Rian is an all-Irish trance says Liam
10:05 25 May 2012
Liam Ó Maonlaí’s involvement in Rian with Fabulous Beast has taken him right out of his comfort zone – but he is loving every minute of it. ABIGAIL SALTMARSH talks to The Hothouse Flowers’ frontman about song, dance and challenging himself.
As a rock musician, all Liam Ó Maonlaí hopes of from his music is that it will make people get up and dance.
And in his show Rian they are up on their feet for the entire performance.
Liam, vocalist and guitarist with late 1980s sensations The Hothouse Flowers, best known for the 1988 hit Don’t Go, arrives in Norwich next week to perform with the new Irish music and dance-theatre show.
The Theatre Royal has, of course, hosted many celebrations of Irish culture in the past with the likes of Spirit Of The Dance, but this new show, which has been the talk of London, is set to highlight the talent of the Irish in a far more intriguing way.
The show, which has had sell out runs at The Barbican and The Coliseum, in London, came about as a result of Liam’s collaboration with choreographer Michael Keegan-Dolan.
With three Olivier Award nominations under his belt, Michael has a reputation for his dynamic and innovative approach to dance theatre.
Michael is the founding director of the Fabulous Beast dance company and wanted to celebrate the Irish passion for performing while also exploring the country’s rich seam of history.
And after hearing Liam’s 2005 solo album Rian, he expressed interested in getting together with the Irish rock musician and perhaps collaborating on a project.
“It took us about two years to finally get together and discuss it but when we did, it went very well,” Liam remembers.
“There was a lot of theatre in Michael’s approach to dance, and I was very impressed. I also enjoyed the process of working with him and the improvisation that was involved.
“We both agreed that we would try to make a show, bringing the music from Rian together with Irish contemporary dance.”
Produced by Sadler’s Wells, in collaboration with Fabulous Beast, and supported by Culture Ireland, it has been nominated for the Judges’ Special Award in the Irish Times Theatre Awards 2011.
The pair used Rian — which means mark or trace in Irish — as a starting point to create the piece. Moving and uplifting, it mixes Celtic sounds with elements of world music. On stage, the cast of eight dancers and five musicians, who include Ó’Maonlai himself, tap into Irish traditions using musical influences from across the globe.
It enjoyed strong critical acclaim in London with audiences getting totally wrapped up in the performances.
“Although it is a timed piece, from start to finish, it has a certain informality about it,” explains Liam. “In many ways it is not unlike a concert.
“It is much more personal than theatre and the dancers have been much more involved in the creation of the show than they would perhaps have been with something else.
“It is a very human show, a genuine reflection of traditional music from people who are deeply involved. For me, having dancers respond like this to my music has just completed the equation.
“As a musician I am used to starting playing and working up an atmosphere before people begin to dance - so having them dancing right from the beginning is a wonderful thing!”
Being staged on two nights at the Theatre Royal, as part of the Norfolk and Norwich Festival, the production has been a completely new experience for Liam. But, he admits, it is something he would now like to spend time on again in the future.
“I do feel very inspired now that I am doing this,” he says. “This show is very much a meeting of two disciplines – music and dance — and I really believe that I am richer for having been involved in it.”
Liam has been playing music since he was a child, winning an under 18 all-Ireland award for his skills on the Bodhrán (an Irish drum).
In 1985, he formed The Hothouse Flowers with school friend Fiachna Ó Braonáin, and the group went on to be one of Ireland’s most successful rock bands, releasing seven albums and seeing a chart-topping hit with single Don’t Go.
In 2002, he recorded the album Rian with his close friend, renowned producer John Reynolds. This was released in 2005.
The Hothouse Flowers still play together, and Liam still takes great pleasure from his role in the group.
“I enjoy doing lots of different things in my work. I am hoping to be making another record with The Hothouse Flowers soon, as well as one on my own,” he says.
“I am also looking forward to working with Michael again. There is such a lot of energy and passion in the show that we are both keen on taking it further.”
And he adds: “Doing this has really opened up so many more possibilities for me in the future. I like expressing myself and I like being challenged.
“Making this show did take me out of my comfort zone but now, having done it, I would not even say I have a comfort zone anymore.”
t Rian, Norwich Theatre Royal, May 24-25, £21-£5.50, under-25s £5, 01603 766400, www.nnfestival.org.uk