Category Archives: Enda Walsh

The Abbey Theatre: Arlington

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The new season, and what looks like a whole new life for The Abbey Theatre, opened 2017 with one of Enda Walsh’s most recent plays – Arlington, a dramatic performance of a new dystopian world that jumps out of page on Ireland’s National Stage in a fascinatingly profound embodiment.

In this ninety minute non-stop piece, Walsh brings us on a multi-dimensional journey into a strangely scary futuristic world of broken people and imprisoned emotions. What roughly could be divided into three parts, Arlington is a powerful combination of spoken words, dance, movement, monologue, sound and visual effects. Almost like something out of a George Orwell novel, in reality Arlington is a beautifully metaphorical closed room drama, speaking both literally and metaphorically.

Isla is a girl (played by Charlie Murphy) who has spent almost an entire life inside this weird empty waiting room just waiting for her number to be called. The only source of communication with the outside world for her has been a mic on the wall. There is a guy – the new guy (played by Hugh O’Connor), as we soon find out – on the other side, nevertheless. In a small cluttered office, like a rat in his preassigned cubicle, he listens to Isla’s wildest dreams and thoughts. It’s only a matter of time now before he himself will take her place inside the locked madness.

And just as quickly as the door opens in front of Isla, it soon closes behind the other girl (played by Oonagh Doherty). Without saying a single world, she offers us her tale entirely through movement and dance. With an absolutely breathtaking game of light and shadow (designed by Adam Silverman), not a single bit of text or explanation is needed to transmit the meaning behind the silent story to the audience. The girl  uses her own body to convey the concept of a locked space: be it a room or a human body.

Walsh’s play premiered last year at Galway International Arts Festival. An abstract piece with more than defined meaning, Arlington combines in itself a hurricane of human emotions. Three very diverse, very different pieces about human nature , deep grief and yearning for something that they are being stripped off, present very nicely balanced contrast one to another.

The set design (by Jamie Vartan) and its symbolism also plays a huge part in the piece. Like a fish herself, the appropriately named Isla, for example, waits in a bare room with almost nothing but three plastic chairs and a forever empty fish tank.

A trap that you would love to fall into, Arlington runs in The Abbey Theatre until February 25th. For more info or to book tickets: http://www.abbeytheatre.ie/whats_on/event/arlington?gclid=CP7IgfaZn9ICFW4B0wodBbcA_Q

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Olympia Theatre: Once, The Musical

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“Tear your curtains down for sunlight is like gold.”

Theatre is always beautiful, in all its shapes and forms. Unfortunately, I’ve never been lucky enough to see many musicals, though I immensely enjoy musical theatre as a genre. It just doesn’t bother me when in the middle of a thought or a scene the actors burst into singing and dancing. I actually find it rather entertaining and truthful.

After the huge success of the namesake film in 2007, Once The Musical has enjoyed quite a successful run in New York, London and pretty much all over the world. In an out-of-ordinary occurrence of events, Once started Off-Broadway, then was transferred to Broadway itself and only after that was brought to Dublin, its hometown, and London’s West End.

With the original songs by Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová (who themselves appear in the film), the script for the musical was written by Enda Walsh. Once is a typical story of a girl (played by Megan Riordan) and a guy (played by Sam Cieri) who met in Dublin and fell in love. He is a busker, she has a broken hoover. He helps her to repair the hoover, she helps him to pursue his dream.

Unlike all the other love stories, Once, first and foremost, is a very charming and touching tale about having to make choices and the importance of never giving up on your dream no matter what; it’s also a tale about love and separation, about believing in oneself; a tale about what happens where words are not enough anymore and the souls bursts into singing.

Dublin has a tradition of bringing musical from overseas, Once is a unique case all together. Apart from the fact that original story is set on Dublin’s very own Grafton Street. This production of the musical was also Dublin-cast and brought up. In 2015 the musical enjoyed a hugely successful three month run and it’s no surprise Landmark Productions decided to bring it back to the Olympia Theatre this summer.

Directed by John Tiffany, Once is set in a very stylised pub with dozens of mirrors all over the place. The mirrors play a very important part in the whole play. With the help of the lighting crew (by Natasha Katz), we are able to observe the actors on stage both directly and through the looking glass. It creates a magical, at times almost surreal, effect of being in a different place at a different time. The whole set design, though simple, is very well-thought. It easily transfers from Dublin streets into Girl’s house, into Guy’s bedroom, into recording studio, etc. All we really need is the right lighting and music to set the mood and within seconds we know where we are.

Another nice touch is that the full cast is on stage all throughout the play. The actors are ready to spring into dancing and singing any second. Everything is so beautifully stylised and set that you forget it’s a play. There is absolutely no awkward pauses or set changes. The choreography (by Steven Hoggett) of this piece is on the highest level. Even the smallest changes in between scenes are impossible to take eyes off.

And all this splendour in addition to the fact that unlike the absolutely majority of all other main stream traditional plays, Once starts long before the it actually starts. All guests are invited to have  drinks in the bar that is part of the stage. But that’s not even the best part, the best part is that the actors are already on stage singing and dancing with the members of the audience. I’ve never witnessed a better mood-setter. You are not only allowed to enter the actors’ sacred space, but you are also invited to be part of it.

I’m going to be straight here and say that I wasn’t a very huge fan of the original film. It made me not want to see the musical when it came to Dublin in 2015. And only by a happy coincidence I was in the auditorium yesterday. Not expecting too much, I was completely blown away by literally everything in this musical. Apart from great tunes (the ones that you can actually listen to), simple yet quite fresh plot and absolutely splendid acting, dancing and singing, the musical left me wanting for more. Once wasn’t enough to see Once.

Once The Musical runs in Dublin’s Olympia Theatre until August 27th. The tickets are selling super-fast, so don’t miss on a chance to see it … at least once. Fore more info or to book tickets: http://www.olympia.ie/whats-on/once-the-musical/ 

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Filed under Enda Walsh, Landmark Productions, olympia theatre, Once The Musical, Uncategorized