Pan Pan Theatre Company – An Archival Journey
Pan Pan Theatre Company was co-founded in Dublin 1993 by Aedín Cosgrove and Gavin Quinn. Since the early 1990s, Pan Pan have toured extensively internationally, from Europe to Asia and from Australia to the United States, developing and creating over fifty theatre productions, a major international theatre symposium series, as well as a number of other original theatre and film projects. Today, as one of Ireland’s leading theatre companies, the multi-award winning Pan Pan Theatre Company have continually pushed the boundaries of form and practice of theatre production from within Ireland, through a cultural and theatrical collision of form, sound, image, and word.
Starting out as a company dedicated to inclusivity and to new forms of theatre expression and experience, Pan Pan created work by and for deaf actors and audiences. Since its founding in 1993, Pan Pan have consistently reconsidered the work they produce as well as the engagement between Irish and international theatre forms. As the company has outlined:
All the works created are original, either through the writing (original plays) or through the totally unique expression of established writings. Pan Pan tries to approach theatre as an open form of expression and has developed an individual aesthetic that has grown from making performances in a host of different situations and conditions.
In 1993, Pan Pan premiered a double-bill of The Crystal Spider and The Man With Two Kisses, performed at the Samuel Beckett Centre, Trinity College, Dublin, where both Cosgrove and Quinn had previously graduated. Throughout the 1990s, Pan Pan developed and performed shows which played with the idea of a theatrical language, laying a greater emphasis on the visual aspect and a multi-sensory performance model. The company was committed to touring from their early years, performing widely at international festivals and sometimes even premiering their productions outside of Ireland.
In 1995, Pan Pan won their first major prize with A Bronze Twist of Your Serpent Muscles, which received the Dublin Fringe Award. In the same year, Pan Pan developed the multimedia performance piece City, which took place in a specially designed amphitheatre in Dublin’s Blackrock Park, in a collaboration showcasing Pan Pan’s engagement between the performance and visual arts.
By 2000, Pan Pan produced and performed over ten new productions and won growing international critical acclaim. Awards included Best Production at the Adelaide Festival, Australia, with Standoffish (2000) as well as numerous Irish Times Theatre Awards in production, design, sound and lighting. Pan Pan continued to produce original plays alongside many adaptations, and frequently collaborated with other companies and theatre practitioners from Ireland and internationally.
One of Pan Pan’s standout original multidisciplinary works was One: Healing With Theatre (2005), an ambitious film project involving 100 actors, 100 rooms, and 100 audience members, this performance piece explored the question, “Why do you think you became an actor?” In addition to the live performance, One was published as a photography book and screened as a 14-hour film, directed by Pan Pan’s Co-Artistic Directors Gavin Quinn and Aedín Cosgrove. One was nominated for a Judge’s Special Award at the Irish Times Theatre Awards in 2006, and described in the Irish Times as “... in its scope and freshness of vision it is like nothing Irish theatre has accomplished before. Nor does it try to be”.
From 1997 to 2003, Pan Pan organised the ground-breaking Dublin International Theatre Symposium alongside their regular theatre programming. This unique symposium fused artists in conversation with leading international companies and soon grew to be a significant event on the annual Irish theatrical calendar. Over the course of six days, companies from a variety of countries all over the world came to Dublin to give talks, performances, and workshops, providing the participating theatre practitioners with the opportunity to meet and learn from each other, and providing audiences with the opportunity to see how diverse and complex theatre can be.
In 2004, Pan Pan produced their first Shakespeare adaptation: Mac-beth 7. Now established for over a decade, Pan Pan had made a major contribution to contemporary Irish and international theatre. “At this point”, Gavin Quinn stated that, “after ten years in existence I believe there is a great source of accumulated knowledge which we are trying to bring to the attention of the audience for their stimulation. And we hope to invoke a sincerely individual response, which is very important for theatre. Art equips you to deal with life.”
Further engagement with Shakespeare came with a later adaptation of Hamlet, produced in 2010, entitled The Rehearsal, Playing the Dane. This premiered in 2010 at the Dublin Theatre Festival and toured Ireland, America, Australia, New Zealand and China, and won Best Production and Best Set Design at the 2010 Irish Times Theatre Awards. Other Shakespeare adaptations and productions include Everyone is King Lear in Their Own Home (2012) and 2017’s The Tempest, in collaboration with the German company, Theatre Bonn.
Pan Pan have also adapted works by several European playwrights, starting with 1995’s Madamoiselle Flic Flac in the Red Room, an adaptation of Swedish playwright August Strindberg’s Damascus plays. Later adaptations include works by Henrik Ibsen (A Doll House, 2012), Anton Chekhov (The Seagull and Other Birds, 2014), and Bertolt Brecht (The Good House of Happiness, 2017), exploring all of these play’s underlying messages and style Pan Pan’s own unique form of performance, blending physical and visual storytelling. Pan Pan did not limit their scope to Europe, however; in 2006, the company produced John Millington Synge’s Playboy of the Western World in Mandarin, with an all-Chinese cast, which was performed in the Oriental Pioneer Theatre in Beijing. In the following years, Pan Pan produced two more plays with an all-Chinese cast: Do Di Zhu (Fight the Landlord) in 2010, and The Good House of Happiness in 2017.
Pan Pan has established a renowned legacy of innovative performances of works by Samuel Beckett. In 2011, Pan Pan produced Beckett's radio play, All That Fall, at the Project Arts Centre in Dublin. Beckett’s works have featured in Pan Pan’s repertoire numerus times since, with Embers (2013), Endgame (2019) and What is the Word (2020), a “sensory journey” into Beckett’s poems as part of an instillation at the Museum of Literature Ireland (MOLI).
This digital exhibition provides an overview of Pan Pan’s many highlights and achievements since their foundation in 1993. It showcases the unique style and aims of one of Ireland’s most exciting and daring companies. Pan Pan is a company which seeks to continuously renew itself and the experience of theatregoing itself, bringing their audience on a journey into a collision of liveness in all its forms. The exhibition includes digitised programmes and posters, set designs, production and rehearsal photographs, production notes, among other materials all sourced from the Pan Pan Theatre Company Archive held at University of Galway Library.
Pan Pan Theatre Company Archive – Dr. Barry Houlihan
Digital Exhibition Curation: Aafke Van Pelt
Digital Exhibition Infrastructure: Eimhin Joyce, Dr. Cillian Joy, Aisling Keane
Thank you to Gavin Quinn and Aedín Cosgrove for their support on this archive project and exhibition.
We remember Aoife White who was part of this archival journey into the records and memory of Pan Pan Theatre Company. Aoife provided great help and supports on making the archive accessible and in preparation for the archive project. Her work as a producer and manager is present all across the archive, documented in countless records, showcasing her energy, vision, and commitment to making theatre happen, wherever it happened.