last January I performed in a play which I wrote and designed for the stage. It was my first play called ‘Traveller around the sun’. I had the support of my faithful friends Cahil Shirran, Amy Hill and my sister Emma O’Connell.
These people were my spiritual refuges. We went everywhere together; the forest, the sea and the mountains. They agreed to be part of my art projects that had little sense of rhyme or reason. All I know is my spirit and I trust it.
So why did I write a play about a homeless man and a ghost? Everything I was doing and making at the time built up to it. The characters I portrayed in my drawings and photos lived in my thoughts and surroundings and became a form which would appear in my mind. I would write down the idea, the title and a sketch of what it looked like on paper. I always felt excitement at this stage because now all I had to do was execute my dreams. This execution varied according to how elaborate it could be, sometimes taking a few hours or days.
My play took me into the territory of for weeks and months. Cahil played a homeless man called Ali and I played a ghost called Harmony. Cahil was a natural choice for me to play Ali because he had gladly agreed to dress up as George Carl and Allen Ginsberg in my other art projects.
The story follows Ali as he sleeps in the park. Harmony is a ghost that is part of a tree. She appears to Ali when he Ali rings a bell that he finds beside him. She has a book that records everyday he has lived. It has seventeen thousand, five hundred and thirty two pages. The book is called ‘Traveller around the sun’. Harmony tells Ali she has his gold notebook which he thought he threw away. So Harmony reads the pages from Ali’s gold notebook and he starts to become alive, remembering memories he buried a long time ago.
The extract from the play I’d like to share with you is from one of Ali’s pages in his gold notebook. I based the description on a person I always thought was a wonderful mystery.
‘I looked up from my book ‘George’s secret key to the universe’ and there he was. The man I wondered about not long ago. I used to see him walking outside when I sat on a bench at lunch time. He had long spindly legs, glasses and long grey hair and walked with a stick. I thought he looked like a daddy long legs. I hadn’t seen him since then which was four years ago. He was walking in the same hurried way as I remember him but didn’t have his stick. Today I got this brief glimpse from the bench before he turned the corner.’
With the help of our drama tutor and friend Amy, we rehearsed the play and set the date and venue for our performance. Our stage was in O’ Keeffe’s Bar 4, Clonmel, Co. Tipperary, Ireland. We performed for two nights in January. On the last night, when the show was over I was backstage diligently trying to get the layers of white make-up off my face.
It was taking me a while but as the time went by I was more and more puzzled by the rising volume of the audience outside. No one seemed to be leaving. Later I emerged and people were still sitting and talking about the play. It was all I could have hoped for. I gathered around my friends and family in a state of joy. I was spirited away.
Lena O’ Connell
Lena O’ Connell graduated from the Limerick School of Art and Design in 2009. She specialised in fine art, sculpture. Lena currently lives and works in Daegu, South Korea. She teaches English and is involved with a children’s art group.