Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Musings Listings: June 2011

June marks the anticipated return of critically acclaimed companies who have been absent, some for months, some for over a year.

Brokentalkers, The Corn Exchange and THISISPOPBABY all head south for the Cork Midsummer Festival. Brokentalkers’ The Blue Boy – a piece that uses music and movement to look at the experiences of children incarcerated at Catholic residential care institutions (trailer: http://vimeo.com/21657110) – will be presented as a free-ticketed ‘work-in-progress’ at the Granary Theatre (Jun 24). The full shilling is expected to be staged at the Dublin Theatre Festival in October. The world premiere of Man of Valour (pictured above) – the newest show from The Corn Exchange – stars Paul Reid as an office drone who imagines heroic adventures. Annie Ryan and Michael West also lend their expertise as the company returns to its Commedia dell’Arte foundation in this latest outing. Catch the show at the Everyman Palace (Jun 21-26). THISISPOPBABY bring Neil Watkins’ spirited dynamo The Year of Magical Wanking to the Half Moon Theatre (Jun 23-25). Watkins’ story living as a 33-year-old homosexual with a Jesus complex is a “brave and heartbreaking exploration of porn addiction, destructive sexual behaviour, Catholic guilt, and family heartbreak” (trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uKUe2dJiSAM)

Saturday, May 28, 2011

JOLT, ‘Creative Quickies’: The Galway Machine Turns You On

Town Hall Theatre, Galway
May 27-28

As the first season of JOLT draws to a close this weekend, some of Galway’s indie theatre companies have come together to put on an evening of Creative Quickies – a line-up of 10 minute extracts from ‘works in progress’.  A few thoughts on the night coming up after the jump ...

Sunday, May 22, 2011

The Staging and Boundaries of Sufjan Stevens’ 'Age of Adz'

To change gears a little, I was at Sufjan Stevens’ show in the Olympia this week and was really struck by his use of performance space. A few thoughts on the event coming up just as soon as I tell a volcano I’m insecure ...

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Calipo Theatre, ‘Pineapple’: Silver Spoons

Draíocht, Blanchardstown, Dublin
May 5-6

My review of the terrific Pineapple coming up just as soon as these Custard Creams stare me out of it ...

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Musings Listings: May 2011

With ceaseless touring productions, three performance festivals, and two renovated venues; May is one very busy month for theatre.

We’ll start with the Abbey. Pygmalion has mustered many good reviews since starting its run. George Bernard Shaw’s comedy is a ‘Taming of the Shrew’-style story about a linguistics professor’s efforts to turn an impoverished flower girl into a lady under the pretence of a bet. The production runs until June 11. It will be accompanied by Perve on the Peacock stage from May 25 – the last instalment of the Abbey’s quartet of new plays this year. Concept-wise, Gregg’s play always sounded to me to be the most intriguing of the four – an overambitious film student and his controversial project that will “question his idealism and turn his life and that of his family upside down”.

Across town, The Beauty Queen of Leeane runs at the Gaiety May 11-June 4. Martin McDonagh’s devilish comedy is about a lonely middle-aged spinster and her manipulative mother. Beauty Queen has been on the go for fifteen years now, and with numerous awards under its belt, I’m sure this production will maintain the play’s acclaim with Rosaleen Linehan and Derbhle Crotty heading the cast.

My pick of the month is Pineapple at Axis Ballymun May 11-14. The play is an occasion in itself, as it unites Irish talents such as writer Philip McMahon (Alice in Funderland, All Over Town), director David Horan (Moment), and great performers such as Janet Moran (Freefall, No Romance), Nick Lee (Delirium, DruidSynge) and Caoilfhionn Dunne (10 Dates With Mad Mary, Christ Deliver Us!). McMahon’s play about the community in the Ballymun Flats is darkly comic and sweetly disarming (my review of it will be up shortly).

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Abbey Theatre & Trinity College Dublin, A Reading of Thomas Kilroy’s ‘Blake’

I went to the reading of Blake the anticipated new play by Thomas Kilroy – in the Samuel Beckett Theatre on Saturday night. I originally intended to write a detailed piece on the play but decided my thoughts would be better left published for if/when the play is staged. This way, I’m not spoiling it for anyone who wasn’t at the reading or would prefer to wait and see a full-scale commissioned production.

What I will say about the play is that it is a Kilroy piece through-and-through: a drama about an individual suffering the brunt of the consequences of their culture’s thoughts and actions. Kilroy’s play is about the English poet, painter, and mystic William Blake, and his confinement in a medical institution for “lunatics”. The play is set at the dawn of the Romantic age, where the fancies of Blake’s visions receive no welcome. England’s concern is solely with fighting off Napoleon in the name of “civilization”, and inventive flights of the imagination such as these are only harmful to the practical inquisitions of the Enlightenment period. William’s wife Catherine pleads desperately for her husband’s release, and the bargains put before her test the extraordinary love between her and her husband.

Kilroy’s writing is as beautiful as ever, bequeathing the ironies of his story with poetic delivery. His hand for humour still tickles the gravity of his characters’ climates. The expressionist style that he always took fancy to in his scene descriptions still beats through his work, though not as prominent as in Talbot’s Box. With Blake, it is a song that peeks through the play’s realist settings. Like Christ Deliver Us!, the outcome of the story does take an expressionist route. I personally found the “We live under the sign of a question mark” climax of Christ Deliver Us! to be the play’s weakest move, so it is with such caution that I treat Blake’s endgame. We will see.

This reading was put together by Irish theatre director supreme Patrick Mason (whose previous collaborations with Kilroy include Talbot’s Box and The Secret Fall of Constance Wilde). His cast of seven is filled with very likeable actors with impressive resumés, among them: Jim Norton (Tony winner for his performance in Conor McPherson’s The Seafarer), Barbara Brennan (of Hugh Leonard’s The Lily Lally Show fame), Cathy Belton and Michael McElhatton (both of whom had supporting roles as Mr. And Mrs. Grainger in Kilroy’s Christ Deliver Us! last year), and Brian Bennett (of 21st century pioneers The Company). I really hope that as much of this creative team remains if/when the play is commissioned, especially Norton and Brennan, who had brilliant chemistry as Mr and Mrs Blake.

As for a commissioned production of Blake in the near future: nothing has been announced yet. I would say the odds are in our favour. Kilroy is on the board of the Abbey Theatre after all. Here’s hoping that it’s sometime in 2012.

What did everybody else think? 

The Ark & Theatre Lovett, ‘The Girl Who Forgot to Sing Badly’: Are the Kids Alright?

The Peacock, Dublin
April 12-30

My review of The Girl Who Forgot to Sing Badly coming up just as soon as some of my greatest sadnesses are alleviated by goats ...