A modern adaptation of the epic Irish poem Cúirt An Mhéan Oíche / The Midnight Court, written in the 1700s by Brian Merriman: An Chúirt (The Court) is a very peculiar, Irish-spoken short film in competition at the 10th Irish Film Festa (March 30th – April 2nd, Rome).
We spoke to the director Seán T. Ó Meallaigh, who was our guest also last year as an actor in two Gaeilge productions, tv series 1916 Seachtar na Cásca and An Klondike.
How would you describe the Irish poem Cúirt An Mhéan Oíche to an Italian audience?
The poem is hilarious! Considering it was written in the 18th century, I couldn’t believe how bold and relevant it was to modern life. It takes a similar form to many poems that were written in Ireland at the time – where a vision of a beautiful woman visits the poet and asks him to help her. Normally the woman, representing Ireland, asks the man to rise up and free her from the foreign occupation that she is under, but in Cúirt an Mhéan Oíche the woman’s problem is that men of Ireland are reluctant to marry. The poet then finds himself at the centre of a debate about men’s fear of commitment, adulterous women, illegitimate children, the abolishment of marriage and the punishment of men who don’t get married!
And what about your own contemporary and funny take on Merriman’s story?
What I wanted to do with the short film was to try to capture some of the madness and humour of the original poem, while also incorporating some of the superficialities of modern life. But most importantly, I wanted to go beyond the end of the poem. I think the poem ends quite abruptly, giving the character no opportunity to act on the ordeal that he has experiences. I was afraid that this would be dissatisfactory to an audience (and me!). So, I wanted to explore how affected the character would be by the encounter and to see if, given a chance, would he be able to change his ways?
Being an actor, what is it like to direct other actors on set?
I had the good fortune of acting in productions with Séamus Hughes and Michelle Beamish (the two main actors) before we did this project. I knew that they would be more than capable to bring these characters to life! Having spent so much time on the actor’s side of the Actor-Director relationship, I knew what kind of guidance helps me (and what doesn’t!) so it’s about trying to tailor your direction to best help each actor. The beautiful (and challenging) thing is that everyone is different, but if you manage to find a way to communicate your idea, and inspire the actor, you often end up with something even greater than you had imagined.