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International Children's Festival showcases The Libravian

The family friendly Irish play introduces a quirky librarian who brings four adventurous books to life
James Riordan stars in the Irish play, The Libravian, coming to the International Children's Festival of the Arts from May 30 to June 2.

One of the most fascinating stereotypes of the English language is the librarian. We think of a librarian as a middle-aged, bun-wearing, shushing spinster who wears comfortable shoes. 

But in the International Children’s Festival of the Arts mainstage production of The Libravian, we meet a quirky character who takes the audience into the magical realm of books. 

This 40-minute show explores themes of fear and courage, curiosity and identity using four masterly Irish stories accompanied by heartfelt physical comedy.   

Developed by Ireland’s Brú Theatre, Lynn is a lovely old-fashioned librarian who wears comfy shoes, a jazzy cardigan and pouffy hair. Performed by artistic director James Riordan, a theatre maker from Galway, Lynn reveals a love of literature, the lyricism of the language and delight in discovering the power of words. 

“I come from a physical theatre background, the Lecoq-based theatre. I’m more interested in creating work with a team than performing with a written script,” said Riordan. 

He set up Brú Theatre in 2018 after spending years abroad in Japan, London and Berlin with ENO and Absurda Comica as well as performing as core member of The LipSinkers, a UK drag troupe who mime to pop songs.  

Riordan’s return to Ireland was prompted by his interest in creating non-traditional physical theatre. 

“I have a great interest in libraries and books. I wanted to encourage literacy and the enjoyment of reading which appears to be disappearing,” Riordan. 

The Libravian was inspired in part by his childhood library that hosted charade competitions which he and his best friend consistently won. 

“I have great memories of those competitions and of reading for pleasure. When I wrote the play, I needed to hit that sweet spot between physical comedy and championing books.” 

The four diverse books he features are by Irish authors Patricia Forde, Meg Grehan, Christine Hamill and Jane Mitchell. 

“I wanted to have a mix and a strong selection of female writers. I also wanted different types and literary styles so you could go on an exciting journey.” 

Forde’s youth novel The Wordsmith is a gripping story set in a dystopian world caused by global warming. It follows the villagers of Ark and the rule of law, which gradually prohibits the use of words. 

“It has a brilliant opening, and she creates these brilliant images throughout.” 

Jane Mitchell’s A Dangerous Crossing follows a 13-year-old Kurdish boy and his family who escape Syria and endure gunfire, a tear gas attack and the hopelessness of life as a refugee. 

“It’s a very evocative adventure with a great deal of adventure.” 

Grehan’s The Deepest Breath is a middle grade novel-in-verse about a young girl dealing with anxiety and numerous issues within her life including feelings about her friend Chloe. 

“It’s a poem of being in love with someone in your class. The writing is very lyrical and beautiful.” 

In The Best Medicine, Hamill writes about Philip, a 12-year-old boy who leads a good life despite girl, teacher, bully and poetry problems. Life is disrupted when Mum develops breast cancer. He just wishes she developed a less embarrassing cancer such as toe cancer or ear cancer. 

“It’s about being bullied and standing up and finding strength in yourself. It’s about standing up for yourself — sometimes in humorous ways.” 

Lynn uses music and physical comedy to tell stories of bravery and identity. 

“I think the strengths are the great mix of stories, the physical comedies, and the joyous journey into the imagination of books. These powerful elements combine and work for us.” 

The festival runs May 30 to June 2. Tickets for The Libravian are $18.25. Call 780-459-1542 or visit 

Anna Borowiecki

About the Author: Anna Borowiecki

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