Category Archives: Bitter Like a Lemon

Theatre Upstairs: Murder of Crows

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“The only way to get what you want is to make them more afraid of you than they are of each other.”

– The Crimson Crow

Christmas could be very different. And sure it’s unlike anything else in Theatre Upstairs, where unravels a dark tale of friendship, foulness and fighting for the ones you love.

Bitter Like a Lemon in association with Theatre Upstairs presents its latest play Murder of Crows, a story about a school trip to hell. The three best friends Sam (played by Katie Honan), Dee (played by Amilia Stewart) and Jess (played by Aisling O’Mara) aren’t even meant to go in the first place but end up on the bus to the Garden of Ireland anyway. Just before the trip begins the girlfriends hear a prophecy that warns them of the black crows and begs them not to go anywhere near them. Not taking it too seriously, the girls set off on a journey that is going to change their lives forever. In Wicklow, they are scheduled to do some obligatory scholar activities that nobody is particularly excited about but the real fun starts after. The girls of St Brigit’s are being joined by students – mainly boys – from other schools. They start drinking, intermingling and do things that teenagers normally do. But the fateful hour has already been set. And maybe some people should be more careful with what they say and do, maybe they shouldn’t bully and make fun of others – weaker – ones… Maybe deep inside each one of us lives a little devil that is only waiting to be set free. The consequences of which sometimes can be harmful, even mortal or soul destroying.

Lee Coffey’s Murder of Crows is a heartbreaking piece with an unbelievable twist at the end. It’s almost impossible to digest how much raw meaty parts there is in this slightly under one hour play. Under the superb direction of Karl Shiels, the gradation of the piece is perfectly timed: it starts off nicely and slowly with no preparation of what is yet to come. You think it might be just one of those hight school plays where students talk about their problems. But you couldn’t be further from being wrong. Lee Coffey wouldn’t be Lee Coffey if he hadn’t written a play that actually aims to touch on some of the most tabooed and controversial subjects that teenagers encounter in everyday life but are afraid to talk about.

The script is being strongly supported by the outstanding cast of three actresses, who absolute nail their parts. The characterization and physicality is incredibly strong and it goes to both the main parts that the girls are playing and the secondary characters. I don’t think I’ll be wrong if I say that the way Aisling O’Mara delivered the prophecy sent chills to everyone in the audience. An absolutely out-of-this-world experience that petrified and mesmerized at the same time.

In a play like Murder of Crows, visual aspects can be very important and influential. The two things that caught my eye straight away were, of course, the set (by Naomi Faughnan) and the lighting (by Laura Honan) designs. Quite simple but visually very strong mood setters that made the piece even more atmospheric.

So, if you are in a mood for something completely different this season, don’t be a Grinch and steal Christmas. Go to see Murder or Crows and get your dose of darkness and brutal reality! Runs in Theatre Upstairs until December 17th, for more info or to book tickets: http://www.theatreupstairs.ie/murder-of-crows

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Filed under Bitter Like a Lemon, lee coffey, Murder of Crows, Theatre Upstairs, Uncategorized

Interview with the creators of Slice, The Thief.

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“Slice The Thief.”

“Raw. Emotion. Energy.”

“Quick. Funny. Heart-Breaking.”

It’s a little over a week before Bitter Like a Lemon Theatre Company presents its new play Slice, The Thief, a dark comedy by Lee Coffey, that will open in the atmospheric The Boy’s School, at Smock Alley Theatre on April 4th.

The rehearsals are already in full swing and not even the Easter weekend going to stop the amazing hard-working team from making the text jump off the page. I got a wonderful opportunity to sit down for a chat with Lee Coffey, the writer of the play, Jeda De Bri, the director, and Wesley Doyle, who plays Slice, the thief.

What would you do if standing on one of Dublin’s streets you’d see somebody stealing a bike? Call the guards? Maybe, try to stop them? Well, Lee Coffey found a somewhat more creative way of dealing with the situation: he decided to write a play about it.

On a sunny March afternoon in one of Rough Magic’s offices, Lee, mostly known by his smash hit of a play Leper and Chip, starts the conversation by telling me about how he came up with the idea of writing Slice, The Thief, the third and final play in Coffey’s Dublin Trilogy.

Even though enjoyable, the process of writing this story wasn’t an easy one. Having had a rush of ideas and plots that he wanted to incorporate into the play, Lee didn’t quite have the right ending for the piece. He reveals to me that he was playing a computer game, when he got the idea of creating a whole set of disasters, each one worse than the previous one, that is simply accumulating to an already quite bad situation.

Coffey acknowledges the fact that Slice, The thief is a very male piece of theatre. “Man.Man.Man. It’s written from a male point of view”, says he. And having a female director just gives it a totally different perspective. Apart from directing the play, Jeda de Brí (the founding member of Sickle Moon Productions) has already directed snippets from Slice, the Thief for the Rehearsed Readings at Theatre Upstairs earlier last year and for the Night in Two Halves in the Smock Alley Theatre last August. Jeda reveals to us that she loved the play from the moment she read it for the first time and was very happy to be on board when the time and opportunity came to stage the full production.

Wesley Doyle, who plays the part of Slice, has also been very excited ever since he got the script. Having been engaged mostly in TV productions in the last couple of years, he already started to feel that yearn for the bright lights and dark spaces of rehearsal rooms; having worked with Amilia Stewart on Fair City, who, apart from being a producer on this production, is also a founding member of BLAL, he went to see Leper and Chip when it premiered in Theatre Upstairs. Later, it was Amilia herself who introduced Wesley to Lee and, relying on his fellow company member’s opinion, without audition Wesley was cast as Slice.

Dublin-born, Tallaght native Lee Coffey, has a great passion for his town and its people; and this love has reflected on and greatly influenced every play he has written. The city itself becomes a sort of a character on its own. On the analogy of O’Casey’s works, Coffey has created his own Dublin and therefore a modern day Dublin Trilogy. Lee adds that you don’t have to be from Dublin to understand the plays, but the actors in the plays have to be from Dublin in order to bring the authenticity to the pieces.

Slice, The Thief. Or shall I say, Slice The Thief? Being a dark comedy about a thief of bikes, the play still touches on a number of important and serious, I would even say ground breaking, topics. I’ve already mentioned before that this is a very mannish play; and through this mannish perspective it shows how some matters are being treated with a completely different reaction when they happen to a man as opposed to a woman. In a world where gender equality is being supported and demanded more than ever, there still exist stereotypes and prejudices, where the society still looks at you and judges you and have certain expectations of you purely because you are of a certain gender. A man, in this case.

Written in a style that Coffey calls “skinny list”, the script has almost  no paragraphs or long sentences. It’s almost like a poem or a free-style verse that goes in and out of rhyme from time to time. “A lot of violence, swearing; it’s quite quick, one of the quickest plays”, says Lee.”It’s raw energy on multiple levels”, adds Wesley. Almost animalistic-like, during the heightened moments of the play the words synchronize with Slice and his inner rhythm, his heartbeat.

“It’s easy to write a monologue”, says Lee, who did have mixed feeling about writing a one-person piece due to the amount of such already existing in the market, “everybody has a monologue in them. But people like Mark O’Rowe or Conor McPherson have set the bar so high that writing a really good monologue has become a real challenge”.

Three plays after, it’s quite safe to say that Lee Coffey has a very unique and easily recognizable style of his own. His fast paced plays hold your guts tight for an hour and then let it go without apologising, leaving you just to sit there realising that something great has just happened. It broke your heart, it exhausted your feelings, it played with your mind, but hell… it was great. Tough for the audience, sure it is. But it is even tougher for the actors on stage. Not everyone has the emotional ability and the strength go through such a crazy rollercoaster on a daily basis that Slice, the Thief, Leper and Chip or Peruvian Voodoo require.

When it comes to the most enjoyable thing about working on this production, for Jeda, as the director, it is the ability to be creative within given parameters. Due to the specific nature of the structure of the play, she aims to “find the flare within that stringent rhythmic parameter that she had been given”.

Wesley, for whom this play is going to be his first one-man show, says that rehearsing for Slice, The Thief really pushes him to think outside the box, as well as being open to new ideas and suggestions and simply trying things out.

From the very beginning, for Lee it was crucial to cast an actor with an authentic Dublin accent. And Wesley, being originally from Ballymun, turned out to be the perfect fit. Lee strongly believes in the authenticity, and even though there is a good variety of actors in and out of Ireland who can do a perfect Dublin accent, for such a fast-paced energetic piece like Slice, The Thief, they wanted somebody who could speak not only from the put on accent, but from the heart and the bones of his own body.

Jeda, Lee and Wesley all agree that the play is quite harsh and grim. But, at the same time, they want the story to have an impact on the audience and change them even a little bit. “We want the audience to go through every single emotion possible”, says Jeda, “we want the audience to go through the journey with Slice. I would like to break hearts. I hope I can just make people love and hate him [Slice] at the same time.”

“I want to lull the audience. I want to show people what funny can be.”, says Lee “I want them to laugh and to think, at the same time, I shouldn’t be laughing at this. I like to write dark stuff that puts the audience in a very uncomfortable place. I want to assault the audience. In a very non-threatening, non-physical way. I’m going to paint this picture. You make whatever you want from it. And then you can leave.”

“I want people to know me, to know Slice, on a very person level. I want them to love me and to know what they love about me; I want them to hate me and to know exactly what they hate about me”, says Wesley.

With Katie Davenport designing the set and Dara Hoban doing the lighting, in addition to the wonderful ensemble of Bitter Like A Lemon, Jeda De Bri and Wesley Doyle, this production has brought together some of the most talented and creative professionals in the business. For one week only, running from April 4th till April 9th in The Boy’s School at The Smock Alley Theatre. Come and slice yourself a piece of this cake. Fore more info or to book tickets: http://smockalley.com/slice-thief/ 

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Filed under Bitter Like a Lemon, Interview with, Sickle Moon Productions, Smock Alley Theatre

The Smock Alley Theatre: A Night in Two Halves (One Night Stand)

The Night in Two Halves, also known as One Night Stand took place yesterday in The Dublin´s Smock Alley Theatre. This night wasn’t just any random night in a theatre, but a very special occasion took place. The very talented, creative, hard-working and simply amazing Bitter Like a Lemon Theatre Company sets for the famous Edinburgh Fringe Festival. The play that they are going to perform doesn’t need an introduction: Leper and Chip.

Leper and Chip is a very special play. It’s not something that was made by Bitter Like a Lemon Theatre Company, it is what made this company. Some few years ago Lee Coffey, Amelia Stewart-Clark and Connal Keating came together to create a whole theatre company to make this one play possible (at that moment). Little did they know how famous and very much loved by everyone who’s seen it, it will be. A play by a true Dubliner about Dubliners is now going to Edinburgh to conquer the hearts of the Scotts, which, I have absolutely no doubt, it will.

So, as the title suggests, last night was split into two parts. During the first bit we had the opportunity the see extracts from other works by Bitter Like A Lemon:

Lawrence Falconer with Peruvian Voodoo (written by Lee Coffey).

A scene from A Boy Called Nedd (written by Emily Gillmor Murphy)

A piece from a new play Slices (written by Lee Coffey)

A piece from a new play about bullying (written by Emily Gillmor Murphy)

A staged reading of a scene from Angels of Mercy (written by Lee Coffey)

The first part closed with a very exciting scene from Howie The Rookie (written by Mark O’Rowe) performed by the original Howie Karl Shiels.

Interestingly enough, I could say that out of six pieces I had already seen four of them before. But it didn’t stop me from enjoying every single extract once again. Having seen (heard?) the extract from Angles of Mercy during the Abbey’s Scratch Night, I didn’t enjoy it as much as the one last night in The Smock Alley, for example.

That is another thing about theatre nights like that. Last night happened to be an almost full-house night with friends and friends of the friend and other theatre goers and theatre lovers who came to support Bitter Like A Lemon. All those people did’t just come to another theatre show to get the value for the money paid, but they came because they cared and they wanted to show it to everyone involved in the production of Leper+Chip and other plays by Bitter Like A Lemon.

The second part of the show was all about  the play Leper+Chip. I’m not going to review it, I have already done so. In addition, this piece is not a review, once again it’s an experience sharing. Evenings like this one happen once in a lifetime. But there is definitely something about seeing the same play for the second time. Leper and Chip is one of those plays that the more times you see it, the more beautiful details you encounter. Both actors: Amy and Connall give one hundred percent of their energy. And even though I felt like the speed might have been a bit slowed down, the play didn’t lose a bit. It’s still a crazy roller coster of emotions.

So, watch out Edinburgh. You are in for a big treat this festival. For more info, or to book, please, visit: https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/leper-chip

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Filed under Bitter Like a Lemon, Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Leper+Chip, Smock Alley Theatre

Theatre Upstairs: A Boy Called Nedd

Yesterday was the opening night of a brand new play A Boy Called Nedd by Emily Gillmor Murphy.

A boy called Nedd tells a story of five teenagers, who go to the same school. All five of them are very different, but quite stereotypical Irish:

Nedd (played by Conall Keating) is a sweet guy who is going through a lot of shit. His older brother Ben has just committed a suicide; his dad, unable to cope with the situation, has just left; his ma can’t hold a job. Nedd really likes Alice and it even looks like she likes him back.

Alice (played by Amilia Stewart) is a girl who’s sleeping around with everyone. She does it out of insecurity and complete lack of confidence. She is desperate for any proof that she’s likable and pretty, that a guy would just like her just for who she is. And when such a guy does turn up, she’s too confused and scared to let him inside her heart.

Anto (played by Liam Heslin) is Nedd’s best friend. He is the cool guy, or the one who desperately wants to make such an impression. He drinks, he smokes,… he is the kind of bad guy good girls would fall for.

Sophie (played by Aislinn O’Byrne) is the typical good girl, who gets A in every single subject. She looks up to Alice and is desperately in love with Anto who barely knows that she even exists.

Niamh (played by Jasmine Brady) is the bitchy one. She is smart, very confident and has an answer for everything. She doesn’t like when things don’t go the way she wants. She also likes Anto but, unlike Sophie, she is not afraid of doing something about it.

A Boy Called Nedd is a darkish comedy that simply sweeps you away with some really high class acting. Characterisation in this production is simply amazing. Every single actor plays his or her part so precisely and so uniquely that it takes your breath away.

Visually it’s also a very fair play. There are absolutely no props on stage except for a wall with pictures and drawers at the very back. This small but very effective detail constantly reminds us that the main action takes place in a school. Another nice directing choice has been made in the change of scenes: actors would change places and focuses marching like soldiers.

No doubt some of the best scenes took part in the classrooms, rather than outside of school, when the characters would communicate by whispering one to another. The reactions were just so perfect that anybody, who has ever gone to school, could easily associate with them.

This beautiful production is part of Occupy Theatre Upstairs program by Bitter Like a Lemon Theatre Company. It’ll run until June, 13th. For more info or to book tickets, visit: http://www.theatreupstairs.ie/a-boy-called-nedd

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Filed under A Boy Called Nedd, Bitter Like a Lemon, Performing arts, Theatre Upstairs