Secrets from the wings - A director’s commentary

Maeve Stone, Assistant Director on Drum Belly, reveals some of the backstage secrets of the play.

It’s all about the moustache

It’s 1969. A man can demonstrate personal style using only his face and I promise there are some exciting examples to be found in Drum Belly. Eimer Ní Mhaoldomhnaigh’s costume design is enhanced by some epic face furniture which the cast has tenderly grown. I have selected three of my favourites, David Ganly, Ronan Leahy and Phelim Drew.

A concrete stage

In Drum Belly we’ve done something that’s never been done before at the Abbey Theatre. Through a partnership with the Abbey Theatre’s Development Department, Roadstone Wood Ltd provided 45.64 tonnes of concrete which was pumped onto the Abbey stage, shaped, dried and then polished. Under the stage an entire support beam structure was created to ensure the weight is held properly. It was an exciting few days watching it being laid and even more exciting to see how well it has worked. Paul Wills, Set Designer, commented on the task. ‘It’s a big statement in the design and there was no way of knowing how it would look until it was done. That WAS exciting.’

The Stooges and John F. Kennedy

Do you like music? Do you like rock sung by a topless sexagenarian? Then you probably like The Stooges. The Stooges formed in 1967 and tore up the rule book of rock music at the time. Christopher Shutt, Sound Designer, has layered their punk rock pop riffs with original moon-landing audio and speeches to help bring Drum Belly alive. He believes ‘it’s an unholy alliance’ but one that suits the gruesome setting of a bloody gangster play.

A side dish of blood and bone

No animals are harmed in the making of the Drum Belly, but their bones do appear on stage. Every day Richie O’Sullivan, Assistant Stage Manager, makes a trip to F.X. Buckley’s Butchers on Moore Street in Dublin to collect a bag of bones and meat, specially selected for their resemblance to human limbs. Gerard Byrne was taught how to use the butchers tools properly and safely by the team at F.X. Buckley’s. ‘The second time we arrived for a lesson they kept a side of pork and showed us how they would cut it up. The joint that I use is beef, the bones are beef also, but skin-wise pork looks the most human.’ Approximately four litres of fake blood are used in each show. Over the entire run that comes in at just under 200 litres!

The Juke Box

Not since Knight Rider’s ‘Kitt’ has an inanimate object spoken so clearly to man. One of the most magnetic objects ever to enter the Abbey Theatre has to be the 1950s Seeburg juke box that hangs out in the wings of the stage until its grand entrance in scene two. When asked how he managed to choose from the many contenders Paul Wills, Set Designer, said ‘It just felt right. It looks like a spaceship.’

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