Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Irish Theatre Top 10 of 2014

Enda Walsh's play Ballyturk preached the idea of pushing life, and theatre, to the very edge 

As per the year end ramble of making lists, below I give what I think are the highlights of 2014 in Irish theatre.

This year I wrote about 109 productions mounted in 6 different counties, with generous support from many producers and venue managers along the way.

Below are the 10 that struck me most:

Saturday, December 20, 2014

THISISPOPBABY and Panti, 'High Heels in Low Places': National F*&king Treasure

Earlier this year, Panti dragged a debate about homophobia into the public realm. Resisting the pressure of being a LGBT representative, the drag queen returns to form. 

Project Arts Centre
Dec 1-6

Earlier this year I wrote about Panti's performances on the Saturday Night Show and her Noble Call. My review of High Heels in Low Places coming up just as soon as I see Madonna's arm ...

Devious Theatre, 'War of Attrition': Bitches be Chuggin'

A blogger turns a chugger's life into a nightmare in John Morton's play. An apathetic generation is using the internet as a battlefield.   

Project Arts Centre
Dec 16-20

My review of War of Attrition by John Morton coming up just as soon as I listen to Toto in an elevator ...

Monday, December 15, 2014

ORion Productions, 'The Motherfucker with the Hat': Your, Whaddyacallit, World View

New York is a high octane and revelatory trip in Stephen Adly Guirgis's comedy. What's the point of getting sober? Photo: Táine King. 

The New Theatre
Dec 3-20

My review of The Motherfucker with the Hat by Stephen Adly Guirgis coming up just as soon as I give you a small fuzzy bear that grips and shit ...

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

ANU Productions and The Performance Corporation, 'Beautiful Dreamers': Loud City Song

As the City of Culture year approaches its end, ANU and The Performance Corporation start a conversation about Limerick. Photo: Patrick Redmond

69 O'Connell St (Meeting Point), Limerick City of Culture
Nov 27-Dec 6

My review of Beautiful Dreamers coming up just as soon as my uncle was a pork butcher ...

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Fishamble, 'Underneath': On the Brink of Genius or Virtuosity?

Kinevane's poetic drama pursues ideas of beauty. It's a question of whether or not you'll appreciate its eclecticism. Photo: Patrick Redmond.

Lime Tree Theatre, Limerick City of Culture
December 5-6

My spoiler-free review of Underneath by Pat Kinevane coming up just as soon as I headbutt the Queen ...

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Maiden Voyage Dance and Liz Roche Company, 'Neither Either': In Two Places at Once

Seamus Heaney's 'strain of being in two places at once' inspires this North-South co-production. 

Project Arts Centre
Nov 11-15

My review of Neither Either coming up after the jump ...

Monday, November 17, 2014

Amalgamotion Theatre, 'The Lighthouse Keeper': Full Circle

A daughter becomes her mother's home carer in Ella Daly's new play. But a healthcare system under strain poses challenges.

Dance Limerick, Limerick City of Culture
Nov 12-15

My review of The Lighthouse Keeper by Ella Daly coming up after the jump ...

Wildebeest, 'On the Wire': The Sons of Munster March Towards the Somme

A Limerick soldier returns home from fighting in WWI. Following him inside a crumbling Victorian house to face his psychological trauma, we might confront our wider amnesia about Ireland's participation in the Great War.

The Sailor's Home, Limerick City of Culture
Nov 11-15 

My review of On the Wire coming up just as soon as I see that lightning bitch ...

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Guna Nua, 'The Unlucky Cabin Boy': Three Sails

A ship from 1830s Limerick, The Francis Spaight, sails again in Guna Nua's new musical. The demise of an unlucky cabin boy is part of local folklore but its tragedy resonates beyond the City of Culture. 

Lime Tree Theatre, Limerick City of Culture
Nov 6-8

My review of The Unlucky Cabin Boy coming up just as soon as I have a tumble with a hefty maid from Kilmallock ...

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Abbey Theatre, 'The Waste Ground Party': Community Outreach

In Shaun Dunne's drama an inner-city Dublin community prepares to celebrate the paving of a waste ground. But in the face of regeneration some things never change. Photo: Ros Kavanagh. 

Peacock Theatre
Nov 5-22

My review of The Waste Ground Party by Shaun Dunne coming up just as soon I pass you the collection plate in a church ...

Friday, October 31, 2014

Ether Productions, 'The Locked Room': Flown Away With the Circus

Two circus performers wake up with amnesia inside a locked room. For Ether Productions, the only way is up.

Project Arts Centre
Oct 29-Nov 1

My review of The Locked Room coming up just as soon as I beat you in Rock-Paper-Scissors ...

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Celebrating Stoker by Interrupting the Ordinary

Macnas return to Dublin for the Bram Stoker Festival and the scale of the performance is epic. 

You'd think it was an ordinary day in Dublin: mellowing outside a Temple Bar café, elaborate coffee in hand. Then a pale fellow donning a crimson overcoat, with more than a smidgen of blood dripping from his mouth, thoughtfully says hello with a flash of his fangs.

An agent of Dracula perhaps? Or maybe Jo Mangan, theatre director of The Performance Corporation and artistic leader of the Bram Stoker Festival. Sending these vampiric figures (Anthony Kinahan and Camille Ross, sticking their charismatically deformed necks out) to scour the streets is one of Mangan's methods to engage the wider city, which is surely a challenge. The broad programme of events including a fancy-dress Shapeshifters Ball at IMMA, a VampWire zip-line in Wolfe Tone Square, and a range of readings and lectures seems intent to draw blood from that figurative stone.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Blue Raincoat, 'The Playboy of the Western World': Going to the Dogs

The stifling realism of Synge's play prompted riots at its 1907 premiere. What happens when Blue Raincoat take The Playboy of the Western World out of the peasant cottage?  

The Factory Performance Space, Sligo 
Oct 22-Nov 1

My review of The Playboy of the Western World by John Millington Synge coming up just as soon as I set the guardian angels winking in the clouds above ...

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Lyric Theatre, 'Pentecost': Historical Days in Lilliput

Director Jimmy Fay lays the symbolism a bit thick in his staging of Stewart Parker's play but its final scene is transcendent.

Lyric Theatre, Belfast
Sept 24-Oct18

My review of Pentecost by Stewart Parker coming up after the jump ...

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Fishamble, 'Spinning': Modern Family

The truth of contemporary family life is on Deirdre Kinahan's mind. However, the line between rationality and irrationality feels problematised. 

Smock Alley Theatre, Dublin Theatre Festival
Oct 3-12

My review of Spinning by Deirdre Kinahan coming up after the jump ...

Monday, October 6, 2014

Abbey Theatre, 'Our Few and Evil Days': Boy Who Cried Wolf

The artful surface of Mark O'Rowe's play leaves us suspecting throughout. Things are not what they seem.

Abbey Theatre, Dublin Theatre Festival 
Oct 3-Oct 25

My review of Our Few and Evil Days by Mark O'Rowe coming up just as soon as I say hello in Brown Thomas ...

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Gate Theatre, 'The Mariner': Off a Duck's Back

Can Hugo Hamilton's play plunge the depths of the great silence that Irish men brought home from WWI? 

Gate Theatre, Dublin Theatre Festival 
Sept 30-Oct 25

My review of The Mariner by Hugo Hamilton coming up after the jump ...

Friday, October 3, 2014

Brokentalkers, 'Frequency 783': Future Forecasting

Do you like to think about the future? In Brokentalkers' new production, an elderly performer envisions utopia while a younger performer can't help but meditate on his own destruction.  

Project Arts Centre, Dublin Theatre Festival
Oct 2-5

My review of Frequency 783 coming up just as soon as I don't drink wine in case I short-circuit ... 

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Pan Pan, 'The Seagull and Other Birds': Avant Garde a Clue

The artist in Chekov's The Seagull desperately searches for new art forms. Pan Pan's strategy for success is a fray of colliding texts. 

Project Arts Centre, Dublin Theatre Festival 
Sept 29-Oct 5

My review of The Seagull and Other Birds coming up just as soon as I buy two bottles of Pinot Grigio in the off licence ...

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The Corn Exchange, 'A Girl is a Half-formed Thing': Pieces of a Whole

Eimear McBride's boldly original novel has become a literary phenomenon. How can The Corn Exchange adapt it for the stage?

Samuel Beckett Theatre, Dublin Theatre Festival
Sept 28-Oct 5

My review of A Girl is a Half-formed Thing, adapted from the novel by Eimear McBride, coming up just as soon as I fight for opera tickets and drink schnapps ...

Saturday, September 27, 2014

ANU Productions, 'Vardo': Do Not Pass Go, Do Not Collect €200

The concluding chapter of ANU's Monto Cycle brings 100 years of history full circle. Photo: Patrick Redmond.

Oonagh Young Gallery, Dublin Theatre Festival
Sept 25-Oct 12

A few weeks ago I talked to ANU director Louise Lowe about Vardo and the Monto Cycle as a whole. My review coming up just as soon as I count backwards from one hundred ...

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Claire & Leah & Dylan, 'B(r)itches': Do Brecht

A satire of the industry and its treatment of women takes the form of improvisational theatre. The problem is that its clearly pre-scripted. 

Project Arts Centre, Dublin Fringe Festival
Sept 17-20

My review of B(r)itches by Clare Galvin, Leah Minto and Dylan Coburn Gray coming up just as soon as I can't play the boat ...

Friday, September 19, 2014

Gentle Giant Theatre, 'Whichever1uFeed': Pal, You're a Lamb

Christ admits his violent fantasies in this biblical retelling. What meaning then is given to his temptations?

The Stables, Dublin Fringe Festival
Sept 15-20

My review of Whichever1uFeed by Ross Gaynor, Neil Watkins and James O'Driscoll coming up after the jump ...

15th Oak, 'Reckoners': Welcome to the Stra

There is something off about The Stra - the fictional town in Ross Dungan's new play. In a town without order, the structure feels forced.

The Lir, Dublin Fringe Festival
Sept 16-20

My review of Reckoners by Ross Dungan coming up just as soon as I'm unaware of the grenade that I've rolled into the centre of the room ...

Druid, 'Bailegangaire': Drawing Wisdom From the Fire

The 1984 premiere of Bailegangaire has been passed on like a folktale by those who saw it. Alongside the new prequel Brigit, will Garry Hynes' revival be as momentous?

Town Hall Theatre, Galway
Sept 14, 17, 19, 20, 21

My review of Bailegangaire by Tom Murphy coming up just as soon as great rumbles start risin' in the barrel of my chest ...

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Druid, 'Brigit': What the Oak Meant

30 years ago Tom Murphy conveyed the mythic timelessness of Irish storytelling in Bailegangaire. The new prequel Brigit sees the playwright tracing our traditions back further than before. 

Town Hall Theatre, Galway
Sept 14, 16, 18, 20, 21

My review of Brigit by Tom Murphy coming up just as soon as I hang my cloak on a sunbeam ...

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Little Wolf Productions, 'Eating Seals and Seagulls' Eggs': Showwomen of the Blaskets

The begrudged Peig Sayer would probably appreciate Ní Mhurchú's spiny and unsentimental tribute.

Project Arts Centre, Dublin Fringe Festival
Sept 15-20

My review of Eating Seals and Seagulls' Eggs by Caitríona Ní Mhurchú coming up just as soon as I scratch my retina with a rusty nail ...

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

John Doran, 'The Centre Of The Universe': Cult Status

In asking us to join his cult, John Doran deconstructs the influence of exploitative institutions. What's unsettling is that he's immensely likeable along the way.

Bewleys Cafe Theatre, Dublin Fringe Festival
Sept 11, 12, 14, 17, 19, 20 

My review of The Centre Of The Universe by John Doran coming up just as soon as I treat you like my best friend ...

Gonzo Theatre, 'Pilgrim': Irishman Abroad

Can Rex Ryan pull off playing a violent, drinking, pregnant woman-beating misogynist who the audience can laugh at?

Sept 11-14 and 16-18, Dublin Fringe Festival
Smock Alley Theatre

My review of Pilgrim by Philip Doherty coming up just as soon as I have an octuple whiskey ...

Monday, September 15, 2014

Niamh Shaw, 'To SPACE': Where There's a Will, There's a Whey

Scientist/performer Niamh Shaw wants to go to space. Becoming increasingly smaller in an expanding universe, what does it take to realise your dreams?

Dublin Science Gallery, Dublin Fringe Festival
Sept 9-14 

My review of To SPACE by Niamh Shaw coming up just as soon as I accidentally discover a constellation while feeding my dog ...

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Company SJ, 'Fizzles': Standing at Western Window

Beckett's short prose are adapted for performance within a crumbling townhouse. From Sarah Jane Scaife's scrupulous installation, we get the sense that lives didn't turn out the way they should have. 

14 Henrietta St, Dublin Fringe Festival 
Sept 11-17

My review of Fizzles by Samuel Beckett coming up just as I anticipate some degree of starlight ...

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Just The Lads, 'At Sea': The Ocean of Our Minds

An old man's youthful imagination runs riot as he sinks further into dementia.

The New Theatre
Sept 9-13

My review of At Sea coming up just as soon as my dulcet tones are popular with the ladies ...

Rough Magic, 'How To Keep An Alien': A Glance Across a Ballroom.

The intelligently wry Sonya Kelly plays a blinder in this memoir about love and separation. Photo: Anthony Woods. 

Project Arts Centre, Dublin Fringe Festival
Sept 6-13

My review of How To Keep An Alien by Sonya Kelly coming up just as soon as a moist pearl of midlife crisis drips down my forehead ...

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Talking Shop Ensemble, 'Advocacy': From a Distance

Telling their stories from a distance, can Talking Shop Ensemble bring us closer to the reality of disability services in Ireland? 

Project Arts Centre, Dublin Fringe Festival
Sept 7-13

My review of Advocacy by Shaun Dunne coming up just as soon as I prevent the shady shopkeeper from selling me something I don't want ...

Monday, September 8, 2014

Dowager, 'Bernarda's House': Women in the Villages in Spain

Clown is a remove from reality. Where then does Veronica Coburn's red nose retelling of Lorca's tragedy bring us?

Project Arts Centre, Dublin Fringe Festival 
Sept 7-13

My review of Bernarda's House coming up just as soon as the future and the past photobomb the present ...

Ulysses Opera Theatre, 'HARP | A River Cantata': Bridging Centuries

Reclaiming the Harp of Daghda becomes a spectacular celebration in Ulysses' opera. 

Samuel Beckett Bridge, Dublin Fringe Festival
Sept 6

My review of HARP | A River Contata coming up after the jump ...

Sunday, September 7, 2014

The Company, 'The Rest Is Action': Victory With a Twist

Getting inside the Oresteia is hard work. For The Company, the challenge is getting out.

Project Arts Centre 
Sept 6-13

My review of The Rest Is Action coming up just as soon as I have sacrificial victims on the altar bleeding all over my house ...

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Ruairí Donovan, 'ZOMBIES': Night of the Living Dead

This all-nighter polemic seeks to open our eyes to the collapse of Capitalist culture. Keeping our eyes open is another story.

D-Light Studios, Dublin Fringe Festival
Sept 6-7, 13-14

My review of ZOMBIES; why death is dying or are you working hard enough? coming up just as soon as I distrust a poem that introduces itself as a poem ...

Friday, September 5, 2014

Painted Bird Productions, 'Between Trees and Water': Visions of the Past

How do you find the right way to tell a story that has gone untold for 75 years? With sensitivity and discretion.

Unitarian Church, Cork
Sept 1-6

My review of Between Trees and Water coming up just as soon as I give you 10 pounds to buy a cap and stockings ...

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Stepping Out From Under Destiny

Promotional art for The Rest Is Action. How do you present the world without denying that it is completely manufactured? The Company talk about their reinvention of The Oresteia. 

"Maybe I'm older now and bitter" says Jose Miguel Jiminez, theatre director and co-founder of The Company, "but the idea I had when I was younger was that my theatre practice, to a certain extent, had to do with changing the world".

Saturday, August 30, 2014

The Look of the Diamond

Promotional art for Vardo. Having 'the look of the Diamond' has given Louise Lowe a sense of permission to make the Monto Cycle this far. The ANU director talks about how the final chapter has led the company into a darker and more dangerous place than before.

We've visited brothels and laundries, been pulled into cars, given gifts of carbolic soap, recorded brutal beatings on the street, and been caught in the blast radius of a bomb. Now it's time for ANU Productions' accomplished Monto Cycle of plays about Dublin's hidden histories to come to an end.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Sugarglass Theatre, 'Five Minutes Later': Disconnect Four

Temporal relationships are the focus of Ellen Flynn's debut play. Can four individuals connect in a hyper-connected world? 

The Lir
Aug 28-Sept 6 

My review of Five Minutes Later by Ellen Flynn coming up just as soon as I go around the corner for love ...

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Abbey Theatre, 'Heartbreak House': Christened After Tennyson

100 years after the outbreak of the Great War, do we still live in the world of Shaw's play -  where society drifts towards destruction? 

Abbey Theatre
Aug 20-Sept 13 

My review of Heartbreak House by George Bernard Shaw coming up just as soon as I break it down for you in degrees ...

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Lyric Theatre, Punk Rock: Teenage Kicks

Under Selina Cartmell's moshing and incisive direction, it slowly becomes a question of who is the loose trigger in Simon Stephens' play?

Lyric Theatre, Belfast
Aug 14-Sept 6

My review of Punk Rock by Simon Stephens coming up just as soon as I sort you with a second edition of Waverly …

Saturday, August 2, 2014

City Bridge Transforms Into Harp as Fringe Festival Invokes Classical Myths

Dublin Fringe opens with Ulysses Opera Company's HARP | A River Cantata - an outdoor performance about the Harp of Dagda.

Painted up in new stripes, Dublin Fringe Festival (running Sept 5-20) went into their programme launch this week with an image and line-up of events that felt refreshingly new. Ahead of his first festival as director, Kris Nelson - formerly a Montreal-based producer - secured the organisation with a new sponsor in Tiger Beer, instilling his confidence in the role. In terms of vision, you'd wonder if he'd continue in the same strain as previous director Roise Goan, who in the years of economic collapse shaped the festival into an important site of theatrical activism. With an emphasis on exploring the city, turning it into a backdrop for Irish and Canadian histories and revisiting ancient mythologies in hopes of claiming something new, it seems that Nelson's adventurous spirit as a recent-arrival in Dublin is set to be infectious.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Landmark Productions, 'Ballyturk': Everything We Thought We Knew

The affect of watching Enda Walsh's play is to feel certainty of time and place constantly slip away. Will we ever find our way back from Ballyturk? Photo: Patrick Redmond

Black Box Theatre, Galway International Arts Festival
Jul 14-27

My review of Ballyturk coming up just as soon as I don't think bunnies should be given that complexity ...

Friday, July 25, 2014

Druid, 'Be Infants in Evil'

Playwright Brian Martin's professional debut is an ambitious approach to a heavily stigmatised subject. 

Mick Lally Theatre, Galway International Arts Festival
Jul 10-26

I reviewed Be Infants in Evil for Irish Theatre Magazine, which you can read here.

Sound off your thoughts in the comments below.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Moonfish Theatre, 'Star of the Sea': While the World Was Quietly Dying

Moonfish mast the sail with invention to spare in this reimagining of Joseph O'Connor's famine ship novel. Photo: Marta Barcikowska.

An Taibhdhearc, Galway International Arts Festival
Jul 15-19

My review of Star of the Sea, freely adapted from the novel by Joseph O'Connor, coming up as soon as I claim to know 500 songs ...

Anam Theatre, 'Low Level Panic': Everyday Sexism

Claire McIntyre's Low Level Panic debuted in 1988. Anam's production has us consider how sexism has changed since.

The New Theatre
Jul 15-19

I don't have time to do a full review of Low Level Panic.

Debuted in 1988, British playwright Clare McIntyre's play is set in a bathroom where three women consider the omnipresence of pornography and female objectification they feel in their lives.

From the moment the male stagehands dismantle Róisín O'Toole's artful set, Justin Martin's staging never lets up a domineering gaze onto these women's lives. The sexually-infatuated Jo (Eimear Kilmartin) initially seems empowered but eventually succumbs to weight pressures and scrutinises her body. More traumatised is Mary (Sarah O'Toole), who still reels from a sexual assault from her past. Most composed is Celia (Aoife Martyn) but as she rushes to answer the door to an impatient beau, you'd wonder if she is about to stumble into danger.

Anam's production is laden with modern references, making concentrated use of smart phones and references to last year's 'Slane Girl' controversy.

It has its bad habits. Martin's direction can be fussy (overcrowding the stage with 18 actors at one point). Kilmartin swaggers like a comedienne and sometimes her affect is hammy, while Sarah O'Toole's considered turn doesn't fully chart her character's psychological damage.

However, it's a gutsy and political move by O'Toole's Anam company, with moments that are disarming. After a smutty exchange about nudity and sex, the naturalism of the scene melts away with a type of  Michael Chekov-inspired movement that illustrates two women's inner selves. Despite societal grievances, the truth is they are beautiful.

What did everybody else think?