Ready, Steady, SHOW! is The Civic’s Festival for Young Audiences. Earlier this year we invited some of the best practitioners in this field to come and play at The Civic and present their ideas and to apply for our Ready Steady SHOW! Commissions and Artist Development Programme. We are delighted to announce the recipients and are excited to work with them and support the development of their ideas as we find new and innovative ways of engaging and reimagining work for 0 – 12 year olds during COVID-19.

Super Paua have been commissioned €2.5 k for the development of their theatre piece ‘Knapsack’. We had a chat with the Super Paua to find out a little more about their plans.

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself, where you are from, based now and your background in the Arts?
Super Paua is a collective lead by Sian Ní Mhuirí, a playwright, and theatre-maker who specialises in socially-engaged performance. She graduated from Central School of Speech and Drama, London, and her previous writing for stage credits include award-winning children’s play Aunty Ben, 16 & Rising, The Lonsdale Project and Te Rōhi (premiering 2021).  Writing for children’s TV includes episodes of new series Royals Next Door and Stories From Backwoods (Ink & Light, premiering 2021).  Sian lives and works in Dublin.  Heather Rose is Super Paua’s producer- she’s Canadian via 12 years in London, and moved to rural Sligo in 2019 where she has a toddler, a dog and a small herd of Shetland ponies.  Her past work includes programmer for touring network house, and producing for Pleasance Theatre.   Mark Ball is Super Paua’s engagement coordinator.  He lives and works in Dublin, and has extensive experience in youth facilitation and workshops.  He is also a theatremaker and director, and works at the Science Gallery as well.

Can you tell us a little bit about the recent things you have been working on ?
Most recently we were producing a play of Sian’s called The Lonsdale Project, a crystallographic comedy for ages 11+ about Irish-born scientist Kathleen Lonsdale, who discovered the structure of benzene, wrote a book about pacifism and was incarcerated in Holloway Prison for anti-war activism but is little-known outside the scientific community.  Unfortunately the run was cancelled after its first performance due to Covid-19!  We have since been working on a series of commissioned audio stories for young people we’re calling Super Paua Stories, recorded by professional actors in their homes during lockdown.  In fact the first of these launched on Friday, 5 June!

Can you tell us a little bit about what you are working on for Ready Steady, SHOW! The idea, the audience where you are at at the minute?
We were originally planned to use the Lámh communication system to create a physical, multi-sensory piece for early years and neurodiverse audiences, but after chatting to the Civic and discussing the project with our partners, we’ve put that project on the long finger (no pun intended).  While we are committed to the idea and still developing it steadily (aided by the amazing free training Lámh is providing online!), we felt that we didn’t know enough about how our piece responded to our varied audiences needs, and we feel that it’s worth waiting for a time when Covid-19 is less of a risk to such audiences to try to meet and play in person. Instead, we chose another project we had in our arsenal that feels meant for digital platforms – something that excites us and which we feel would be aided and curiously transformed, rather than hampered, through a digital make-over. Enter the interactive world of Knapsack – a survivalist romp for ages 7+! Knapsack is a digital theatre experience which asks the audience to explore packing, moving, and being prepared to survive in a changing world.  The audience will question the content of their backpacks as they embark on a journey, and prompt them to explore what values are most useful in a crisis. Does sentimentality or brutality saves you when the world is ending? And what tools children need when they are far from home?   Following on from the interests and ‘STEAM’y curiosities that led us to The Lonsdale Project, Knapsack has a scientific slant as well as a social one.  The show will utilise and explore the Knapsack Problem, a ‘combinatorial optimization algorithm’. In other words, how much good stuff you can fit into a small space, without going over a certain limit.  At the minute we are feeling confident about the main themes and methods of digital delivery, but need to develop a strong team, including partnerships to develop the STEM aspects, and we need to take time to develop the character and script with R&Ds along the way.

What’s life like under Quarantine, how have you been working/ engaging, any insights about life or the Arts?
One thing we have discovered as a company is that quarantine feels very different depending if you are in the city or the country, and if you have children or not!  Heather struggles to find enough time to devote to work but has 12 acres of outside space to roam in, while Sian and Mark are more confined physically, but are finding that more time doesn’t always mean more productive time.  As a team we miss being together in a room, working with creatives in a playful and physical way rather than over Zoom- directing audio pieces remotely was quite a challenge!  We miss our office in Rua Red, Tallaght – we miss the friendly front desk banter (we love you Shannon!) and the cafe and our props library full of fake fondant fancies, suitcases, fairy lights and Leo Varadkar masks.   Most of all we miss our audiences and collaborators. Collaborative projects in communities is a big part of what we do, and Sian and Mark would usually be facilitating workshops every week.  The ability to get in a room and play games with people is the biggest loss to our company – despite the fact that we’ve had well over twenty Irish and UK shows cancelled in lockdown alone! But plays are only some of what we do, and the rest involves facilitation, which really suffers when you can’t look someone in the eye, listen to them in real time and space, and eat biscuits with them. Sian’s big into biscuits and keenly feels the tragedy of having to eat them alone (a loose application of the word tragedy, but one she stands by).

Tell us a random fact about yourselves for fun!
Between us we speak English, Irish, French, Spanish and some Sorani Kurdish and Te Reo Maori.  Not bad eh?


Ready, Steady, SHOW! developments will take place over the Summer & into the Autumn. Stay tuned to our Social Media Channels for more!