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.

Landmark Productions, 'These Halcyon Days': Love in Time of Nenagh

Civic Theatre, Tallaght
Jul 9-13

I don't have time to do a full review of These Halcyon Days by Deirdre Kinahan, which is now on an extensive tour backed by Landmark Productions.

Kinahan's play finds a theatre virtuoso named Sean, who after a stellar career with roles in Henry V and The Italian Job spends his days in the conservatory of a nursing home, suffering from dementia. Upon meeting another resident, the spirited Patricia, the two strike up a beautiful relationship, while she attempts to scatter the fog over Sean's recollections of his life.

Stephen Brennan is excellent as the aged thespian, his gentle presence charming and vulnerable. Anita Reeves can pack a punchline but I do feel that she's hammy at times. Some of her delivery could be dialed down.

What is promising is Kinahan's abilities as a playwright. Watch as this sweet relationship blossoms under the delicate guidance of her and director David Horan. She writes good dialogue and has a clever turn of phrase.

Though the low-key tranquility of the play is suggested by its title, you can't help but feel that These Halcyon Days plays the game a little too safe. It's a sweet story but lacks something dramatic to truly make the experience worth it. Here's hoping that Kinahan and company take a few more risks next time around.

What did everybody else think?

Monday, July 8, 2013

WillFredd Gets the Lay of the Land as Masterful FARM Returns

Emma O'Kane and Ralph the Pony return in FARM

"I still live a little bit by Brian Friel's introduction to Dancing at Lughnasa, which is Ireland is thirty years behind everywhere else".

It's a fitting ethos for director Sophie Motley, considering that her 2012 masterpiece FARM evokes many of the same feelings twenty years on from Lughnasa about the sanctuary of rural Ireland and the imposing nature of the urban world. Since then, studies have discovered that the migratory patterns of Irish people moving from the countryside to the city are a more recent occurrence in comparison to other European countries. FARM unearths that still ripe sentimentality buried under the concrete pavements.

Motley is a director with WillFredd - a company who uses light, sound, and movement to guide action similar to how a play text conventionally does. In FARM expect to be led through the warehouse space by Sarah Jane Shiels's shimmering lightbulbs overhead, to hear the gentle hum of Jack Cawley's guitar score kick into the upbeat strum of a seisúin, and to witness Emma O'Kane's choreography whip up a line-dancing scene that skillfully trumps any barn-dancing stereotype associated with country people.

The company collaborate closely with different communities, a method which brings its own concerns of representation and truth. "You have to create something that you can feasibly and respectively show back to that community", says Motley. So far they've been doing a fair job. Their 2011 debut FOLLOW inspired by actor Shane O'Reilly's personal experiences coming from a household of deaf parents, harnessed the theatrical possibilities of sign language and resulted in a show accessible to both deaf and hearing audiences alike.

"With FARM the process was a lot more pastoral", she says, referring to the close involvement of social rural organisation Macra na Feirme and various farmers they interviewed. These communities create the performance content, which then allows Motley's beautiful directorial vision to play with form while reflecting truthfully the sentiments of their collaborators.

Motley reveals that actor Paul Curley, who she was adamant to have involved in the production considering his growing up on a farm in Galway, introduced the company to the concept of Meitheal - the old Irish tradition where members of a community would gather and help each other harvest their crops - a tradition that for the most part has vanished in the advent of agricultural machinery. This became a leading force in the devising of the piece as an emphasis was placed on how an audience could experience Meitheal in the space.

"People look out for each other", she says, "and you don't always get that in the city. You get it in the odd little enclave in Dublin where Old Dublin still is. But so many people don't know their neighbours and I find that kind of astonishing".

It's what every artist strives for: the acquisition of a true subject. WillFredd, with an artful subversion of invented narrative, sweetly sway us closer to the truth - a rare and exceptional feat. FARM creates a uniquely Irish sense of community, and there's no denying the sublime power of Marie Ruane's soaring ballad or the spectacular transformation of Ralph the pony (Motley's secret weapon) to bring us in touch with those miraculous properties of the land, of rural togetherness, all to sadly perish when you step back onto the street when the performance ends.

FARM runs July 9-13 at the Lir.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Fishamble, 'Guaranteed!': A Boardroom of One's Own

Photo: Pat Redmond
Civic Theatre, Tallaght
Jul 1-2

My review of Guaranteed! by Colin Murphy coming up just as soon as I ask for another latte ...

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Big Guns Called In for Festival Director's Last Fringe

Promotional art for HotForTheatre's upcoming new show Break

The highlights of the 2013 Dublin Fringe Festival (Sept 7-22) have been announced, which, of course, is the last festival overseen by artistic director Róise Goan.

Headlining international acts include glam singer/theatre artist Taylor Mac and an abridged version of his upcoming 24-hour project where he performs a pop classic from each decade in the twentieth century. Scottish-born Nic Green traces her national and personal lineage in the dance and music performance Fatherland.

The Gathering strand of the festival brings home-gig to Irish comedian Aisling Bea in a double bill with Dead Cat Bounce's James Walmsley, as well as a headliner to Maeve Higgins and her new show about her "break-up with Dublin" and the abandonment issues that arise from her move to London.

WillFredd's Sophie Motley and Sarah Jane Shiels are also at hand, collaborating with renowned musicians Caoimhin Ó Raghallaigh and Nic Gareiss in a performance about the role of mice in "traditional music, science, and in our daily lives". Meanwhile, fantastic to see great faith placed in the Galway-based Blue Teapot Theatre Company, whose acclaimed production of Christian O'Reilly's Sanctuary seems to be growing into a national hit.

In Irish theatre, the spotlights are appropriately shone on the two biggest success stories born from Goan's direction of the festival over the past five years.

Louise Lowe was already making strides with her fantastic site-responsive work with ANU Productions, but World's End Lane - the first installment of the nearing complete Monto quadrilogy - in the 2010 festival was a game changer. The success meant that the company migrated to a bigger platform in the Dublin Theatre Festival with Laundry (2011) and The Boys of Foley Street (2012). They return to the Fringe with Thirteen, where the company turn their theatrical historicity back one hundred years to the events of the 1913 Lockout with "a series of thirteen interconnecting works combining performance, installation and digital technology allowing audiences to immerse themselves in the tumultuous events of 1913 as they unfold in present day Dublin"

The 2010 festival also marked the debut of playwright/performer Amy Conroy with superstar hit Alice I, which, along with follow-up The Eternal Rising of the Sun (2011), has had enough fire to fuel constant touring both at home and abroad. Her company, HotForTheatre, has become an exemplary touring company in Ireland, seeming to hit every venue in the country. Conroy has also gone on to become a treasured and insightful literary voice, writing about courageous souls in modern Ireland. Truly exciting, then, is her return this September in greater company than before with Break - a performance interrogating the public education system and the priorities of the institution that precede those of the individuals.

The full details of this year's programme will be released August 14. However, below is a list of other productions we know going to Fringe because their Fundit campaigns say so ...

  • Rise Productions, The Games People Play - The creative team behind the highly successful Fight Night are back, this time with a modern retelling of Tír ná nÓg where the mythical paradise relocates to Drumcondra. Gavin Kostick back on script, Bryan Burroughs back on direction, starring the cunning Aonghus Óg McAnally. 

  • Louise Lewis and Simon Manahan, The Churching of Happy Cullen - Also marking the centenary of the Lockout, this physical theatre performance about a mother's rite of passage though a tumultuous period in Ireland's social history already received a promising work-in-progress showing at THE THEATRE MACHINE TURNS YOU ON VOL.3. Lewis always gives a striking performance.

  • Denis Clohessy, Animus - Having lent majestic music scores to The Corn Exchange and Rough Magic, composer Denis Clohessy's new project is a "music-driven revenge tale" and is propped up by an exciting design team including Aedín Cosgrove and Jack Phelan, and stars the charming Lucy Camille Ross. 

  • X & CO, KITSCHCOCK - Anthony Keigher's pop star persona, 'Xnthony', becomes obsessed with stardom in this exploration of the anxieties and insecurities in a "world that continues to blur the line between public and private identities". 

  • John Rogers, Decision Problem [Good Time for Questions] - Rogers's piece of science fiction theatre "charts the origin, rapid rise and possible future of computers", shining light on humanity's place in an increasingly digital universe. 

  • 50% Male Experimental Theatre, FIGURE IT OUT - Male may be in the title but this new performance is about the complexities of female identity, with use of dance, live music and film.

Collapsing Horse, 'Human Child': While the World is Full of Troubles

Smock Alley Theatre
Jun 25-Jul 6

My review of Human Child by Dan Colley coming up just as soon as I call on a courageous dragon ...