Friday, December 31, 2010

Best of Irish Theatre 2010 #1: Pan Pan, ‘The Rehearsal, Playing the Dane’

Samuel Beckett Theatre, Dublin
Oct 1-10

Again, if you look through my archive you will find a post on The Rehearsal, Playing the Dane (I’ll be nice and put the link at the bottom of this post).

Pan Pan made not only a really fun production for die-hard theatre buffs with this one, but utilized an ingenious stagecraft as well as a brilliant court of actors who brought endless humour and emotionally moving performances.

From establishing the performers in their personal and professional capacities as they audition for the role of ‘Hamlet’, Gavin Quinn and Pan Pan take us to an Elsinore of mirrored halls and rubbish cans where the impetus to ‘perform’ doesn’t shroud the indefinite natures of the individuals. Instead we are witness to the actors’ abilities to rise to the occasion and make Shakespeare’s masterpiece their own.

What a wonderful cast. Particularly enjoyable was seeing Connor Madden overcome his actor insecurities with a grand feat of athleticism and raw emotion, paying homage to the divine role with charm and skill. Also a highlight was Judith Roddy’s performance as Ophelia, drenched in rubbish and sorrow. Absolutely mesmerizing and gorgeous.

Brilliant show.

As for the best individual performances of the year …

-         Madden and Roddy for Playing the Dane. These guys can captivate an audience single-handedly.

-         Penelope nobles Tadhg Murphy and Niall Buggy. Absolutely incredible work.
-         Christ Deliver Us! tragic youths Aoife Duffen and Laurence Kinlan. These kids just break your heart.

-         Little John Nee for Barabbas’s Johnny Patterson the Singing Irish Clown. Much more than just a comic troubadour.

-         Hillary O’Shaughnessy for taking us through her broken city while courageously facing off street punks with the assistance of a guitar-wielding busker in Playgroup’s Berlin Love Tour. She also gave us gummy bears.

Best writing …
-         Kilroy for Christ Deliver Us! and Walsh for Penelope. Both brilliant pieces.

Best direction …
-         Gavin Quinn deserves the trophy for The Rehearsal, Playing the Dane. Garry Hynes brought some epic production values into The Silver Tassie though.

Well that’s 2010 wrapped up (with only a few hours to spare).

See you in the new year folks.

The Rehearsal, Playing the Dane review:

Best of International Theatre 2010 #1: Ontroerend Goed, ‘The Smile Off Your Face’

Smock Alley Theatre, Dublin
Sept 30 – Oct 3

One could accuse me of laziness. Not only is The Smile Off Your Face not a show that debuted in 2010 (which is the point of this list) and in fact came onto the scene a few years ago, but it is also a show I have already written about (the link to that post is on the bottom of this one). I gave The Smile Off Your Face #1 not only because it was hands down the greatest theatre experience for me this past year, but one of the most magical experiences of my whole life.

Smile is basically a mirror, ironic as it is seeing as you’re blindfolded throughout. Much like the 101 scenarios, this show has the ability to get under the surface of your very being. Whereas the Oneohone example I wrote about prompts you to reflect on your courage, or lack thereof, Ontroerend Goed softly treads the peripheries of your intimate, personal life.    

The magic of this show lies in the trust between your disabled self and the mysterious performers who surround you, as you together draw back the curtain of the syncretism of theatrical illusionary and reality. This material is the fabric of theatre, of art, and never quite has one sailed (or pushed in a wheelchair) so close to this sight of the real and unreal being so beautifully harmonized.


The Smile Off Your Face review:

Other Ontroerend Goed …

A Game of You:

Teenage Riot:

Best of Irish Theatre 2010 #2: Druid, ‘Penelope’

Druid Lane Theatre, Galway
Jul 8-24

“A group of men with a common ideology, a collective direction! That’s what you’re suggesting, Quinn! We’re building a company right here!” 
– Dunne

“There’s no point. We’re the talking dead. Now I want to talk about my friend Murray” 
– Burns

Choosing only five productions from this past year has not been an easy task. Even tougher was deciding which order they should be in.

I gave The Company #5 for their sharp ingenuity and effortless charm. I gave Druid’s The Silver Tassie #4 for the momentous production values and O’Casey’s enigmatic script. Christ Deliver Us!, then, felt like the perfect match of the greatest theatrical resources of the nation with one of the strongest literary voices of the nation. The Abbey-Thomas Kilroy combo was perfect in poetry and relevance. However, I don’t think it quite beats the latest jewel from Druid’s genius correspondence with Enda Walsh.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Best of International Theatre 2010 #2: Oneohone, ‘101’

C Soco, Edinburgh
Aug 15-30

The year is nearly over and it’s time to think back on the lessons we’ve learned. I’ll go first: I was naïve once and probably still am.

From reading this blog you may find that I often attribute a generosity or kindness to theatre, assuming it to be a considerate, well-meaning experience insofar as its audience is concerned.

There was one show this year that convinced me otherwise. There really is no other way of putting it:

101 got under my skin.    

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Best of Irish Theatre 2010 #3: Abbey Theatre, ‘Christ Deliver Us!’

Abbey Theatre, Dublin
Feb 16 - Mar 13

“There’s always something in the world that’s stronger than us”

This is the truth that Winnie Butler has come to accept. The young girl’s frustration, and that of the rest of the young inquisitors of Christ Deliver Us!, is the real emotional tug of this piece of theatre. The truth is: they’ve all been defeated.

Best of International Theatre 2010 #3: Shared Experience & Sherman Cymru, ‘Speechless’

Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh
Aug 5-29

“I hate the life I am leading now. But why do I say leading? I do not lead my life at all. It is pulled along by an invisible string. By whom? By what? A circumstance of the past. A force. I’m just an onlooker”
– June Gibbons.

“You are Jennifer. You are me”
– Jennifer Gibbons

Edinburgh Fringe is a brilliant place to be. No where else do you quite see the spirit and possibility of theatre at its most free as when you walk down the Royal Mile, every inch of which canvassed by pamphleteers and street performers. The city turns into a vast marketplace for the month of August, with the best and worst of today’s theatre on offer. Luckily I was able to locate the former with Sherman Cymru and Shared Experience’s joint effort: Speechless.

Shared Experience are a London-based theatre company who have come to distinguish itself through a series of critically honoured literary adaptations, notably their homage to Charlote Brontë, Eyre, which received acclaim for its unison of world-class acting and text. Co-artistic director Polly Teale’s script achieved praise for reaching eloquent depths in writing about the destructive effects of retreat into imagination in adversary to isolation, an artistic feat Teale would also achieve with her company’s follow-up – a project based on Marjorie Wallace’s The Silent Twins.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Best of Irish Theatre 2010 #4: Druid, ‘The Silver Tassie’

Town Hall Theatre, Galway
Sept 1-7 

 “There it is, the Silver Tassie, won by the odd goal in five, kicked by Harry Heegan”
– Harry Heegan
“Thirty days hath September, April, June, and November –
November – that’s the month I was born”
– Croucher
“Our best is all behind us – what’s in front we’ll face like men, dear comrade of the blood-fight and the battle-front”
– Teddy Foran

It’s 1928, and W.B. Yeats is writing Sean O’Casey a letter. As artistic director of the Abbey, Yeats is writing to inform O’Casey that his latest play will not be produced by the theatre. O’Casey had written a tragic-comedy epic about Irish soldiers in the First World War, but Yeats finds that the writer has no claim to conceive the conditions of war – “You never stood on its battlefields or walked its hospitals”. 

It’s August 2010 and I’m catching regular sightings of Aaron Monaghan, Aoife Duffen, Derbhle Crotty, and Bush Moukarzel on the streets of Galway.
They’re all in town rehearsing for Druid’s production of The Silver Tassie.

Friday, December 24, 2010

"No 'L', No 'L' ..."

Merry Christmas folks! Thanks to all who have read this blog in 2010 (I still need to wrap up my end-of-year round-ups, so a few more posts will be up between now and the new year). 

If you are looking for a good read over the holidays, I recommend checking out the Irish Theatre Magazine website. Patrick Lonergan, Thomas Conway, and Peter Crawley have all written pieces about the last year in Irish theatre, very enjoyable and insightful. 

Take care, and here's to a brilliant 2011 ...


Best of International Theatre 2010 #4: News From Nowhere, ‘The Author’

Project Arts Centre, Dublin
Oct 12-17

“We’ve got ourselves into a terrible pickle about staying in character and suspending disbelief and those literal manifestations of otherness that have become so central to a way of looking at theatre. I think we as an audience deserve more than that, or can deal with more than that, can cope with more than that” – Tim Crouch

I wrote a piece about The Author after its run in the Dublin Theatre Festival (the link to which is at the bottom of this post), where I paid particular attention to the tension, or negotiation rather, between the real and the illusionary.

Crouch’s play is a bold cocktail of theatrical harmonics and particulates, the consistencies of which are not necessarily sensitive or recognisable. Its aftertaste disorientates and betrays preconceptions. What we have in The Author is an arranging of theatrical elements towards Brecht’s ‘dialectical theatre’, resulting in an expulsion of, what Brecht calls, “an engendering of illusion”. Two seating banks are placed opposite each other, and there is an absence of any stage. The audience never lose sight of each other, the actors, or the performance itself. We negotiate through every word and every magnetizing pair of eyes. We learn to establish where we stand with each other. We become our own ‘authors’ and create our own landscapes of co-existence and social realities, only for Couch and company to topple our structures, burn our allegiances, and twist all that we hold reliable. 

Brilliant theatre.

Original review:

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Best of Irish Theatre 2010 #5: The Company, 'As You Are Now So Once Were We'

Project Arts Centre, Dublin
Sept 9-15 

 “Never tell a young person that anything cannot be done. God may have been waiting centuries for someone ignorant enough of the impossible to do that very thing” - G.M. Trevelyan

“All these here once walked around Dublin. Faithful departed. As you are now so once were we” - James Joyce, 'Ulysses'

I am part of a scene. It consists of those of the artistic sort, mostly in their twenties and thirties, not on the receiving end of any annual funding that could make Hamlet’s father fly, and are, undeservedly for some, overlooked.

Dublin ensemble The Company may just be the exception to the rule …

Friday, December 10, 2010

Best of International Theatre 2010 #5: Ontroerend Goed, ‘Teenage Riot’

Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh
Aug 17-28

I imagine it went something like this ...

One day a man woke up and said “I want to do a play. I want to do a play, and it will be about teenagers and performed entirely by teenagers. It could only be performed by teenagers. It will be unapologetic, chaotic, and unpredictable”.

Alexander Devriendt – artistic director of Belgian theatre entrepreneurs Ontroerend Goed – found thirteen Flemish teenagers and put together a show which became aptly known as: Once and For All We’re Gonna Tell You Who We Are So Shut Up and Listen. Devriendt (33) and his motley crew of adolescents brought the show to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2008 where it received critical acclaim and earned a tour to festivals all over the world. Critics especially applauded the show’s gleaming nostalgia, and its artful artifice of a universal ‘teenagedom’ realised as a realm now lost to today’s adults. Devriendt became something of champion of unheard teenagers, a Peter Pan to the Lost Boys if you will. Nestling tour dates around school holidays, Once and For All…was on the road for two years before its final performance in Ghent in April of this year. The Lost Boys had to grow up eventually, but seemingly Pan didn’t …

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Cancelations and Salutations

I headed East towards home for the weekend, only to discover that Kildare and Dublin have transformed into Hoth in my absence. Unfortunately, the icy roads derailed my plans to see Slattery’s Sago Saga in the Riverbank and Wayne Jordan’s siren Ellamenope Jones in the Project (those who have seen either, feel free to discuss them in the frozen pipes comments section below).

My time hibernating in the midlands got me thinking about a ‘Best of Irish Theatre 2010’ list to post up on the blog. The list will be impaired by my having shamefully missed several significant productions this past year (Annie Ryan’s Happy Days, pretty much anything by Lynne Parker and Rough Magic, John Gabriel Borkman, World’s End Lane, to name a few). Eventually, I was able to condense the list down to five productions which I saw and felt were a league above the others. I’m also going to do a ‘Best of International Theatre 2010’ list, which will feature five performances from non-Irish practitioners which I saw here and abroad. 

What are your thoughts on the past year of theatre? Best shows? Worst shows?

Friday, December 3, 2010

Pan Pan, ‘Oedipus Loves You’: Oedipus, You Punk

Town Hall Theatre, Galway
Nov 15-16

A few thoughts on Oedipus Loves You coming up just as soon as I fuck up the marinade …