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.

Bluepatch Productions (Galway and Dublin)

Actor and director Aoife Connolly has formed a vibrant collective of theatre, music and visual artists, and a sensuous fusing of art forms usually comes with a Bluepatch performance. She trained with Anne Bogart and SITI Co. in New York, and more recently completed a mentorship programme with Jim Culleton of Fishamble. With a lot of performance styles under her belt, Connolly is one of the most exciting up-and-coming directors around.

Blue Teapot Theatre Company (Galway)

A professional theatre company for performers with intellectual disabilites. Backed by one hell of a production team and artistic director Petal Pilley, the Teapots are currently performing Sanctuary by Christian O'Reilly at the Galway Arts Festival and will tour to Dublin Fringe in September.

Blue Raincoat (Sligo)

The corporeal mime techniques of Étienne Decroux takes a detour through Sligo. Director Niall Henry and company are more physically deft than any other. Upcoming performances include Samuel Beckett's Endgame, a new play Yuri by Jocelyn Clarke, and a tour of their trilogy of Flann O'Brien adaptations to New York.

Bottom Dog (Limerick)

Now that company member Liam O'Brien is finishing up his tour with international Shakespeare troupe Propeller, Bottom Dog will be getting back into gear just in time for Limerick's 2014 City of Culture. The company's recent work includes a work in progress of King Lear in the Dominican Abbey in Kilmallock.

Conflicted Theatre (Cork)

This company's striking use of sceneography may have blew up in their face in their recent adaptation of The Scarlet Letter but in the past it has been very impressive. Keep an eye out for them.

Corcadorca (Cork)

They've staged productions all across Cork in venues ranging from pubs to courthouses. We've been getting mostly rehearsed readings from them recently. Time to announce a full production.

Devious (Kilkenny)

The name says plenty. What I've seen of this company's produced writing seems to take its influences from Hollywood and writing for the screen (they did give us the Irish stage premiere of George A. Romero's horror classic Night of the Living Dead) and scribes such as John Morton seem deeply curious about epic love and have a sharp pen for comedy. Check out their stuff at the upcoming scratch night Little Deviations and listen out for news regarding their next production.

Druid (Galway)

Ireland's most committed touring company has Tony awards to boast its brilliance, specifically for the work of visionary director Garry Hynes and actress Marie Mullen. Still waiting to hear what the follow-up to last year's towering DruidMurphy will be.

Fidget Feet (Longford and Donegal)

Ireland's seminal aerialist dance company, and their work is sheer spectacle. Fidget Feet will be touching down on Irish soil after some international touring with their new circus performance A Fairies' Tail at Kilkenny Arts Festival, and will be in development for an aerial translation of Yeats's The Second Coming.

Fregoli (Galway)

Husband and wife duo Rob McFeely and Maria Tivnan continue to guide this energetic company. It's like Lecoq landed in the West, as scenes are punctuated with pure physicality. Lately they've been producing Tivnan's own original plays, which have been getting good reviews. They're currently touring Mosaic of Dreams by company playwright Shane McDermott.

Macnas (Galway)

The wild street performers and puppet creatures of the Macnas performances surround and enchant, transforming streets and public spaces in their wake. Consider spending Halloween this year in Galway as the company have received major funding to produce a city parade.

Makeshift Ensemble (Cork)

A company seemingly steeped in documentary and contemporary performance styles. Their latest ticket, Exit Strategy, will be touring to the Dublin Fringe Festival.

Mephisto (Galway)

Two years ago I walked out of a Mephisto production and heard a local Galway woman say: "It's like seeing Druid back in the day". This company may exert similar touring and performance values as Druid did but the national funding model has completely changed, and after six years and constant producing it's about time Mephisto were awarded a Project Award or some encouragement from the Arts Council. The Town Hall Theatre has invested in them and given the company an annual slot on their main stage - a slot that they seem to perform in successfully. The company is noted for its strong female performers, especially Emma O'Grady, Caroline Lynch, and Zita Monahan, as well as the rising playwright Tara McKevitt. Their next offering is a production of the Magdeline drama Eclipsed by Patricia Burke Brogan.

Moonfish (Galway)

Recent winners of the Stewart Parker Trust Award for Best Irish Language Play, sisters Máiréad and Ionia Ní Chróinín have found a rare magic that appeals to audiences of different ages, across different languages. Moonfish's Dublin run of Tromluí Phinocchio / Pinocchio - a Nightmare at last year's Fringe was extended into a Christmas slot at Smock Alley Theatre. They have fabulous stagecraft, and we should all be excited about their upcoming adaptation of Joe O'Connor's famine ship novel: Star of the Sea.

Red Kettle (Waterford)

One of the longest running companies in the country, Red Kettle was recently given a touring award to bring back Michael Hilliard Mulcahy's Beyond the Brooklyn Sky, which got good reviews when it debuted last year. Look out for it in October.

Ruairí Donovan (Cork)

This choreographer always seems to be on the move, touring with international dance collectives around the world. It's nice to see him staying put for once. Donovan was the choreographer of the visceral WITCHES.



    Anam is a Galway-based theatre company, founded by actor, director and writer Sarah O'Toole. Anam love great writing and staging original, classic and modern plays. Previous productions have been "The Yalta Game" "Onegin" and, most recently "Closer". We also like to innovate with interactive events such as our highly entertaining "Literary Restaurant" format.

    Influenced by the theatre philosophy of Michael Chekhov, we are committed to exploring and experimenting with different styles in order to present simple, elegant and engaging work. We have worked with talented actors such as Martin Maguire, Grace Kiely, Roisin Eyres, Cormac Culkeen, Amanda Gareis, Feilim O'hAolain and Muireann Bird.

  2. The Spontaneous Theatre People are a performance ensemble based in The West of Ireland. Our projects include Moth and Butterfly, a night combining Stories and Improvisation, Mrs Nellie Murphy, an lady of the word and the story, and The Sky Babies, Galway's brand new improv troupe that brings together some of the West's most exciting performers (including members of the fab Moonfish and Mephisto gang that you mention above).

    The Spontaneous Theatre People create exciting work which includes; improvised theatre, storytelling, music, and new writing & performances for the stage.

    We also facilitate workshops in improvised theatre for groups and companies, and provide coaching for solo performers. Our collective is made up of theatrical performers, musicians, writers, designers and multi-media makers.

    PS thanks for your lovely blog!