Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Irish Theatre Top 10 of 2013

Lloyd Cooney tearing it up in No. 14 Henrietta Street during ANU Productions' marking of the 1913 Lockout centenary.

As per the year end ramble of making lists of the year's best in music, cinema and such, below I give what I think are the highlights of 2013 in Irish theatre.

Before I begin I'll disclaim that while my scope is very Dublin-centred I did travel and provide extensive coverage of both the Cork Midsummer Festival and Galway Arts Festival. My misgivings include failed trips to Limerick, to the Blue Raincoat productions in Sligo, the Beckett Happy Days Festival in Enniskillen, the City of Culture events in Derry, and to any of the theatres in Belfast. These aside, however, I'll argue that this still is a comprehensive list of the year's finest in Irish theatre.

This year I made the decision to drop out of college and begin writing to arts editors looking for a job (if any of you said editors are reading, expect more pesterings in your inbox).

This commitment has meant that I have reviewed 102 performances in 2013 whilst keeping up the day job. These were spread between the reviews here, for Irish Theatre Magazine, and some work that I do for the Arts Council. The most read reviews here on the blog were my reviews of King Lear and Living the Lockout, my counterpoint to Una Mullally's Irish Times article on the most creative people in Ireland, and my opinion piece reacting to the Limerick City of Culture programme

Choosing 10 out of 102 wasn't easy but here they are:

Monday, December 23, 2013

THEATREclub, 'HISTORY': The Republic That Never Was

As the finale of THEATREclub's trilogy of history plays, will this look backwards move us forward? 

Below is my review of THEATREclub's HISTORY - the last play I will be reviewing this year. I will be taking a break for Christmas but check back next Monday for my top 10 theatre productions of 2013. Meanwhile, my review of HISTORY coming up just as soon as I am also in the play ...

Friday, December 13, 2013

Abbey Theatre, 'The Risen People': Was it For This the Wild Geese Spread?

As a year of marking the centenary of the 1913 Lockout comes to a close, what can The Risen People tell us about this distressing chapter of Irish history? Photo: Ros Kavanagh

Abbey Theatre
Dec 5-Feb 1

My review of The Risen People by James Plunkett coming up after the jump ...

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Rough Magic, 'Assassins': Sing to Kill

How does Stephen Sondheim's musical make sense of the US Presidential assassination attempts, successful or otherwise, throughout the years?  

Project Arts Centre
Dec 9-14

My review of Assassins, as part of Rough Magic's SEEDS showcase, coming up just as soon as I consider killing Franklin Roosevelt ...

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Rough Magic, 'Way To Heaven': If a Tree Falls in a Forest ...

Rough Magic's SEEDS showcase shows us what really happened during the Red Cross inspection at the Nazi concentration camp in Theresienstadt.

Project Arts Centre,
Dec 9-14

My review of Way To Heaven by Juan Mayorga, as part of Rough Magic's SEEDS showcase, coming up just as soon as my walking stick covers up a multitude of sins ...

Monday, December 9, 2013

Souvenirs for the Swindled

Actor Marcus Lamb and cellist Kim V Porcelli in Men Like Us - an arrangement of three Samuel Beckett plays by Mouth on Fire

Last Friday night the Beckett impresarios, Mouth on Fire, produced three of the playwright's one-act plays in the Kevin Barry Room of the National Concert Hall. The company were accompanied by musician Kim V Porcelli, whose looped cello arrangements spun a sound so vast that you could get lost in its despairing folds. First up was Matalang - an Irish language adaptation of Catastrophe - in which an autocratic director (Clive Geraghty) mercilessly arranges the presentation of an actor (Shadaan Felfeli) onstage, stripping his clothes and altering the height level of his arms. Felfeli's trembling turn as the unspeaking, unprotesting protagonist does disturb. "There's our catastrophe!", says the director triumphantly.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Discrimination in Drama: Persevering Some Playwrights

Philip Doherty's The Circus of Perseverance for the Gonzo Theatre Company (Smock Alley Theatre until Nov 30) makes jokes of the disenfranchised. 

There is a scene in The Circus of Perseverance by Philip Doherty - a comedy that brings the misfits of Dublin's economic misfortune into the circus ring (Smock Alley Theatre until Nov 30) - where a taxi driver laments the loss of Ireland's great artists. "Even Brendan Behan", he says, "and he had the face of a melted arse".

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Attic Productions, 'Marvel': The Things Money Can't Buy

Project Arts Centre,
Nov 19-23

My review of Marvel by Elizabeth Moynihan coming up just as soon as I should have been named Hermes ...

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Clinic Media, 'Life Behind The Venue': There is an 'Us' in 'Usher'

Project Arts Centre
Nov 19-23

My review of Life Behind The Venue coming up just as soon as I get an office with a balcony ...

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Lyric Theatre, 'Brendan at the Chelsea': Beauty and the Behan

Project Arts Centre
Nov 12-16

My review of Brendan at the Chelsea by Janet Behan coming up just as soon as I phone a publisher to find out where my husband is ...

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Smashing Times, 'Witness': Theatre for Change

Project Arts Centre
Nov 5-9

My review of Witness - a programme of new work by Smashing Times - coming up just as soon as I do a good impression of Enda Kenny ...

Friday, November 8, 2013

City of Culture to Increase Visitors to Limerick but is it Engaging with Theatre in its Locality?

Production image of Tom MacIntyre's What Happened Bridgie Cleary by Bottom Dog - one of several Limerick-based theatre companies who could benefit from inclusion in Limerick City of Culture

In July 2012 Jimmy Deenihan, the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, introduced the National City of Culture initiative, wherein a designated city will host arts events all year round in hopes of increasing visitors to the locality as well having a long-term effect on the development of arts in the area.

Hosting duties were given to Limerick, a decision which couldn't have been more timely. It's been a difficult year for theatre companies in the city as the closing of the Belltable Arts Centre dealt a serious blow to the city's artistic infrastructure. When the government delivered the budget last month they announced €6m to go into Limerick for City of Culture. But from the reveal of the programme on Monday it was obvious that almost all of that money is going towards importing artists from outside the area. There's no doubt that the initiative will draw visitors to Limerick but it risks severely missing the opportunity to generate audiences and resources for the companies who will be working in the city after this ceremonial year is over.

Monday, November 4, 2013

CoisCéim Reveal New Dance Show About Former Project Arts Centre Director

Berlin-born Agnes Bernelle worked for British Special Operations during World War II as a 'Black Propaganda' radio announcer in Germany. She later became an international actress and cabaret singer, and spent the last years of her life in Dublin where she worked as Creative Director of Project Arts Centre

CoisCéim Dance Theatre launched their artistic programme for 2014 today. New collaborations see David Bolger and company donating their catalogue of twenty years' work to the National Dance Archive of Ireland (making them the first dance company to do so) as well as a residency in the National Gallery in February to develop a special performance in the gallery in June to celebrate its 150th anniversary.

Most exciting is the March premiere of the company's next dance piece AGNES - a work based on the life of Agnes Bernelle.

Abbey Theatre, 'The Hanging Gardens': Why Don't You Listen to the Story?

Abbey Theatre, Dublin Theatre Festival
Oct 9-Nov 9

My review of The Hanging Gardens by Frank McGuinness coming up just as soon as I'm better off marrying a horse chestnut ...

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Fregoli, 'Dorset Street Toys': Falling Hard and Fast

Smock Alley Theatre
Oct 24-26

My review of Dorset Street Toys by Rory O'Sullivan coming up just as soon as I drink something foreign ...

Friday, October 18, 2013

Theatre Festival Season is Over but the Best May Still to Come

Production image of Blue Raincoat's upcoming production of First Cosmonaut by Jocelyn Clarke. The best Irish theatre of 2013 may still be on the way.

As usual, the combined mass of Dublin Fringe Festival and Dublin Theatre Festival may have exhausted many theatre goers. But not as normal is the fact that a certain benchmark feels yet to be achieved by this time of the year. The festival season usually produces some of the most powerful productions of the year. For example, at this point last year we had WillFredd's wonderful FARM, Have I No Mouth by Brokentalkers, ANU's The Boys of Foley Street, and the blistering Druid/Murphy cycle. 2013 feels yet to produce something on the same power levels as these works, though LIPPY, Thirteen, and the Gate's A Streetcar Named Desire are definitely up there.

The truth may be that the best plays of 2013 have yet to deliver. And over the next three months several of the country's most exciting companies put on their latest work. So get over your festival fatigue and mark these dates in your calendar:

Friday, October 11, 2013

Gate Theatre, 'The Threepenny Opera': A Question of Give and Take

Photo: Matthew Thompson

Gate Theatre, Dublin Theatre Festival
Oct 1-Nov 2

My review of The Threepenny Opera by Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill coming up just as soon as I sing a ballad in which I beg all men for forgiveness ...

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

New Tom Murphy Play and Mark O'Rowe's Adaptations of Shakespeare Make Up New Druid Line-Up

Details yet to surface on the new Tom Murphy play Brigit.

Exciting news from Druid Theatre Company after announcing their next line-up of plays.

ANU Productions, 'Thirteen': Where Do We Stand Now?

Photo: Patrick Redmond

As I mentioned before, I am reviewing Thirteen in two parts. Part one is here.

Here are my thoughts on the remaining chapters (Soup, Save The Kiddies, InquiryProtest Part 2, Incitement, Bargaining, and Assembly) and on the event as a whole.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Friday, October 4, 2013

Friday, September 20, 2013

ANU Productions, 'Thirteen': Why Should We Fight?

Photo: Patrick Redmond

It's about time I wrote something about Thirteen - the thirteen-part theatrical epic by ANU Productions that is using the city as as a mise en scene to bring the Lockout of 100 years ago into focus.

I will be reviewing the event in two parts, with this post discussing the first eight chapters: Citizen X, ResiliencePorous, Suasion, Constituent(s), Backwash, Speakers Corner and Protest: Part 1.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Company SJ and Barabbas, 'Rough For Theatre One' & 'Act Without Words II': In Dublin's Fair City

Meet at the Screen Cinema, Dublin Fringe Festival
Sept 14-17

My review of Rough For Theatre One and Act Without Words II by Samuel Beckett coming up just as soon as I scratch an old jangle to the four winds ...

Monday, September 16, 2013

Dead Centre, 'LIPPY': Heaven Faced

LIPPY by DEAD CENTRE is perhaps the most polarising and extraordinary production to premiere at the Dublin Fringe Festival, and (at the last minute) I was asked to review it for Irish Theatre Magazine, the result of which you can find here: http://www.irishtheatremagazine.ie/Reviews/Current/Dublin-Fringe-Festival--Lippy

LIPPY is a performance about the suicide pact of four woman in a house in Leixlip, Co. Kildare thirteen years ago.

Writing the review didn't fully get it out of my system. I mean Christ! - it's one of the riskiest things I've seen, and its use of form and content could have backfired horrendously.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Where You Can Go to Find Some of My Other Fringe Reviews

For my reviews of The Secret Art of Murder and a few other shows you'll have to go somewhere else.

Some of my reviews over the next few days will be published in Irish Theatre Magazine

So for my reviews of Decision Problem [Good Time for Questions], GRINDR / a love story, The Last Post, and The Secret Art of Murder you'll have to click here.

Update: Instead of browsing the ITM reviewing section, here are links to the individual reviews.

And, a last minute addition to the mix, my review of LIPPYhttp://www.irishtheatremagazine.ie/Reviews/Current/Dublin-Fringe-Festival--Lippy

What did everybody else think of these productions? Add your thoughts in the comments section below.

Gúna Nua and Ramblinman, 'PONDLING': Build Me Up Buttercup

Smock Alley Theatre, Dublin Fringe Festival
Sept 9-13

My review of PONDLING by Genevieve Hulme-Beaman coming up just as soon as a brunette bolt of lightning shatters my hopes and dreams ...

Monday, September 9, 2013

Collapsing Horse, 'Distance from the Event': Days of Future Past

Samuel Beckett Theatre, Dublin Fringe Festival
Sept 7-9, 11-15, 17-21

My review of Distance from the Event by Eoghan Quinn coming up just as soon as I wear a coat that's exciting ...

Sunday, September 8, 2013

PaperDolls, 'Bunk': Bed, Wrath and Beyond

Project Arts Centre, Dublin Fringe Festival
Sept 8-14

A quick review of Bunk after the jump ...

HotForTheatre, 'Break': Praying For Bells

Project Arts Centre, Dublin Fringe Festival
Sept 7-8, 10-15, 17-21

My review of Break by Amy Conroy coming up just as soon as I take out my notes to signal the first sign of defense ...

Friday, September 6, 2013

In the Beginning Was the Spoken Word

Promotional Art for the PETTYCASH production GRINDR / a love story by Oisín McKenna.

"As a gay today you don't know who else is gay oftentimes. And so it's hard to figure it out, so I've always kind of wanted a way to find other guys".

This quote is from an interview with Joel Simkhai, co-founder of the smartphone application GRINDR, who seemingly set out to simplify the means of interaction in the gay community. Spoken word artist Oisín McKenna explores how the invention has made communication between individuals worse rather than better.

Described as a "geosocial" networking device, this application lists other users in order of their proximity. McKenna describes his own experience with it: "I found myself in a position where I was forming these intense attachments to people over the internet based on information on their profiles, thinking that that was the normal way to conduct myself. I eventually thought: this is stupid".

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Looking at People Leave

Promotional art for ChalkTalk Theatre Company's production of The King's Feet by Louise Melinn and Máirín O'Grady. 

"Live in hope. You have chosen heat.
The desert. The King's feet".

Such is one curious quote from the upcoming new play by Louise Melinn and Máirín O'Grady: The King's  Feet. I meet the playwrights to discuss this dark comedy/dystopian fairytale. 

"The Irish emigrants moving to Australia - that was the narrative we were looking at", says O'Grady.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Not a "Composer" Composer but a Composer for Theatre

Promotional art for Animus by Denis Clohessy and Noelia Ruiz

You might remember Denis Clohessy's musical score strutting with the flamenco moving Tino McGoldrig in Silent or chasing Farrell Blinks through a train in Man of Valour. Now his compositions take centre stage in the new play Animus directed by Noelia Ruiz for Dublin Fringe Festival.

"There was a really strong impetus from Denis to create music that is not just ambience", says Ruiz. "To create a piece where the music is the main dramatic drive".

Clohessy is quick to credit the talents of the actors as well, who on this occasion are Camille Lucy Ross, Jim Roche and Anna Shiels-McNamee. There is also an impressive design team with Jack Phelan and Aedín Cosgrove. I ask him about the story of the play.

"It's a Murder Revenge story so there's an event, either accidental or on purpose, at the beginning of the show and the truth of it will be revealed through an investigation. It's kind of like a detective story". To go into it further, the play's press release reveals that a man is left dealing with the consequences of a tragic accident while two sisters seek their own version of justice. But it isn't as straight forward as that.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Man as Some Kind of Baffling Monster

Image of Dick Walsh's Some Baffling Monster from a work in progress performance

"Greek tragedy reveals Man as some kind of baffling monster", wrote philosopher Simon Critchley. It's one of several diverse references sourced from philosophers to screenwriters, Euripides to Paul Newman, that Dick Walsh mentions in our interview.

An Irish Times reviewer summed up their experience of his last play, a dangerman, as: "At one point in last night's show, I thought he might actually kill us". But while sitting in a café, Walsh kindly gets up from the table and asks the barista what flavour tea would best serve to unwind me from the stress of my day job. 

We then discuss his new play in the Dublin Fringe Festival: Some Baffling Monster

"I had an idea to re-look at the Greek play, where they discuss morals in a very overt way and characters have a very moral debate onstage". He goes on to describe how he adapted the plot of a Paul Newman movie, Hud, to an Irish scenario of a struggle between an old man and his son for the family farm. "I took this story as a set up for a moral debate: what makes a good man?"

Sunday, September 1, 2013

In Beckett the Body is the Thing so Act Without Words

Promotional art for Company SJ and Barabbas's joint productions of Beckett's Act Without Words II and Rough for Theatre One

Samuel Beckett was the great painter of a landscape blasted and smoldering after the second World War. But does the effect of him translate from the shell-shocked spectators seeing Waiting for Godot and Endgame in the 1950s to contemporary audiences, or do the plays need to find a way to respond to the devastation of today?

If so, director Sarah Jane Scaife and performer Raymond Keane may have found a way to do just that, as they relocate two of Beckett's one-acts to the city streets at night as part of the Dublin Fringe Festival.

The mime play Act Without Words II (which comes in at just over two sheets of sheer stage directions) had already been produced by the duo in the early 1990s. Scaife was qualified with her sharp sensibility of Yeats and Beckett, and Keane had trained in the Marcel Marceau camp of French mime. Their collaboration then ended. "I dropped her", Keane jokes. The reality was that he was going on to co-found the Barabbas company while she was off to direct Beckett in every corner of the world.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Mephisto, 'Eclipsed': Raise Up Your Hearts, You Washer Women!

Photo: Hugh Quigley
Town Hall Theatre, Galway
Aug 22-31

My review of Eclipsed by Patricia Burke Brogan coming up just as soon as I have tea and toast in the small pantry ...

Friday, August 23, 2013

Gate Theatre, 'A Streetcar Named Desire': Don't You Just Love Those Long Rainy Afternoons in Dublin?

Photo: Peter Rowen
Gate Theatre
Jul 18-Sept 21

My review of A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennesse Williams coming up just as soon as I instill a bunch of drugstore Romeos with a reverence for Hawthorne and Whitman and Poe ... 

Friday, August 16, 2013

Abbey Theatre, 'Major Barbara': What Price is Salvation Now?

Photo: Ros Kavanagh
Abbey Theatre
Aug 7-Sep 21

My review of Major Barbara by George Bernard Shaw coming up just as soon as the vulgarity of it positively makes me ill ...

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Dublin Fringe Gets Locked Out but Who Else is in this Year's Festival?

Raymond Keane's physical stylings from his performance in clown may just make him the man for Samuel Beckett's Act Without Words II. Photo: F. Sakauchi

Dublin Fringe Festival has revealed the remainder of this year's programme after having already leaked the highlights last month (my write-up on that here)

We learn more about ANU Productions' city-wide installation of the Lockout that seeks to immerse audiences in the events of 100 years ago. Thirteen sees 13 interdisciplinary art events taking place across 13 days at various Luas stops, the conserved tenement at No. 14 Henrietta St (which was the site of Thirteen's prelude: Living the Lockout), Dublin Castle, Liberty Hall, Collins Barracks and other places. All events are free-ticketed.

The offering from the Spirit of the Fringe-commissioned Paperdolls is called Bunk - an aerial circus performance about the threshold between internal and external worlds, in other words: the bed.

It's very exciting to hear of the collaboration between avant garde director Sarah Jane Scaife and Raymond Keane on Samuel Beckett's Rough for Theatre One and Act Without Words II. I've held a suspicion that Keane with his physical stylings drawn from his performance in clown could be a formidable performer of Beckett's work, considering the playwright's own influences from Charlie Chaplin.

(Also, Keane's Barabbas colleague, the sweeping Bryan Burroughs, will be tearing up Beowulf in Bewleys Cafe Theatre, and Ruth Lehane performs in red nose in Ruth 66, which is about a clown's travels across America involving sex, drugs, the usual.)

On the creative winds of Human Child earlier this year, Collapsing Horse present their new play, this time for adult audiences: Distance From the Event by Eoghan Quinn. Starring John Cronin, this Irish noir/Sci fi hybrid follows an investigator looking to solve the disappearance of a human colony on a distant planet. Epic in scale, as is to be expected from this energetic company.

Plays also seem to be back at the Fringe. Genevieve Hulme-Beaman has been fantastic in everything I've seen her in, and her play, Pondling, about a schoolgirl searching for love might be a promising debut. The charming (and talented as hell) Janet Moran performs in Swing, a play about dance and nerves, written by Moran, Steve Blout and Gavin Kostick. Louise Melinn and Máirín O'Grady co-write The King's Feet, an absurdist play directed by Aoife Spillane-Hinks. Hopefully the attributes of these two fine writers - to present what is instantly recognisable from Irish life today - won't be lost in the exercising of the absurdist form. And John Morton's War of Attrition for Devious Theatre seems to be a vibrant tale about three young Irish people living in Dublin and the terror they wreak on each others lives.

Dick Walsh had audiences flinching in last year's a dangerman, and now he returns with Some Baffling Monster - a tale of a father and son's struggle for a farm presented in a form "monstrously Brechtian, maybe better than Brecht". Sounds like a tall order but don't be fooled: Walsh seems well voiced in contemporary performance styles.

A few of the performances which we glimpsed at THE THEATRE MACHINE TURNS YOU ON VOL. III are also in here, many of which share a theme of womanhood such as Sorcha Kenny's DOLLS, Louise Lewis's The Churching of Happy Cullen and Meadhbh Haicéid's MADONNA.

Oisín McKenna's spoken word performance Writer/Performer/Salesman (A New Play About Retail) was one of the highlights of THE THEATRE MACHINE, and now he presents GRINDR / A Love Story - a piece about gay relationships in the digital age.

Also: the street performers of Macnas will be transforming Meeting House Square into the magical world of Chaosmos; composer for theatre Denis Clohessy presents the music-led revenge tale Animus (which, if as good as his usual compositions, could be marvelous); Bush Moukarzel presents a curious and extraordinary-sounding performance called LIPPY inspired by a real life suicide pact in Kildare between an aunt and her three nieces; and Brian Flemming makes a welcome return with more tales of the Irish in Africa in Have Yis No Homes to Go To.

What will you be seeing in Dublin Fringe Festival 2013?

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Pan Pan, 'Embers': The Old Man and the Sea

Photo: Ros Kavanagh
Samuel Beckett Theatre
Aug 8-17

My review of Embers by Samuel Beckett coming up just as soon as I carry a gramophone about with me ...

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Ether Productions, 'Landfall': Moving Up to Higher Ground

Project Arts Centre
Aug 7-10

My review of Landfall by Niamh Creely coming up just as soon as I borrow a pair of pliers from my neighbour ...

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Theatre Roundup at the Big House Festival

Castletown House, Kildare
Aug 3-5

Yesterday I teamed up with my mother for the Big House Festival - the cultural carnival of music, theatre and dance that is occupying the grounds of Castletown House this bank holiday weekend.

While consulting our festival programme and making our game plan for the day, an elderly man in sharp dress sat opposite us. He gently mentioned that he didn't mean to cause offense by sitting with his back facing us - he was hungry for a bite to eat and wished to study the menus of the nearby food venders.

My mother struck up conversation with the gentleman, remarking on the beautiful scenery. He seemed to know a lot about the property and its different stages of refurbishment. This made us both curious as to who he was, and it was my mother's investigative skills that called it: "You're a Guinness, aren't you?".

Mr. Desmond Guinness bought the Castletown House estate back in 1967. As an author and conservationist of Georgian art, he had bought the property to protect the house and preserve its majestic architecture. However, the costs of such were monumental, as he sadly recalls to us how the building had to remain empty for a few years. Today it is a heritage site maintained by the Office of Public Works.

Desmond's attention seemed to keep straying past our heads and towards the lively crowds of people entering the site. Director Jo Mangan of the Performance Corporation is reputed for animating public spaces, and her Big House Festival has converted the heritage site into the grounds for a fabulous pageant. It seems to make Mr. Guinness smile.

We say our goodbyes and head towards the meadow for Pillowtalk's Catch of the Day. Here we meet a story-telling sailor spinning tales from his canoe in a lake. The actor comes off as sharp and charming in what is a combination of rehearsed performance and improvisation. Director Rosemary McKenna hands you a net to fish out a message in a bottle that when read aloud prompts the actor to tell stories of the sea in tuneful rhyme and verse (from the pen of playwright James Hickson, I'm guessing, who we see scribbling into his notepad under a nearby tree).

It's a small and sweet number, which feels a little strange from a company who usually drive for more provocative material such as Philip Stokes's Heroin(e) for Breakfast and the devised Anna in Between. Like all the performances at the festival, they have to be kiddie-friendly, but this criteria seems to have muted their more dramatic devices.

A new dance performance choreographed by Emma Martin shows that you can stage a dance performance at a family festival while being unafraid to challenge minds. Come Dance With Me is performed by a cast of dancers with intellectual disabilities from Celbridge's St Raphael's centre.

We immediately question what to scrutinse in this work: the skill set of the performers? What Martin is seeking to project about intellectual disability? But over occasionally broken lines of choreography we are drawn into the faces of the performers, who are having a blast - a beautiful presence that is pure and un-rigid. In dazzling ballroom costumes they strut and waltz to sweet arrangements (gathered by competent composer Tom Lane, I suspect). A narrative begins to take shape with scenes humorous but also completely moving. A romantic waltz unveils an intimacy that has remained invisible to us all our lives.

The Big House also saw the relocation of WillFredd's fantastic FARM from its origins as a rural space disrupting the urban world to the environs of an actual farmyard.

As performer Emma O'Kane removes the harness from Ralph the Pony, I overhear a spectator asking a friend: "Is this a part of the play?". The segment has always been presented candidly, respecting the verbatim source of the scene. But when queen bee Marie Ruane and the boys perform their barbershop quartet, FARM dazzles both child and adult alike. And the line-dancing scene being performed at the front steps of Castletown House is a pretty cool sight.

I was wondering if director Sophie Motley would go for a more naturalist staging now that the show was being performed on a farm site but its gaps in its illusions are still here. Perhaps the biggest example of this is the scene with the allotments where the plots are empty despite being described as being full of carrots. But when a child says that he can't see any carrots, his mother tells him: "Use your imagination".

I think this is what this show is ultimately telling us to do. You have to fill in some of the realism for yourself, and that requires some internal questioning. As it is said in Paul Curley's powerful monologue at the end, "the land doesn't lie", and finding our way to our own relationship with the land may require some play in between the literal and the representational, the farm and the theatre stage (neither of which FARM can probably be performed), to somewhere deeply personal.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Dublin Tenement Experience, 'Living the Lockout': No. 14 Henrietta Street

Photo: Patrick Redmond
No. 14 Henrietta St, Dublin
Jul 4-Aug 31

My review of The Dublin Tenement Experience's Living the Lockout exhibition - devised by ANU Productions - coming up just as soon as I try to hide from you underneath my Sunday hat ...

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Pageant Wagon, 'Mary Stuart': The Last Queen of Scotland

Photo: Futoshi Sakauchi
Freemasons Hall, Dublin
July 30-Aug 10

My review of Mary Stuart - Queen of Scots by Friedrich Schiller coming up just as soon as I place a weighty responsibility in fumbling hands ...

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Don't Say the 'C' Word: Irish Theatre Outside the Capital

Macnas's This Thunderous Heart tears down a street in Galway.

Last night an article written by Una Mullally was published on the Irish Times website. Entitled 'The 60 Most Creative People In Ireland Right Now', it lists a range of talented people involved in the arts.

I enjoyed the article but one can't ignore that it's a very Dublin-centered list, and it doesn't represent the overall output of creativity in the country. Mullally gives a disclaimer acknowledging this, fluffing her authority on the subject with the simple truth: "That's where I live".

There is a lot happening in Dublin but we can't take it to represent the nation. I ran into this problem last year. I began writing this blog while living in Galway, and when I moved to Dublin I felt a certain authority with my knowledge of theatricals outside the mainstream theatre in the capital. But in the comments section of my write-up on Irish theatre in 2012 it was pointed out that, with the exception of one act, all the performances I had discussed were from Dublin-based companies. Hence the addition of the subtitle: A blog about theatre in Dublin and elsewhere.

(note: I've been working on reducing my own Dublin-centered habbits. You can read my Cork Midsummer Festival coverage here and my Galway Arts Festival coverage here.)

Mullally should have readjusted her headline to reflect her local scope on things. But it doesn't hurt to have a list of the creative and productive theatre companies that are based outside the capital.

No doubt I have left out somebody so please add them in the comments section.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

TheEmergencyRoom, 'riverrun': A Way Through the Wake

Druid Lane Theatre, Galway Arts Festival
Jul 22-27

My review of Olwen Fouéré's riverrun coming up just as soon as I look astronomically fabula ...

Friday, July 19, 2013

Fabulous Beast, 'The Rite of Spring': Pictures of Pagan Russia

Photo: Johan Persson

Black Box Theatre, Galway Arts Festival
Jul 15-20

Next festival stop: Galway Arts Festival, where Fabulous Beast are headlining proceedings with their double bill of Igor Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring and Petrushka.

Unfortunately, I had to leave in the interval before Petrushka in order to catch a bus so I won't be able to comment on experiencing both in tandem (would greatly appreciate you guys filling me in in the comments section).

My review of The Rite of Spring coming up just as soon as I bum a cigarette ...

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Project Arts Centre, 'Best Man': A Novel Nanny

Photo: Michael MacSweeney
Project Arts Centre, Dublin
Jul 16-27

My review of Best Man by Carmel Winters coming up just as soon I show remarkable enthusiasm for the free whiskey ...

Thursday, July 11, 2013

THISISPOPBABY, 'All Dolled Up Restitched': High Heels in Low Places

Abbey Theatre, Dublin
July 10-20

My review of All Dolled Up Restitched by Panti coming up just as soon as I'm surrounded by the debris of a destitute transvestite ...

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Theatre Festival Reminds Us of Ireland's International Standing

Estragon, Vladimir, Pozzo, Lucky and the Boy are back.

The Dublin Theatre Festival (Sept 26-Oct 13) line-up was revealed yesterday.

"Come Out to Play" is the header of this year's programme, and from looking at it you'd think that it's a message meant especially for the international community, as if Festival Director Willie White is saying: "Dublin is ready to play"

Last year's programme was heavily dependent on home-grown artists - a circumstance possibly due to the lack of a replacement sponsor after Ulster Bank. Still, it was a strong festival that put the best of Irish theatre into action (it was great to see The Corn Exchange landing the Gaiety stage and The Company graduating onto a bigger platform) as well as hosting acclaimed international acts such as Elevator Repair Service, Forced Entertainment and the Wooster Group.

There are many more performances being flown in this time around. Richard Maxwell's New York City Players come from the height of NYC's experimental downtown scene with Neutral Hero. Listed as one of the top ten shows of 2012 in the New York Times, this tells the story of a man searching for his father in the wide open landscape of the American Midwest using the company's unique neutral style.

We also have the Royal Shakespeare Company's production of the narrative poem The Rape of Lucrece performed by the sensational Camille O'Sullivan. Pushing the boundaries of contemporary circus, Australian company Circa deliver their "exquisite cabaret of the senses": Wunderkammer. From Portugal comes Mundo Perfeito's Three fingers below the knee - a performance informed by the archives of the censorship commission established during Salazar's dictatorship which exposes the oppression of artistic and political freedom felt during that time. While The Events - the most recent play by Scotland's acclaimed dramatist David Greig - comes to the Abbey's Peacock Stage.

Speaking of which, the Abbey will be the site of the first original Frank McGuinness play there (or anywhere else?) in fourteen years. The Hanging Gardens promises to be a  familiar portrait of the Irish family, centering on a writer and the tensions in his family(*). The original play comes after a lengthy string of adaptations at the Abbey such as John Gabriel Borkman and The Dead, and is directed by Irish director supreme Patrick Mason. While over at the Gate, director Wayne Jordan tackle's Bertolt Brecht's The Threepenny Opera - the "epic masterpiece of 20th century musical theatre". Brecht never seems to be performed in Ireland, and it's nice to see the Gate re-introducing him to an Irish audience (considering its historic role as being the Irish hub for the hits of European modernism back in the day) injected with Jordan's fresh and chic vision (Alice in Funderland anyone?). You might also want to drool over the cast lists for both shows

(*) Calling it now: the son character described as "struggling for his father's acceptance" is homosexual. It seems to be McGuinness's go-to insecurity in a male character, as seen in 'The Sons of Ulster Marching Towards the Somme' and 'Dolly West's Kitchen'.

Of course, in a time when Brecht was pushing the form and Ireland's dramatists seemed concerned only with insular matters and basic modes of realism, we could claim Samuel Beckett as our proud contribution to the world of European modernism. Waiting for Godot comes to the Gaiety Theatre from acclaimed Beckett interpreters: the Gare St Lazare Players. Continuing to represent Irish theatre's ability to innovate, with their own unique incorporation of international styles, The Corn Exchange turn to Eugene O'Neill's early American masterpiece Desire Under the Elms. Whenever I see that The Corn Exchange are doing an adaptation part of me hopes that they push their commedia dell'arte masks to the max, as they did in their adaptation of Chekov's The Seagull way back when. Commedia's stock characters are locked in specific and extreme emotional states, and so are antithetic to the dominant mode of psychological realism where characters undergo behavioral change. The clash between both performance traditions has wielded fantastic results in the past.

Both members of Operating Theatre (Ireland's seminal avant garde company) are also in here, with Olwen Fouéré's riverrun celebrating the elemental journey of Anna Livia Plurabelle in James Joyce's Finnegan's Wake, and an in development showing of Roger Doyle's opera about the Renaissance genius Giordano Bruno.

Unfortunately, Irish Theatre Institute's ReViewed series seems to be missing. This initiative brought back strong productions which were felt deserving of a wider audience.

Also: the ghost of Maeve Brennan returns as Eamon Morrissey reveals how the Irish-born writer for the New Yorker caught up with him in his one-man show Maeve's House; Richard Brinsley Sheridan's 18th century satire The Critic receives a new production by Rough Magic; and Theatre Lovett take on the Brothers Grimm with A Feast of Bones.

Ultimately, this year's Dublin Theatre Festival aims to prove Ireland's abilities to host the cutting edge of international theatre, while simultaneously demonstrating that Irish theatre has a significant part to play.