Northern Ireland’s Cahoots theater company brings wonder to Jones Center

Northern Ireland’s Cahoots theater company brings wonder to Jones Center

In “cahoots” might be someplace you think you don’t want be, because it often has a negative connotation. But in reality, the colloquial phrase comes from old French for “hut” — or home — and the first synonym for it is “alliance.”

And that pretty much explains interactive theater company Cahoots of Belfast, Northern Ireland, and the “University of Wonder & Imagination” show, born during the pandemic when all of the theaters were closed.

“It was created originally as a piece of Zoom theater and streamed live into people’s homes,” says cast member Catriona McFeely. “It was designed so that each performer had their own ‘section’ of the show to keep everyone safe during that time, so that the show could continue to go on.

“I wasn’t a part of the original cast, but I am thrilled to be joining for the live tour of the show,” McFeely adds.

The 22-venue tour of North America, which started in January, comes with both live actors and a large digital cast and combines magic and illusion with multimedia technology for what Cahoots promises will be an innovative experience that will spark your imagination.

The tour stops Feb. 17 at the Jones Center in Springdale for the next edition of FamJam Saturday, a series intended to bring families together to move, play and imagine.

McFeely answered three questions for What’s Up!

Q. How did you fall in love with theater and start performing?

A. I was quite shy as a child, so my mum enrolled me in anything and everything to try and get me to come out of my shell — and I’m so thankful to her for that! I went to drama, singing, piano and dance as a kid and loved all of it. She has old videos of me and my sister choreographing our own dances to Britney Spears songs, which are hilarious to look back on. So it all started from there really. I studied drama throughout my time in secondary school and then applied to go to drama school in London when I was 18. I was lucky enough to get a place at Royal Central School of Speech and Drama and trained there until I was 21, and have been working in the arts industry since.

Q. Tell me about your role in the production?

A. I play a character called Professor Viola Hurst, who is head of the Space Department at the University of Wonder and Imagination. Viola’s passion is all things space and time. I lead a section of the show taking the audience on a journey through the universe, exploring the planets, the stars, gravity and lots of other exciting things in between. It’s so fun for me to perform, as I find this topic super interesting and sharing that with the audience is lovely.

Q. What do you hope audiences are talking about or saying to themselves when they leave the performance?

A. I hope they enjoy the magical aspects of the show and are questioning how some of the really exciting illusions happen right before their very eyes. The message of the show for me, weaved in between the color and chaos, is about celebrating individuality and encouraging young people to explore their passions with curiosity, be it art, science, math, or anything in between. So I hope some of them can go away with a renewed sense of confidence and belief in themselves and whatever it is they are interested in.



FamJam Saturday:

University of Wonder & Imagination

WHEN — 2 p.m. Feb. 17

WHERE — Jones Center in Springdale

COST — $10


BONUS — FamJam Saturday also includes a movement class for kids and adults at 11 a.m.; ice skating, 12:30-2:30 p.m. or 7-9 p.m.; and swimming, noon-6 p.m. as part of the $10 ticket.

Categories: Family Friendly