‘Niki na Meadhra performed her one-woman show, Dancing the Bones of Irish Myth and Legend, to a mixed audience of Celtophiles, Narrato-philes, and some enthralled adults and children, at the Celtic Club on Sunday 29 March. It was storytelling taken to the next level -Art, a melding of fine acting and fine story-telling. She is an experienced actor, who is passionate about her Irish heritage, and relishes its extravagance, comedy and craftiness.’ Dr Frances Devlin-Glass
Niki na Meadhra is passionate about her Irish heritage; her knowledge of Irish story is deep, giving her telling a richness that is satisfying and powerful. Her most recent show is called Dancing the Bones of Irish Myth and Legend.
Q. Niki, you recently performed Dancing the Bones at the Melbourne Celtic Club to a spellbound audience. For those who couldn't be there, can you tell us a little about this project?
Dr Frances Devlin-Glass saw my show at Words On The Wind with Storytelling Australia Victoria and we got talking about the possibility of developing some of the Irish warrior legends for a fund-raiser for Bloomsday 2015. It was a challenge but a great opportunity for me to get some these epic tales under my belt. It was also an opportunity to weave in my favourite tales of the ancient Irish Crone, the Cailleach. Working concurrently on a show about my ancestors for Scotch College lead to incorporating some parts of their stories into the show as a way of showing my personal connection to these legends.
Q. What draws you so strongly to exploring your Irish heritage?
Exploring my Irish ancestry has been a passion for many years and has given me a potent sense of my cultural identity, my roots. This is something I have longed for and been curious about ever since I was a very fair-skinned little girl. It has been great to discover strong, unconventional female role-models in these stories, the extravagant, vibrant tales of the heroes and the deep cultural love of a story.
Q. Can you tell us about your name: 'na Meadhra'?
I gave myself the name ‘na Meadhra’ when I turned 50. Naming myself was a powerful thing to do in many ways, including honouring and claiming my Irishness. It translates as 'of the sea'. My family have long been coast dwellers, I was always in boats as a child, almost drowned at 12 and love nothing better than strolling a beach. Since my first trip to Ireland in 2008, which affected me deeply, I feel I inhabit the waters between this land I was born in and that land that holds my deepest roots and the stories of my ancestors.
Q. You are well known in Melbourne for the series of storytelling evenings that you curated at the Abbotsford Convent. Can you tell us about 'Enchanted Evening' and are there any plans for another series?
‘Enchanted Evening’ was presented monthly at Abbotsford Convent, in 2012 and 2013. The format included collaborations with many Melbourne-based storytellers and musicians. It was a night of stories and music, served up with a tasty supper, in the atmospheric Bishop’s Parlour. It was wonderful to do and generously supported, but it had its day. I will have a lot of new work coming up this year, but it won't be in the Enchanted Evening format. I’m just about to leave my studio at Abbotsford Convent. A new chapter is beginning in my storytelling work.
Q. You are off to Ireland again in September?
Yes! I've been invited to be a guest storyteller at Sneem International Storytelling Festival - which I'm delighted about! I've also lined up a show in Waterford, where my ancestors most recently left Ireland from. It will be a moving event for me. Visiting Bunmahon the first time had a visceral impact. I have several months to prepare for this next trip and hope to organize several more performances, some study, and some adventures for my travels. I might even include some storytelling in Scotland. Looking forward to it! I will return with a swag of tales, no doubt!
To learn more about Niki na Meadhra and Dancing the Bones I encourage you to go to the Tinteán online magazine (an initiative of the Australian Irish Heritage Network) and read the article posted by Dr Frances Devlin-Glass. HERE
‘The choice of material and welding of it together was mistress-ful, and structurally very satisfying, beginning with fantasy, moving into gentle feminism, and ending up with the mad OTT hero. It is not easy to find a pathway through conflicting and multiple versions, but Niki did just that, and made it look easy, which it emphatically is not.’
Congratulations Niki. Storytelling Australia Vic love your stories and wish you well for you next Irish adventure.
You can follow Niki na Meadhra on Facebook HERE
Posted by Jackie Kerin for SAV