The International Bar: Triangles

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If you are in a bad need of a post-fringe detox (as one might easily be since there is such little time to get over one event just before another one is about to hit), then I’ve got just the right play for you. Sad Strippers Theatre presents Triangles.

Written by the company’s very own Ciara Smyth and performed by the other two company members, the play is an indescribable kaleidoscope of games that the characters play on stage and that entangles into one whole piece. Chair (played by Laura Brady), Muesli (played by Meg Healy) and Bread (played by Ciara Smyth) entertain themselves by re-enacting different scenes that they might have witnessed.  After the end of  each scene they repeat it again and again each time adding something new or switching characters. The result is always the same though usually unpredictable.

In this crispy fast-paced thirty minute piece, the three actors give a performance filled with an incredible amount of energy, joy and laughter. With the bare minimum that the performing space in the International bar can offer, the three actors did an amazing job to create the atmosphere. Not relying particularly on lights, set or props (as the majority of other productions usually do), the show was completely stolen by the beautiful and very skillful acting. The characterisation was remarkably strong. I was reminded of cartoons where each personality, even though blown up immensely, still remains believable, carefully crafted and quite unique.

Triangles is a great example of a story where the third isn’t necessarily the odd one out, but the wheel that keeps the show (and the laughter) rolling. So, if you find yourself stranded and lost on the path in between the two biggest theatre festivals, allow yourself a break and pop into the International Bar for a bun and a blast. Triangles is closing on September 30th. For more info or to book the tickets: https://www.facebook.com/events/1665535230426742/

 

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Bewley’s Café Theatre: To Hell in a Handbag

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Tiger Dublin Fringe might be just over (all the winners have been announced) but I’m yet to write one more review. And let me say just how delighted I am the festival has ended on such a high note for me.

To Hell in A Handbag, The Secret Lives of Canon Chasuble and Miss Prism, by Helen Norton and Jonathan White is an amusing play about… And that’s exactly how you would expect me to start a review. But, not this time! Do you love fan fiction as much as I do? I can tell you even more, I myself might have penned a line or two re-imagining the lives of my favourite characters and fantasizing about what they might be doing and talking about behind the scenes. And that’s exactly why To Hell in A Handbag was such a dear to my heart production. You’ve been warned now, so proceed with care!

Who hasn’t heard about Oscar Wilde’s The Importance about being Earnest? We have all seen the numerous stagings and re-stagings of cucumber sandwich eating and posh talking snobs in their most beautifully designed English households and countryside manors. Even Lady Bracknell being played by a man isn’t  novice anymore. But what about the little people? Those who usually say little but mean much more. Shall they forever be forgotten in the shadows?

Helen Norton and Jonathan White decided to give the resolution (and a chance for a slightly better future) to some of the most colourfully shaped of Wilde’s characters: Canon Chasuble and Miss Prism. In a wonderfully staged 60 min production, Wilde’s original ending of the story is happening off-stage (“Oh dear, I think I can hear him turning in the grave”, one might be thinking) while the main stage is being overtaken by Chasuble and Prism who happen to have quite a lot to tell each other. Being faithful to the title of the original play, they also show each other the importance of being earnest (and how to get away with it). While they reveal to us their own secrets and events form the past, we are also given the opportunity to witness their personalities and relationship with each other unravel.

Needless to say (but crucial to mention in a review) that the dialogue in this play is a pure masterpiece. Not for a second it sounds as if it hadn’t been written by the master Wilde himself. And those who know Wilde well will appreciate it as his style is quite unique, to say the least. In addition to the language, both Norton and White deliver their lines and reactions with such precision and perfect timing that the outcome exceeds itself: the audience is left in stitches  with amusement.

I would also like to point out the quite masterful lighting design (by Colm Maher) that really helped to bring out some of the moments and enhanced change of locations and moods. The piece also wouldn’t be complete without the absolutely Wilde-esk set design (by Maree Kearns) that once again helped shape the play as one whole piece.

The usage of the audio was quite a nice touch. It added that extra something that would make you believe the characters existed outside of the stage. It was also a great reminder of the story itself and how it fitted and intervened with what was happening on stage.

Definitely one of the major highlights for me during the festival! If Sir Wilde was still present amongst us (even though I am quite convinced he was, in spirit) this day, I am sure he would be in the first row giving a standing ovation. I can only add that Helen Norton and Jonathan White did all the justice to their characters; they did even more: they gave them a second life. For more info on the play: https://2hellinahandbag.com/

 

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The Bewley’s Theatre: The Wickedness of Oz

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“I think you are wrong to want a heart. It makes most people unhappy. If you only knew it, you are in luck not to have a heart.”

– The Wizard of Oz

Sooner or later all good comes to an end. Tiger Fringe Festival isn’t an exception. Two weeks of creativity and arts are ready for its final applause. Tonight the final curtain will fall on one of the undoubtable highlights of the festival – Kate Gilmore’s The Wickedness of Oz.

Presented as show in a bag, Gilmore’s 60 min play is a superb mixture of music, theatre and storytelling. The Wickedness of Oz isn’t all about the strength of the story (even though the script is amazingly entertaining and amusing to follow) but rather the stunning performance given by Gilmore, who is also the writer of the piece.

With the familiar tunes from the beloved musicals (slightly new wording though!), we follow Debbie, a young Dublin girl who holds a degree in hospitality and works in a travel agency. Debbie is twenty one, in love with her boyfriend and slightly irritated slash bored with her life trapped in the same old routine. She checks her phone only to see photos of other people, who seem to enjoy life much more than she does. And a light of hope sparks for Debbie when her boyfriend gets a visa for New Zealand and invites her to come with him. Will she go with him? Can she go with him? Can she be so selfish to leave her mother and father, who already lost two of their children? The middle one, Debbie is stuck. The yellow-bricked road seems to lead nowhere and sometimes there’s truly no place like home. No matter how grey the reality there might be.

Kate Gilmore brings her  play off the stage right into the midst of the happily roaring audience. Easily transforming from a dancer into a cabaret singer, and back into an office assistant, she blows her viewers away with her talents (that seem countless) and the ability to capture different characters and their traits.

The Wickedness of Oz is one of those plays that is so vocally strong that you start perceiving it from a different angle. Everything ceases to be only and simply visual; the different voices, the songs, the sounds, the pronunciations of the words start playing a huge role in the creation of the bigger story. Close your eyes and the picture will be just as vivid and colourful. It shows Gilmore’s incredible gift for transmitting the meaning through her voice.

I don’t want to underestimate other things, like the performance itself or the choreography (by Kitty Randle), which were all impossibly flawless. I just want to point out what made this performance in particular stand out from the bunch of other shows on offer. Kudos to Gilmore’s vocal coach Shelley Bukspan and the direct of the piece Clare Maguire, who made the Kate’s inner sunshine spread to the last rows of the packed theatre that the Bewley’s was on the night I visited it.

If you are choosing to step on a yellow path, let it bring you to The Wickedness of Oz, there might be no great wizard there but a very talented artist instead, who pulls down all the curtains to tell her story. The Wickedness of Oz, directed by Clare Maguire, closes on September 23rd. For more information: http://www.fringefest.com/festival/whats-on/the-wickedness-of-oz

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Project Arts Center: Coast

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From The Beach I slowly migrated last week to the Coast.

Presented by the award-winning Red Bear Productions, Coast is a drama about four lost souls anchoring on the edge of  darkness and reality. Each one of them finds him- or herself in a very difficult, unstable, place in life. A coast is a beautiful metaphor to the state of mind for the characters in the piece. Neither water nor ground, they are in such a state when there is no possible connection could be made with either the deepest darkness of the blue or the solid steady soil. Inbetweeners on the edge of eternity.

Carol (played by Camille Lucy Ross) is caring for her elderly mother, who has dementia and struggles immensely with the simplest of everyday tasks. The situation only worsens when the mother wonders off and Carol can’t find her anywhere.

Ann Marie (played by Aoibhéanne McCann) is a young mother of two suffering from severe depression, who wants to run away. But is it her children or herself she is running from?

Karl (played by Gordon Quigley) is a young gay guy, who lives with his sister and spends all of his free time watching porn. But even he isn’t happy with his life. Lonely, he also finds himself stranded along the coast, where he encounters Gerry (played by Donncha O’Dea), a man about a dog. Quite literally. He is walking his dog along the shore on the night. We find out quite little about Gerry’s past, but from the monologues it’s evident – it wasn’t the happiest one. He also has some dark secrets hidden deep inside and bothering his mind.

Written by Tracy Martin, in this magnolia type of play all the characters will come to cross each other’s paths at one or another point. The beautifully entangled script will unravel itself in front of the audience but only as much as it needs to. The rest will be left to the wildest of imaginations.

With the simple but spot-on set design by Ciara Murnane, thanks to the cubes turned into seaweed decorated boulders the Project Art’s Cube seems to disappear into the space while we are being transported to the lonely, almost melancholic, seaside. The darkish, cold autumn night mood is being brilliantly conveyed by the wonderful acting. All four actors give quite a touching performance but Donncha O’Dea outshines them all. Whether it’s the tragedy of the character itself of the actor doing masterly his job, Gerry’s story is heartbreaking.

Coast is an 80 min piece of quality theatre that won’t leave anyone indifferent. Catch it before it ends on September 24th. The second week of Tiger Dublin Fringe has a handful of surprises and treats! For more info or to book tickets: http://www.fringefest.com/festival/whats-on/coast

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Project Arts Center: This Beach

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The first week of Tiger Dublin Fringe 2016 has drawn to its end with some of the shows having their last curtain call just last night. Personally, I closed the first week of this edgy, risky and ever so wonderful theatre experience with This Beach by Brokentalkers.

Not knowing what to expect from the play, I was quite intrigued from the moment I entered the auditorium. Usually wide opened, the Space Upstairs in The Project Arts Center had a drawn shower curtain hiding the stage. What’s behind it? – was saying my inner voice. And with a click of somebody’s finger (the power of the theatre) we were transported from rainy autumny Dublin to a sunny sandy beach in a somewhat more weather-lucky country. The only downfall was that that beach was private therefore no aliens allowed.

You see, the people who own the beach – a typical  caucasian upper middle-class European family, of course –  have had it for generations now. From father to son, this promised land has always remained in the same family. The current heir of the place, Bryan, is to marry the young and beautiful artist Breffni; so they can live and breed happily ever after on this beach. As Breffni is being concerned about the safety of the world outside of the beach, she tricks her mother, Pom, to join them. Resilient at first, Pom quickly realises that in this piece of paradise you are either in or dead. So, the family lives on the beach, where the sun is always shining and the beer is plenty, until one day a complete stranger – an alien – is being washed onto their shore. The obvious question arises: shall we keep him or kill him? The stove hasn’t cooled down yet.

This stunning production by Brokentalkers brilliantly reflects the current world situation through the play. It shows the immense and boundless power that some people have and the utter despair that is left to the rest. This Beach, directed by Feidlim Cannon and Gary Keegan, doesn’t create unnecessary metaphors or blurred out images of the shadowy reality, it openly shows the absurdity of the current situation concerning refugees. The world is an unfair place. The world where somebody owns a beach and is allowed to kill anyone who washes in on it (either willingly or not) is a dangerous, nightmarish place. A world, where people have forgotten how to dance, emphasize or care is a world that is doomed.

In addition to the brilliant concept of the story, I was taken by surprise when all the actors used their own names all throughout the play. They were not hiding behind a mask that somebody else has cut for them; they were proudly standing with their faces up high and bare in support of what they were doing.

Having seen quite a few shows during the first week of the Fringe Festival, I have to say that This Beach is one of the most, if not the most, powerful production with a huge emotional impact on its audience.

Presented as part of Europoly, the play was devised for Tiger Dublin Fringe 2016. Unfortunately, the play ended on September 18th. But, I strongly believe and hope that it’ll make a come back. A play like that should be seen. A tragic, but beautifully created story of a rotting future, if we don’t do something about it. For more info:  http://www.fringefest.com/festival/whats-on/this-beach

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Smock Alley Theatre: The Aeneid

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When the bookings opened to public for the Tiger Fringe Festival 2016, the very first ticket I booked was The Aeneid by the Collapsing Horse Theatre Company. Before even reading the description or the cast list, there was something about this production that hugely attracted me from the very first glance.

Based on Vergil’s epic poem – also called The Aeneid – the play follows a young translator (played by Maeve O’Mahony) who, presumably inspired by the spirit of Aeneis, re-tells the  original story of Aeneid, a Trojan solder, who decides to leave his destroyed and burnt down by the Greeks city of Troy. Hearing the prophecy that he is destined for a bright future, he sets out on a journey through the seas with a handful of survivors and faithful followers. Being deprived from his motherland, Aeneid is to become the founder of one of the greatest cities that ever existed – Rome. On his way to do so, he stops in Carthage, a new place founded by princess Dido (played by Aoife Leonard), who falls in love with Aeneid. The Trojan shares her feelings and is ready to stay with his new beloved but he is being promptly reminded of his duty. Is the man’s fate in his own hands? Can he make his own decisions and follow his heart?

The Aeneid by Collapsing Horse is a great example of a story in a story. With a quite basic, but very creative set (by Hanna Bowe) and costume (by Katie Davenport) design the play comes across as a pretty grand-scale solid production. I can easily see it being staged somewhere in a warehouse in London or New York, because that’s where all the cool stuff happens nowadays. It’s very fringy but it has enormous potential and a great idea behind it.

In the programme it says that improvisation played a big part in bringing up this production. And, from my experience, some of the best and most fun shows come from the improv and the exploration of the unknown. The creative freedom gives to the actors  the opportunity to bring to life and existence the best moments. In The Aeneid there is a very simple beauty in the momentum: when the actors communicate between each other, when they step out of characters and create those links in between the scenes.

With the total cast of 5, I must say that it was quite an interesting – and wise – decision to cast an actress to play the part of Aeneid. O’Mahony did an amazing job as the main character and certainly added a glow to the piece. The whole ensemble seemed to work in unison and created a beautiful production, but I couldn’t help mentioning John Doran and his immensely enjoyable and fun to watch Tedd. There might have been one too many moments when he absolutely stole the show.

I must add that before coming to see The Aeneid, I’d heard about the Trojan war and was familiar with little bits of it (such as the Trojan horse, for example) but I had no idea what the story was about. After leaving the auditorium, I realised that the greek tragedies might not be exactly my cup of tea, but I enjoyed what I saw (the reimagined version), I was quite entertained and hugely amused by the acting. And from the audience’s reaction, so were they and that’s the best proof of a success.

The Aeneid, directed  by Dan Colley, runs in The Smock Alley’s Main Space as part of Tiger Dublin Fringe 2016 till September 24th. Get your Greek mythology refreshed. For more info or to book tickets: http://www.fringefest.com/festival/whats-on/the-aeneid 

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The Peacock Theatre: Penny Arcade

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As I put my fingers down to the keyboard, I can’t help but think: what was it? This need to classify the unclassifiable, to put into a box something that belongs in a much wider and open space… this need to label things, to put a tag on them, to shut them into a frame of socially acceptable regulations and rules; this is exactly what Longing Lasts Longer is: a tirade about the contamination of the brain for social approval and acceptance.

After the first five minutes into the show, I was met by another question: can I review this? Yes, it is a one woman show and it’s a part of Fringe Festival, but.. do I have any rights to review anyone for expressing their opinions and beliefs? I don’t think so. When I am going to see a traditional play, I am judging your lighting, directing, acting, set design, even your script and the flow of the story, but I am not judging your perception of the world, the ideas you throw into the audience, the things you believe in.

So, this is not a review.

This an attempt – quite a poor one, I may warn you – to try and simply describe what to expect from the show.

Born in a small town America, Penny Arcade, who always dreamt of being the evil godmother rather than the Snow White, is now being labeled (you see, labels again… society oppression) New York’s Queen of the Underground. She ran away from home at the age of 13… and now, at the age of 66 ( yes, 66 and she is proud of it), she is just as rebellious as ever. In her sixty minute piece (and a knee-high red dress), she tells you about the world as she has been and is experiencing it. She talks about the media pollution, the international politics, the privatisation of the human mind by the TV giants, the celebrity  obsession, the slow-walkers, the zombie tourists, the parents with prams, dog poops on the streets and the queen of them all: the power of a cupcake.

As Penny Arcade talks about the decay of New York city, she makes a very interesting point.  “It’s not nostalgia”, she declares, “it’s longing”. She says she doesn’t miss the 60s or the 70s, or even the 80s… she lived through all of those decades and she got the all-inclusive experience of the times of flower-power or Woodstock, the Vietnam war and globalisation of New York’s neighbourhoods, the low rent, the poor kids, the life when you could make your own decisions and 1984 was a really scary piece of fiction rather than an inevitable reality.

It’s quite upsetting to see how a show like Longing Lasts Longer is classified as Fringe. That’s the best proof that the world isn’t yet ready for open-mindness and progressive thinking. The true revolutionary ideas are only being accepted while presented with a bit of sugar, dramatic lighting and pre-composed music in the background. You have to call it theatre to be able to pass it on. That almost ageless  -but undoubtedly brave – lady on stage is still regarded as something.. well… fringy, on the safe boarder of creative art and shadowy reality. While the only message of the show is that everyone should choose their own way of living life instead of being brain-polluted by the people switching the on-and-off button on the national television, neither by the corporation who is creating the new – extra fat, of course, but so sweet – icing for your next cupcake.

To sum it all up, I can only add that the visual effects were also fantastic. Penny Arcade – Longing Lasts Longer runs in the Peacock Theatre till September 16th. For more info or to book tickets: http://www.fringefest.com/festival/whats-on/longing-lasts-longer

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Filed under FringeFest 2016, Longing Lasts Longer, Peacock Thetare, Penny Arcade, Tiger Dublin Fringe 2016, Uncategorized