From Limerick City, Ann Blake is a familiar face in both theatre and as part of The Brad Pitt Light Orchestra.
In theatre, Ann does everything from performing, directing and writing. “Earlier this year I did a project with puppeteer Emma Fisher in the Park Kiosk called Reflections. We interviewed people about their feelings on identity and out of that material I wrote a song and she made a shadow puppet and stop motion video called Awake. It got a great reaction when it came out. It’s always lovely to have that shared because it is real people’s stories and that’s what really interests me and what has drawn me to theatre. I love feeling reached out to and being connected with and that’s what I like to do and achieve; music is a natural connector.”
Last year Ann supported the marriage equality referendum with her own theatrical piece. “I developed a 30 minute piece called Overnight Minority Report around my own coming-out story but it also looked at Irish society and trying to put a face on the referendum. The play was ultimately a proposal, I went down on one knee and I asked the audience if I could marry my partner Jenny. What was lovely about doing that was that we went into a few community halls with it because it was a low tech show. That was a bit nerve wracking. You know theatre audiences might be on your side but you wouldn’t be sure of the reception you would get. What was mad was the only 100% yes box I got was from a community hall. The response from the groups was fabulous, they identified with it, knowing gay and lesbian family members and friends.”
Ann intends to develop this short work into something bigger. “A number of people, including Louise Donlon of the Lime Tree Theatre, and other friends and colleagues who saw it said there was more to it than the referendum. I am trying to develop it into something more because it is a bit out of date now.” Ann wants it to be a timeless piece informed by the referendum but bigger. “I’m working on getting a draft together on that.”
Speaking about work and Limerick audiences, particularly playing music with The Brad Pitt Light Orchestra Ann comments “If your work is well received here it will do well elsewhere. Limerick is a good place to try things out. The band did a weekly slot in a pub that is closed now, we weren’t obviously suited to the pub itself but won them over. We really felt like if we can play here and get a good response then obviously it is easy to go into other venues. First and foremost your work has to be good.” In October, The Brad Pitt Light Orchestra is going to be involved in a new project with IMRAM, the Irish Language Literary Festival, to bring the works of David Bowie to the stage in the Irish language alongside Liam Ó Maonlaí.
While Ann has lived in a number of different places, her favourite thing about Limerick is that it is home.
“You can say that about anywhere you are from but there is something very grounded and real in Limerick; right now is a very interesting time for us. We are like a wound spring of potential ready to shoot off. I feel what’s important for bidding about this stuff is that it is about the future and it is up to us.”
“I think we have a very beautiful city. I live around the corner from the Georgian Quarter. I would love to see it more lived in. We do have a very beautiful city that we don’t always see. One thing I love about Limerick at the moment is the People’s Park; it is full of diversity. An international community uses the park, it’s safe and diverse and it’s a lovely place to be. I love being a citizen who lives in the city. I live here and I can stroll everywhere. It’s all about the people here really.”
Speaking about the Limerick2020 bid Ann is a big believer in the power of the process. “I think the city went through a transformation in 2014; people with a big influence on the city saw the value of culture and the legacy of this has been so strong. We should be very proud of what we have achieved; it’s a different city to the one I grew up in, from 10 years ago and from 5 years ago. It’s all about how we see ourselves now in a stronger more confident light. Commenting on Galway’s ECOC win Ann says “I have no doubt that they will deliver a fantastic programme and that we, with our proximity, could benefit from it. We should proceed and put on a hell of a show in 2020 and keep the ball rolling so that when visitors flock to Galway they will have much more to see and experience and not have to travel very far. I wish to congratulate Galway. Our theme was “Belonging,” we all belong to Ireland and I think that Limerick, along with Galway and The Three Sisters, should take the next few years and beyond to make Ireland the number one cultural destination in Europe.”
You can see Reflections in the video below. To know more about The Brad Pitt Light Orchestra, follow the link to the band's facebook page.