Get a jump start on your summer reading this June through a theatricalized version of the greatest fish tale of all: Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick.
The Hopkins Center for the Arts presents Gare St Lazare Ireland’s Moby Dick, June 22 and 23, a one-actor distillation Melville’s epic. Acclaimed Irish actor Conor Lovett compresses the novel’s details, characters and gigantic themes into one riveting night of theater, reeling us into the harsh world of 19th-century whale hunting. In this battle with nature, the humans are determined to win—but at what cost?. This engrossing, one-man refresh of Melville’s 1851 novel is backed by 10-string fiddler Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh (of The Gloaming) and directed by Lovett’s spouse and artistic partner, Judy Hegarty Lovett.
The performances are enhanced by fascinating (and free) preshow talks by Dartmouth scholars at 6:30 pm in the Top of the Hop. On Saturday, Irving Institute director Elizabeth Wilson and Biological Sciences Professor Celia Chen, discuss the fascinating anatomy of whales, particularly of sperm whales like the fabled Moby Dick, and how the natural oil reservoirs in their heads help them to hunt and communicate but also made them a prime target of the whaling industry (as chronicled by Melville) in the 18th century. Today, the search for oil and gas on the ocean floor brings sonic airgun blasting that interferes with the whales’ abilities to communicate. On Sunday, hear about the modern relevance and resonance of Melville’s novel Moby-Dick from Donald Pease, the Ted and Helen Geisel Third Century Professor in the Humanities and an international authority on 19th- and 20th-century American literature. A lecture hall legend for generations of learners at Dartmouth and beyond, Pease has lectured widely on Melville and other American writers of that era, including to audiences at Mystic Seaport and the Nantucket Whaling Museum.
Since Lovett premiered the show 10 years ago, Moby Dick has toured elsewhere in Europe as well as China and throughout the United States. Now it comes to the Hop as part of the 2019 SHIFT festival – handily embodying this year’s theme, which focuses on the balance of humans and nature.
Both Irish but transplanted to Paris, the Lovetts met in the 1990s while working for the same English-language theater in Paris. They founded Gare St. Lazare Ireland 23 years ago and soon distinguished themselves with stage adaptations of prose works by Irish writer Samuel Beckett. The company also has produced acclaimed versions of Beckett’s stage plays as well as new plays written for them by some of today’s most interesting writers. Although based in Paris, the theater has a large following in Ireland, and both Judy and Conor work throughout Europe and beyond.
Moby Dick is the first American prose work they’ve taken on, and their adaptation has won high praise on both sides of the Atlantic. The Sunday Business Post wrote: “This is an intensely deliberate, focused piece of work, out of which Melville’s writing emerges as the ultimate star of what is a constrained and lovely show.” The Guardian wrote: “Lovett’s capacity to hold an audience is remarkable. His voice control and subtle shifts of expression and movement seem effortless.” The Boston Globe wrote that “Lovett delivers a performance that illustrates the power of storytelling – at least when it’s done as well as it is here – to enlist an audience for a journey of the imagination. … Such is Lovett’s capacity to evoke sensations that we can virtually feel a typhoon’s fury when Ishmael describes it, and we flinch at the ‘gush of clotted red gore’ when he recounts the killing of another, lesser whale, and we understand why Ishmael might succumb to ‘wild, mystical‘ emotions as he is caught up in Ahab’s ‘quenchless feud’ with ‘that murderous monster against whom I and all the others had taken our oaths of violence and revenge.’’’
Holding the stage for close to two hours with only a nonspeaking musician to assist you calls for masterful theatrical skills. Conor Lovett developed his starting with theater studies at Ireland’s Scoil Stiofain Naofa, in Cork, prior to attending the legendary Ecole Jacques Lecoq in Paris. He has put these skills to the test as a specialist in the notoriously difficult works of Samuel Beckett, of which Lovett is among the most celebrated interpreters. With Gare St Lazare he has performed 15 Beckett roles. For The Gate Theatre in Dublin he performed in Acts Without Words 1 and 2 and played the role of Bem in What Where at the Barbican in London in 1999. He performed the role of Lucky over sixty times in The Gate’s revival of Waiting for Godot in Dublin in 2003 and on tour to China in 2004. He performed Beckett’s A Piece of Monologue for Corcadorca in 2001 and Rubicon/Gare St Lazare in 2004. Other work includes projects for the legendary theater director Peter Brook.
On television he appears in Father Ted, Fair City. Fallout and Charlie. On the big screen he has appeared in Moll Flanders (1996), Intermission (2000), L’Entente Cordiale (2005), Small Engine Repair, (2007) and Dom (2014). He has read books and short stories on RTE and BBC Radio and has recorded Beckett’s Molloy and First Love on audio CD. In 2014 hewas awarded The Stage Award for Acting Excellence in the Fringe for his performance in Title and Deed by Will Eno, directed by Judy Hegarty Lovett.
Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh (pronouned kwee-VEEN oh-RYE-ah-la) is internationally renowned on the 10-string Hardanger d’amore, a Norwegian fiddle that has extra strings that add a haunting resonance. Previously at the Hop as part of the trans-Atlantic supergroup The Gloaming, he also performs internationally as a solo musician and in duos with Dan Trueman, Mick O’Brien and Brendan Begley, and as a member of This is How we Fly. He’s performed everywhere from intimate house concerts to the likes of the Sydney Opera House, the Royal Albert Hall and Carnegie Hall. His 17 albums to date range from traditional to “fairly out there.” He writes: “I enjoy both equally, playing the old music that I love, and exploring the region where traditional music begins to disintegrate.” Learn more about him in this profile in the Irish Examiner, and scroll down to hear an example of his ethereal compositions.