Be Your Own Banana Theatre Company was founded in January 2000 by Brian Desmond, a Cork-born theatre writer-director, and Marcos Bale, an Argentinean mask-theatre performer based in Cork. BYOB were founded as an independent theatre company that would specialise in researching comic technique and in producing original, comedic theatre.
The company began developing its own style free from the constraints of producing any commercial work and were influenced by a number of sources: the improvisational techniques of Keith Johnstone; the masks of the Commedia dellíArte; silent clowning in early cinema practise; Grotowskian physical theatre and traditional Irish storytelling.
In the summer of 2000 BYOB developed their first performance piece, My Best Friendís Mother. Based on an original story-line by Brian Desmond, who also directed, My Best Friendís Mother was presented at Corkís Granary Theatre in September 2000. Blending farce, story-telling, clowning and live music, this absurdist tale explored a variety of themes. Essentially a parody on the Irish emigrant stories of old, it charts the tale of a manís self-exile after the discovery of his forbidden affair he had with an older woman. The story then charts his sexual odyssey throughout Europe, culminating in a magical journey home in the back of a lorry full of asylum-seekers, bound for Rosslare.
BYOB immediately went into rehearsal to develop their second play, De Bogman, devised by Brian Desmond and Mairtin de CogŠin. De CogŠin, twice an Irish champion story-teller, narrated the piece while at the same time performing the roles of nineteen different characters. De CogŠinís audacious physical performance made it such a success that it was invited back to the Granary Theatre for a repeat run of performances.
In De Bogman BYOB again presented audiences with an Irish emigrant story. Based loosely on the life story of boxing legend Gentleman Jim Corbett, the play charted the adventures of an Irish village idiot who goes to America to become heavyweight boxing champion of the world. The eponymous hero of the tale, as a pariah, belongs very much in the traditions of Irish gothic literature classics such as Charles Maturinís Melmoth the Wanderer. While the new world the Bogman encounters is dystopian, he blunders in clown-like fashion through all obstacles.
Since itís first production in November 2000, De Bogman has played in sixteen venues around the country. As well as performances in the Cork Arts Festival 2001 and at other conventional theatre venues, De Bogman has also been performed in art galleries, heritage centres, secondary schools and live music venues.
During this tour of De Bogman, BYOB also began to implement itís workshop policy, which the company offers to all accommodating venues for itís productions. In 2001 BYOB facilitated workshops for students studying performing arts in the Dublin Institute of Technology and in Colaiste an Chraoibhin, Fermoy. Workshops and demonstration performances were also presented to secondary students in the Kerry region in association with the South Kerry Development Partnership.
The Ballad of Badger Bickleís Youngfella is BYOBís third original production and continues the companyís tradition of bringing audiences a unique blend of physical theatre, dance, clowning and story-telling. Developed by the company since March 2002, The Ballad was premiered at this yearís ESB Dublin Fringe Festival and was also showcased at the Cork Arts Theatre in October. Acclaimed as one of the highlight of last yearís Dublin Fringe, The Ballad will be presented to wider audiences around the country in the Spring.