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A journey through music, youth culture and loss is coming to Ballymun

A new work opens tonight in the Axis theatre.

Image: Ali Wright

JESSIE IS MOURNING the loss of her father, who died by suicide. Oppressed by her life in Leeds, a chance encounter with a singer songwriter brings Jessie to London, where she hopes to reconnect with her estranged mother. 

Jessie’s trip brings her through gigs, parties, city streets and warehouses, all to the tune of a reverberating soundtrack that follows her all the way.

An exploration of youth culture, psychosis and loss, Electrolyte – which opens tonight in the Axis Theatre Ballymun – tells Jessie’s story is through a live onstage band with a narrative script delivered in spoken word style.

The work – which was first staged last year and has won numerous awards – is a piece of gig theatre: a mashup of live music and storytelling playing out on stage. 

Director of Axis Ballymun Mark O’Brien saw Electrolyte performed last year performed at the Edinburgh Fringe and said it “utterly blew him away”. 

O’Brien told TheJournal.ie that the play – with its focus on mental health awareness, new voices and experimental form – fitted in with the ethos and mission statement of the Axis.

Six multi-instrumentalists make up the cast, and the production is directed by the Olivier award-winning Donnacadh O’Briain with music composed by Maimuna Memon.

“It really sits in the middle between performance and gig,” O’Brien said. 

It really aligned with out strand of developing new work from new voices in a new form and from an urban perspective to tell a very universal story in the work.

The work has won numerous awards including the Mental Health Fringe Award, the Stepladder Award, The LET Award. 

Creative Space 

Inclusion, diversity, supporting positive mental health and introducing new voices to theatre are at the centre of Axis Ballymun’s mission statement. 

Writing about Electrolyte this week, O’Brien said that the relationship between creativity, the arts and mental health “has also been at the heart of our work in axis for many years”.

“Participation in one’s own creativity, whether that’s as a professional artist, a child, or an adult taking their first steps onto the stage or into a workshop, can have profound effects on the individual,” he said. 

This what Axis Ballymun is all about; creating a space where people can congregate, examine, be entertained, be moved, discuss, share and try out new ideas in a safe environment.

Following on from other initiatives, Axis began the Creative Space programme in 2014 – a project “exploring young men, creativity and mental health”. 

This project has taken many forms since then, including day-long creative takeovers of the Axis building to engaging seminars and peer-led workshops. O’Brien said that it was within this context that Electrolyte was being brought to the Axis. 

“To say it struck a chord would be to underestimate its profound impact on me. It spoke to our projects, to the idea of a ‘creative space’, to the drive for inclusion, to the drive to deliver top quality work that can be transformative,” he said. 

This show is at the heart of programme this season and speaks to so much of our work in Axis, particularly as we celebrate new voices and new work both on and off our stage at a local, national and international level.

Electrolyte will open night and runs until Saturday. Tickets are available here 

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Cormac Fitzgerald

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