Blog: Adding Voice to a Different Body by Mairéad Folan

27 July 2022

Production shot of Luke by NoRopes Theatre - photo by Emilija Jefremova
Production shot of Luke by NoRopes Theatre - photo by Emilija Jefremova

By Mairéad Folan, PUSH+ Different Bodies Lab participant.

I’m Mairéad Folan, Artistic Director of the Irish theatre company, NoRopes. In the seven years of existence, NoRopes has focussed on new productions of innovative and little-known dramatic works, with one of the aims being to counteract the lack of diverse representation on the Irish stage. NoRopes’ most recent production, Luke, which was staged on the Town Hall Theatre, Galway’s Main Stage on 31 March – 2 April 2022. This was my debut as playwright and performer for NoRopes. It was also NoRopes’ debut on the main stage. I can honestly say that there is no show like Luke out there. This is because the title character is not in fact human but a 30-year-old walking frame. Quick synopsis of the show: Luke is a classic tale of survival, adventure and friendship . Meet the handsome if somewhat lived-in looking Luke (voiced by Barry Hopkins) and his sidekick Mairéad. Together they negotiate the perils of the Irish education system, the dance floor, love and loss. He has always been a guy she could lean on but can their unique bond survive the ultimate challenge?  Luke is a comic yet moving play that asks some tough questions about society. It also questions how we perceive ourselves and others.

It’s a challenge to animate an inanimate object such as Luke. Having Barry perform as Luke’s voice live definitely helped the process but the design of the music and sound really helped the audience to engage with the character Luke. Peter Mannion’s sound design for this production was centred around three pointed themes - the sounds (created by) of Luke and secondly the song Space Oddity by Bowie and finally the use of the written text as a basis in emancipatory dance music. Press Play below to hear a taster of Luke’s soundscape:

You can listen to some of the soundtrack here.

In working on reimagining the song Space Oddity Peter took the approach that the theme and the harmonic structure be separated allowing him to use different soundscapes to present the song - for example what would it sound like with Asian instruments etc and how would this match the emotional themes of a particular scene on stage.

The use of Luke to make noise was a fulfilling project for Peter, he stated the sounds that he collected from Luke sounded perfect for the percussion on a tango. This resulted in the main theme becoming a tango. Peter took inspiration from the Disney film Fantasia where the brooms became alive and also the use of this in a much more modern way by the group Little Big on their song AK47 in order to bring Luke to life onstage.

Finally - in creating some of the bigger songs for the production Peter used certain phrases from the script as central platforms for the music. For example, the dance tracks all featured the looped / edited / remixed recorded vocals of the cast. He wanted to ensure that the lyrical theme was positive - like in all good dance music from the 90s into the 2000s the music and lyrics should be emancipatory. so using phrases within the play that were derogatory Peter took derogatory phrases within the script and swapped them around to create an atmosphere where the main characters could experience a space of great freedom and give the subliminal message that art that is inclusive.  Press the button below to hear a taster of Luke’s soundscape.

The production received a great reception in Galway and it will be staged in Axis: Ballymun in Dublin, late November 2022. We are at the beginning stages of planning a national tour of Luke for 2023.  Please contact NoRopes at if you would like tour updates and/or interested in sponsoring the tour.

Mairéad Folan took part in the PUSH+ Different Bodies Lab in January 2022. You can read more about her here