Student Insights - The Goblin Market
"For there is no friend like a sister.
In calm or stormy weather;
To cheer one on the tedious way,
To fetch one if one goes astray,
To lift one if one totters down,
To strengthen whilst one stands."
What do myself, Aideen, Georgia, Sinéad and Rosa all have in common?
We are women. Strong, passionate women who love theatre. And that’s fantastic. But, unfortunately, it’s also very, very hard.
We are still subjected to misogyny. We are still belittled by males who are present in our day to day life. We still feel we are seen and not heard. And what’s a better way to be heard than through a kick-ass devised theatre piece?
One thing we concluded pretty early on was that our piece was going to be about women, for women. We decided that we would focus on a piece that would mainly showcase the female experience, consent, sexuality and empowerment. In all honesty, Ireland’s theatrical and political climate is begging for more woman’s stories to be told. It’s also vital to discuss consent in light of the horrible rape cases which happened in Cork and Belfast, which really amplifies the social and political relevance of this piece in today’s society. We plan to showcase this and more through our FYP process.
We also knew early on that we would try to devise a physical theatre piece. Physical theatre is such an impactful way of telling a story. It enhances expression and it’s highly emotive. It’s fluid, inventive, and extremely beautiful. Telling a story of our experience as women through the use of our own bodies adds such an intense layer to our intention as well. Personally, I find movement quite difficult, and was looking forward to challenging myself during the process.
Rosa was the one to introduce us to the unique world of Goblin Market by the Victorian poet, Christina Rossetti. Instantly, we were enthralled.
Goblin Market is not a typical Victorian poem. Written in 1859, Goblin Market tells the tale of two sisters, Lizzie and Laura, who are tempted with delicious fruit by goblin men. Laura becomes infatuated once she tastes the otherworldly juices, falling into a frenzy. Lizzie scolds her sister, and reminds her of Jeanie - a bride to be who tasted the goblin men’s fruits, grew obsessed, and died after a long winter of decline. Laura, however, pines for the magical fruits, and after returning to the market with Lizzie, she is devastated to learn she can no longer hear or see the goblins. Laura grows ill, just as Jeanie did before her. Lizzie, realising Laura could die, decides to visit the goblins and buy her more fruit. When she does, they invite her to dine on the fruit, ‘come buy, come buy our orchard fruits.’ Once they realise she has no intention of eating, they attack her and try to feed her the fruits by force. Lizzie is drenched in their juices and pulp, but still does not eat.
Lizzie escapes, and begs Laura to ‘eat me, drink me, suck my juices.’ Laura, on her deathbed, does so - but finds the juices revolting and not nearly as delicious as it once was.
The next morning, however, Laura is restored to full health. Lizzie has saved her - and later, the sisters tell their children their story,, emphasising the power of sisterly love.
Goblin Market was the perfect text to adapt to tell our story of female experience. It is flooded with gorgeous imagery, from ‘bloom-down-cheek’d peaches’ to ‘Laura stretch’d her gleaming neck, like a rush-imbedded swan.’ Everything is described with an immense power and gorgeous accuracy. It is also remarkably sensual. Christina Rossetti has stated herself that although the poem is immersed in sexual imagery, she insisted the poem is for children. However, as we read and reread the poem, it suited our theme of women’s sexuality perfectly. It is especially important to us, as a group, that our sexuality and relationship with sex stops being such a taboo subject. We want to celebrate our bodies and our sex. Rossetti’s imagery does just that, specifically through the use of fruit.
The symbolism of the Goblins and the fruit is the main source of conflict in our adaptation. We’ve decided to devise our piece through the notion of growing up as a girl - from running around singing nursery rhymes and playing hide and seek, to our time as women now in University College Cork. From being told to pull down our dresses as five year olds, to walking home at night at seventeen, we are using the Goblins as our inhibitions - trying to taunt and manipulate us, while also using fruit as sexual desire. Although we are taught early on in our lives that it is wrong to eat the fruit, our piece will show women that it’s perfectly fine to eat the fruit. In fact, it’s great to go RAVISH that fruit!
An aspect of our production we’re especially excited about is our sound design. We have teamed up with the wonderful James May, who is studying for an MA in Experimental Sound Practice. As James describes it, the soundscape is primarily built around field recordings of locations in Cork and recordings of the performers speaking, manipulated to create different senses of space and structure. It adds a certain feeling of suspense and heightens the mood of the piece quite significantly. Each piece of sound is there for a reason, to portray our intentions and the theme behind each section to the audience. We are very excited to be working with James, and cannot wait for you all to hear what he has designed!
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