It’s a cold hoor of a night in the Capital as I navigate past the post-hurricane Barney flotsam and debris blowing around Smithfield; brushing past the late evening commuters, the early Friday night revellers, the homeless and the hopeless as I make for the warm maternal embrace of the Cobblestone to catch Aindrias de Staic’s second night of his sold out one man show, ‘The Man from Moogaga’.
For those not familiar with him, De Staic is the fiddle playing frontman of pioneering gyp-hop outfit the Latchikos, he’s recently been seen moonlighting as a bit of a Hardy Buck on Network 2 and he can also be found on TG4 as the silver-tongued gaelgoir presenter of the strangely compelling An Jig Rig.
No doubt he’s a man of many talents and tonight sees him playing another string of his bow.
‘The Man From Moogaga’ casts De Staic in full seanchaí mode, regaling us with his yarns and flights of fancy as he tells the tale of a young man from the Wild Whest of Moogaga, Co Mayo. It’s a rites of passage story of which finds our eponymous hero searching for his place in the grand scheme of things. Throughout the performance De Staic uses his exquisite fiddle playing to adorn and embellish the narrative.
Like a raggle taggle Pied Piper, De Staic, raconteur extraordinaire casts his spell on the audience and leads us on a merry dance of fancy, whimsy and magical realism as we follow the trials and tribulations of our protagonist. The journey is set against the back drop of rural 1980s Ireland and it’s against this setting that De Staic draws on our collective childhood memories to great comedic effect as the saga of Moogaga and its denizens unfurls before us like life’s rich tapestry.
The story is embroidered with tales of simple island life, the muck and guts pursuit of juvenile football glory, abortive attempts at courting lassies, dodgy chipper vans and temperamental juke boxes. Moogaga’s universe is populated by lads consumed by mushroom madness, supping on Beetlejuice and eating deep fried Wibbly Wobbly Wonders for sustenance. Even the bane of every Irish schoolchild life, the conditional tense of the “modh coinniolach” gets an airing in tonight’s storytelling.
The hero of the piece spends his formative years in search of his rhythm. The easy rhythms of his island’s pastoral life giving way to the faster beat of the town and beyond as he journey’s forth into adulthood.
And it’s this driving rhythm that sustains and propels De Staic’s performance. Every spoken syllable pops and crackles as it’s made to dance to the tune that the fiddler calls. With his eyes popping out of his head like a startled hare peeping out from under a gorse bush, he leaps from barefoot to barefoot as he almost trance-like brings us on his magic carpet ride of wonder. The performance is half seanchaí, half shaman, half ‘Fiddler of Dooney” with a whallop of Flann O’Brien thrown into the mix for good measure.
It’s pure “Whest Of Ireland Shtyle” that may initially seem at odds with the hipster heads of the North Inner City’s cultural centre but De Staic’s disarming charm and mastery of his craft bridges the town and country divide.
He has taken an ancient form of storytelling and updated it with his own distinctive style. It’s an absolute pleasure to witness something so intrinsically Irish, something that is both modern and ancient at the same time. As it was with our ancestors of old, we’re drawn like moths to the warm glow of the storyteller’s presence.
As I venture back out in to the bitter cold of the night, dodging the brass balls that are rolling up Smithfield Market, leaving the laughter and warmth behind, thoughts turn to recent events in Paris. It’s a week to the day when fellow Friday night seekers of kicks and merriment were brutally taken. Their laughter forever silenced by forces that would deny us of that most fundamentally human expression. But as surely as day follows night, out of the darkness will come light, out of despair hope and out of tears, laughter. And tonight Paris, we laughed for you.