May 10, 2022

‘FREEHOUSE’ Makes a Madhouse of the Beckett Theatre

Pan Pan's latest production is an afternoon-long affair where audience members can come and go as they please.

Anastasia FedosovaDeputy Theatre Editor
Sinéad Baker for The University Times

The Beckett Theatre has been transformed to welcome Pan Pan’s FREEHOUSE, a production that blurs the boundaries between theatre, performance, and exhibition. Running May 7th to 21st for a wonderfully accessible price, FREEHOUSE can be best described as a “happening” that, among other things, includes live music, movie screening, nerf gun shooting, actors’ diaries, and a bar counter. The audiences are welcome to come at any time from 3pm to 9pm and stay for as long as they wish, exploring fourteen various stations spread around the Beckett and interacting with the material presented. The University Times spoke to the director Gavin Quinn about the conceptual development of FREEHOUSE.

The title of the production goes back to the Irish teenagers during the 1990s. At the time, free houses were spaces free from the parents’ or guardians’ strict eyes, where adolescents would gather to have an intellectual conversation, read books, listen to music, have a drink or simply do nothing. These meetings played an important part in the teenagers’ development, combining existentialist literature and the game of spin the bottle. Quinn recalled freehouses as “creative spaces”’where one could “express themselves” and “get inspired”, simultaneously “learning so much”.

Quinn revealed that the rehearsal space of FREEHOUSE was turned into a similar creative space. The rehearsal process was recorded in the form of photos available as one of the exhibits, as well as diaries kept at the time by five actors, Andrew Bennett, Faith Jones, Anthony Morris, Gina Moxley, Anna Sheils and assistant director Signe Lury, and Quinn himself. Each diary is accompanied by an audio recording made by the respective creator. They vary in writing styles and format, and blend the real stories about real people with the fantasy plot of Peter Pan and the Lost Boys, a theme partially evoked by frequent mistaking of the Pan Pan theatre company’s name for JM Barrie’s character.


This blending of reality and fiction is an overarching theme of FREEHOUSE. The production tackles the notions as complicated as the Peter Pan syndrome or the idea of being trapped in childhood and not wanting to take the responsibilities of adulthood: the so-called Wendy syndrome that refers to over-motherly behaviour; the void and nada in an existentialist sense. It asks the questions born in free-course open-minded teenage conversations like “What am I for?” and “What is the meaning of life?” and “Where are we all going?”. FREEHOUSE deals with these and other concepts carefully, yet in a light and humorous manner.

Billed as “The Attempted Suicide of Representational Theatre”, that is the theatre that ignores the audiences and treats them as mere observers of the action, FREEHOUSE depends on its viewers. The people are expected to interact with the exhibits: not just watch and read, but also spin the bottle, shoot the nerf gun, and mix a cocktail. The live element consists of live music, that will be played intermittently and unannounced, and multiple actors, who “will move around the space and perform various action, but being very much in another world, in a dream-state,” as described by Quinn. There is no fourth wall between the performers and the audience in FREEHOUSE.

The director elaborated that FREEHOUSE was partially created as a space for people to just go to and “hang out for the day”. Quinn would be curious to see “how they piece the material presented together” as well as “what they feel like when they leave”. “Hopefully they will leave and they will think about it for a day or two,” said Quinn, further explaining that there is no fixed interpretation of FREEHOUSE, but a hope that the production will bring its audiences back to the state when they could muse over big universal question, concurrently not feeling the pressure of being efficient and productive all the time. A unique piece of theatre, FREEHOUSE will help the audiences understand something about themselves while also allowing them to have a bit of fun.

FREEHOUSE runs at the Beckett Theatre from May 7th to 21st from 3pm to 9pm. Admission is €5.

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