NOTHING IS RANDOM: We are part of a bigger plan and second chances.I PICKED up scrapbooking as a hobby not too long ago when a good friend showed me how to put memories together on paper. If anything, I get to create pages that tell stories. Stories of celebrations and milestones achieved. Stories of my life intertwined with that of others.
Ireland is famed for the art of storytelling. The seancaithe and scéalaí, (the tradition bearers and storytellers), passed the old stories down through the generations.
Ancient Celtic culture also had its own form of scrapbooking. The history and laws of the people were not written down but memorised in long lyric poems, which were recited by bards.
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When Michael and I received complimentary tickets to The River, we were all thrilled to bits. Not only do we like plays but the fact that it was staged on board a 90-foot Dutch Barge in Custom House Quay, located at the back of The Hunt Museum in Limerick, gave it an added charm.
We were there on time. We were among strangers and friends as the performer entertained us with stories and memories of real people, about the River Shannon as it flowed through Limerick.
It was not any ordinary storyteller but award-winning playwright Helena Enright, who wrote and performed this multi-sensory theatrical experience using verbatim first-hand testimony.
The River Shannon plays an integral part in the folklore and literature of Ireland, and Helena collected stories about how much it featured in the lives of the people in Limerick — stories of life, death and hope. Directed by Ciarda Tobin, this was performed in conjunction with the Limerick City of Culture 2014 celebrations.
I thought she was very brave to stage a play on a barge. With such a venue, there were safety regulations to be adhered to. Having to don life-jackets before entering the barge added to the excitement.
We do it all the time. When we hear a good story, we will tell someone about it. For those who cannot live without Facebook, we click share and make a good story public fodder. Well and good if the story is about someone else, fiction or non-fiction, home or abroad.
This time round, however, one of the stories in The River is ours. (Michael and myself)
When the call for stories for the event was published, I put a small fraction of our lives on paper and submitted it. The next thing I knew, it was selected and Helena came to our house to interview me.
For me, it was a total reversal of roles. In the process of interviewing other people for my articles. I was usually the one holding up the microphone to someone else and then transcribing the recording. So, it was quite an experience hearing my own voice being recorded.
Having told our story and seeing it being performed was something else. There was this nagging anxiety: How would my friends and relatives react to the performance?
I need not have worried because in the hands of a professional, the stories were woven together seamlessly like an intricate tapestry. Helena captured the essence of the stories by giving them a voice rich in nuances and complete with local flavour.
There were sights and sounds that accompanied the narration of stories as well. When it came to the part where I wrote “As I watched the ducks waddling on the river bank making webbed imprints in the mud, I knew that Michael had made imprints on my heart”… there were computer-generated images of webbed prints projected on the “wall” of the barge. I thought that was very well done.
To me, it is a privilege and an honour. It is a reminder of how things do not happen randomly but that we are part of a bigger plan and second chances. Memories fill our personal scrapbooks and The River is our cherished keepsake. DR KOH SOO LING firstname.lastname@example.org - NST Columnist 7 SEPTEMBER 2014 @ 8:06 AM