It was a typical mizzly grey evening in Enniskillen recently as I stood outside a set of double doors on Quay Lane, just off Belmore Street.

Worried I’d be unable to find the inconspicuous entrance to Dylan Quinn Dance Theatre’s latest site-specific production, I had arrived 15 minutes early.

I wasn’t the only one – squeezed into the doorway to escape the showers were the three other audience members for that evening’s intimate performance of ‘My Grandfather’s House’, created and performed by Dylan Quinn, and we soon eagerly discussed what we might experience.

Having previously witnessed Quinn recite the names and stories of those who were killed in Fermanagh and its hinterlands during the War of Independence, commemorating each with a stone as he built a cairn in the unique setting of Boho’s Pollnagollum Caves, I knew something special was awaiting us through those double doors.

And yet, as with ‘The Cairn’, the production was so much more powerful than I could ever have expected.

The double doors eventually swung open and we were warmly greeted by Hannah Quinn, front of house for the evening – a role she shared with Sally Rees over the production’s two-week run.

A curtained walkway

Invited to take off our coats and make ourselves at home, we were then led through a curtained walkway until we were faced with a front door.

Encouraging me to push open the door, we walked into a dark room, where I was further instructed to reach to my left and click on the light switch – a gentle introduction to the immersive nature of the performance.

As a ceiling light ignited, it was revealed that we were in a hallway. Ushered along, I opened a second door and walked through, followed by my fellow audience members.

Flocked geometric wallpaper adorning the walls, a flowery carpet covering the floor, with a record player on the mid-century style sideboard.

It was the 1970s and we had just entered the living room of No. 23, Belmore Street – the home of Brendan Burns, Quinn’s maternal grandfather.

Sitting down on the rust orange and brown plaid sofa, I was in awe of my surroundings. The details were impeccable – the net curtains hanging on the window, the Child of Prague on the mantelpiece, the shoe polish and brush on the hearth, a portrait of Mr. Burns in his Royal Marine uniform hanging on the wall. Everything had been considered.

The set that had been constructed by Jon Kelly was beyond any I had experienced before. We weren’t watching a performance on a stage – we were in a living room straight from the 1970s, and I strangely felt overwhelmed with emotion.

I had never lived through the 70s, but sitting amid the furnishings and decor, I felt nostalgic for the era, an era which was often recalled fondly by my parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles.

However, alongside the happy memories of the Seventies – and the following Eighties and Nineties, which Quinn illustrated throughout ‘My Grandfather’s House’ using old photographs and home video clips – there was the underlying trauma of the Troubles ... but I’m getting ahead of myself.

The following performance was twofold.

Nervous anticipation

As we sat as an audience of four on the sofa in nervous anticipation, Quinn walked into the room and silently took out a record from the sideboard.

Slipping the vinyl from its sleeve, he placed it on the record player before leaving the room again.

As the record started playing – a nine-minute sonic installation featuring song, music and voice recordings composed by composer and vocal artist, Andi Garbi – I sat and took in my surroundings in more depth.

As Quinn entered the living room for a second time, he addressed us directly. The performance suddenly felt very personal as he asked us to “scooch up” on the sofa before squeezing himself in between, wanting to show us a family heirloom.

“This Atlas belongs to the Burns family of Number 23, Belmore Street,” he read aloud before flicking the pages, pointing out and rhyming off the names of all the countries his grandfather travelled to as a Royal Marine, before returning to his home of Northern Ireland or The North, where conflict was under way.

From this point on, as the light-switching and door-opening had forewarned, we as an audience of four were now very much involved in the performance.

We quickly graduated from moving tables to acting as elephants as we marched around the room to the beat of The Jungle Book record spinning on the player, following Quinn’s lead as he recreated childhood actions of himself and his siblings.

Immersive elements

It was these immersive elements, the feeling of being a part of Quinn’s world, that made his traumatic depictions of the Troubles so impactful, reminding us that amid the joy of life in Fermanagh during that era, terror also loomed.

Through music, acting and dance, along with his clever use of personal photographs, home videos and family anecdotes, Quinn told the story of two men. Grandfather and Grandson. One born in 1919, one born in 1974. One fought in a war. Both lived through conflict.

It was his own story, and it was his Granda Burns’ story, but it was also the story of every person in Fermanagh who lived through the Troubles.

Although it wasn’t my personal experience, or even my era, I felt it all through the deeply moving and thought-provoking piece.

One minute I was laughing at Quinn’s rendition of Rick Astley’s ‘Never Gonna Give You Up’, as performed in his childhood bedroom, a doll making do as a microphone, to almost crying at his choreographed portrayal of a father carrying his children away from the devastation of the Enniskillen Bomb.

I left Quinn’s grandfather’s house feeling slightly overwhelmed by how intimate yet powerful the performance was.

As I look back now, the scenes still resonate with me. I feel lucky to have been invited into Quinn’s world, and grateful that he had chosen to share his personal experiences, the highs and the lows.

From ‘My Grandfather’s House’, I feel encouraged to look back at my own happy childhood memories, but also to reflect on the darkness of the Troubles that impacted so many people here, directly and indirectly.

To appreciate peace and never take it for granted.