Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Wish I had seen ‘Medea’: Irish Times Theatre Awards Nominations

It’s been over a week since the Irish Times Theatre Awards nominations were announced, and I was too busy working on a show at the time to write my thoughts on them.

First: I’m glad to see Pan Pan’s The Rehearsal, Playing the Dane (*) is a contender for ‘Best Production’. I was curious to see how the judging panel would grade the show considering its postmodern nature and the indefinite variables in its live performance (I wonder how our three Hamlets were considered in the ‘Best Actor’ category?). No show had more confident a harness of theatricality this past year than Playing the Dane, and while Gavin Quinn has carelessly been excluded from the category for ‘Best Direction’ it’s great to see fellow Pan Pan genius Aedín Cosgrove get recognition for her set design. By also throwing Anu Productions’s World’s End Lane into the dogfight, the judges have admirably chosen to acknowledge theatrical ingenuity not only in performance that is strictly traditional but also in the increasing output of postmodern work as well.

(*) The Rehearsal, Playing the Dane review:

Most prominently felt in this shortlist is Siren Productions for their performance of Medea (pictured above) in the Fringe, which has bagged five nominations including ‘Best Production’, ‘Best Director’, and ‘Best Actress’. I didn’t see the show but I have heard good things, and would be interested to hear from those who saw it if they think it deserves such attention.

Some of the best theatre I saw last year was by Druid and it’s rather unfortunate to see recognition for such work to be limited to a single nomination for Karl Shiels for his performance in Penelope(**). I do think Shiels is a talented actor but out of all of Enda Walsh’s word-drunken suitors I found his performance as Quinn to be the least memorable, and would sooner place Tadhg Murphy or Niall Buggy into this category. It seems that the judging panel have a soft spot for Shiels, having given him a supporting actor nod in last year’s awards. In this case I think it was a misfire.

(**) Penelope review:

The real competition seems to be in the ‘Best Actress’ category. First we have Medea weapon of vengeance Eileen Walsh, who seems to have the cosmos on her side. Olwen Fouéré has had a busy year but receives attention here in her flagship performance in Rough Magic’s Sodome, My Love. Aoife Duffen has been in the employ of the best directors in the country this past year, and her heart-breaking performance as Winnie Butler in Thomas Kilroy’s Christ Deliver Us! (***) has caught the eyes of the judges (brilliant to see Laurence Kinlan and Wayne Jordan get nods as well). The dark horse here is Hillary O’Shaughnessy of Playgroup’s Berlin Love Tour, whose nomination was something I was hoping for but not entirely expecting. Not only did O’Shaughnessy pour her heart into this production but she also had to fight the distractions and unforeseen complexities of her own streets for her audience’s priority. A beautiful performance, but this category will be a tough call.

(***) Christ Deliver Us! review:

What this shortlist does reflect is the master strategy of Lynne Parker and Rough Magic. Their first production of the year is a top-class collaboration with Olwen Fouéré – Sodome, My Love – which earns the actress a nomination for her magnetizing performance. Parker then brought Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest to the Gaiety. Peter Crawley accredits Earnest in his year-in-review ‘The Year of Living Differently’ for Irish Theatre Magazine as a “risky manoeuvre” but its commercial and financial success then allowed Parker to move on the more challenging and rewarding Phaedra, which has bagged three nominations here including ‘Best Production’. Nicely played, Parker.

Shamefully, I have not seen any of the plays contending for ‘Best New Play’, though I am sceptical of this selection. I do not remember any of these plays receiving outstanding reception when they premiered. Carmel Winters’ B for Baby was even accused of being abusive and ignorant of its sensitive subject matter. If anyone has seen any of these plays (B for Baby (Abbey Theatre), What’s Left of the Flag (Theatre Upstairs at the Plough), Slattery’s Sago Saga (Performance Corporation), National Anthem (Ransom Theatre Company)), feel free to post your opinions on them below. I do wonder if Christ Deliver Us! and Penelope are more worthy of the trophy than this bunch, or indeed Fringe superstars such as As You Are Now So Once Were We or Berlin Love Tour.

The awards are to be held on February 27.

What are everybody else’s thoughts on this year’s shortlist?

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