As Co-Artistic Director of ANU Productions Owen Boss’s work includes: Pals the Irish at Gallipoli (National Museum of Ireland), Beautiful Dreamers (Limerick City of Culture), Vardo (Dublin Theatre Festival 2014), Angel Meadow (Home Commission, Manchester), THIRTEEN (Dublin Fringe Festival 2013), Living the Lockout The Dublin Tenement Experience (2013), Boys of Foley Street (Dublin Theatre Festival 2012), Laundry (Dublin Theatre Festival 2011), World’s End Lane (Dublin Fringe Festival 2010), Fingal Ronan (Robert Wilson Watermill Center New York 2010) and Basin (Dublin Fringe Festival 2009).
Owen holds a Masters of Fine Art at the National College of Art and Design, Ireland and has exhibited widely.
- Irish Times Theatre Awards Best Production 2011 for 'Laundry' (ANU Productions)
Taking place in Ancoats, Manchester the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution, Angel Meadow was sited in a derelict pub, the Edinburgh Castle, which stood on the street corner since the early nineteenth century until its closure in 2002. As with all of ANU’s work, Angel Meadow was made within a studio context utilising the creativity and expertise of all artists present in order to create a multilayered and multifaceted work that crosses artistic disciplines.
The work was inspired by the 19th century experience of Irish migrants escaping poverty and famine to Industrial Manchester. Through intimate encounters and installations, the audience was brought on an immersive journey in contemporary Anocats, an area undergoing regeneration but once described as ‘Hell Upon Earth’ by Friedrich Engels. In our research we uncovered an area that was overcrowded, dangerous and in perpetual twilight where gangs called Scuttlers roamed the streets and territorial combat was a way of life. The building was divided into four spaces, the basement, the ground floor public house, the first floor residential space and an adjoining fourth space we used as a modern apartment.
The basement, an abattoir was inspired by accounts of the Irish living with cattle in the family home. The ground floor was restored to a dingy pub complete with a games room and a backroom for bare knuckle fighting. The first floor had a living room, a bedroom, a kitchen, a taxidermy room, an artificial garden and a bathroom with a video installation.
CITIZEN X was made in collaboration with Louise Lowe, sound designer Carl Kennedy and actor Dee Burke and looked at housing issues facing Dubliners in 1913 and 2013, drawing parallels between the Church Street Tenement Collapse and Priory Hall residents. The work featured live performance, large-scale projection and a sound piece and was one part of thirteen pieces that built incrementally over the Dublin Fringe Festival 2013.
Audiences met at Jervis St Luas stop with a thirty-minute soundscape downloaded to their phones/mp3 players. The audience was asked to take a trip on the Luas. Headphones and an audio piece consisting of three voices were chosen to aid an intimacy between audience and the work. The first voice that of ‘the Luas lady’ becomes a voice that is both informative and instructive.
The audience’s attention is drawn to a girl in a red jacket who has boarded the Luas. The audience follows the girl in the red jacket, a tangible symbol representing the inequality of the 1913 lockout and more acutely, its present day manifestation. The audience watch her against the backdrop of her life. Through large-scale projection at the Art Park they see domestic images of her, husband and baby, interwoven with archival text and domestic images of 1913. The audience view the young woman as she cleans the deserted offices of Spencer Dock, all the while being privy to her thoughts, mounting mortgage repayments and fears for the future. The piece culminates with an explosion of body and sound after which the girl in the red jacket returns to cleaning and the audience are asked to leave.
The Boys of Foley Street (Dublin Theatre Festival 2012) explored the regeneration of the North Inner City of Dublin during the decade 1971-1981. Taking its lead from a radio documentary made in 1975 by Irish broadcaster Pat Kenny in which he interviewed four young boys about their lives, families, ambitions and their involvement with petty crime, we worked closely with local youth projects exploring the community of the 1970s. Remaking the radio documentary by asking the same questions as asked in 1975 we produced a new sound piece intertwining both interviews.
This sound piece formed the start of the actual production and findings from both documentaries were used as a framework for our larger exploration. We also worked to produce a video piece (through the use of a large-scale projector), was publicly installed on the wall of what was the old cinema. In making this production we thought a lot about technology and how it has changed our cultural landscape and so embedded Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology into the show, creating a space whereby the audience curated and cued the performance based on their personal decisions. Mini computers captured an audience’s movement, and based on these choices sound and lights were triggered.
The production staged experiences of masculinity characterised by ‘rage and oblivion’ in Foley Street and the surrounding neighbourhood, looking at the area throughout a period of immense change, the demolition of tenement housing, the impact and rise of heroin, the Dublin/Monaghan bombings, the Concerned Parents against drugs movement and ultimately a community imploding in on itself.