Category Archives: Squad Theatre Company

Pearse Centre Theatre: Wasting Paper (IDGTF)

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If you are looking for something to have a good old laugh, then look no further!

Presented as a special double bill deal (together with Nicole O’Connor’s Both Sides Now), Wasting Paper by Leah Moore is a real cracker like no other!

The play follows the story of Casey (played by Leah Moore), an eighteen year old gay teenager who is weeks away from doing her Leaving Cert exam. It looks like life is good for Casey. She is even some sort of a local celebrity, a modern day Shakespeare – Casey is a poem writer (the kind that gets invited to all the cool events and places like Electric Picnic and The Mansion House).

After a summer of success and adventure, Casey faces the last year of school before diving into the world of grown-up life. And there is one particular class she is more than eager to go back to – English language and literature, of course. But what a surprise to find out that her old teacher has been replaced by a younger version. The moment the 23 year old Tess walks into her first experience as a secondary school teacher, Casey immediately puts her eye on the forbidden fruit. And not that long passes before it becomes evident that Tess isn’t that uninterested in the tabu relationship herself.

This thirty minute piece wins its audience over not only with funny lines but also with some quite superb acting by both performers: Leah Moore and Ciara Smyth. Crispy delivery of the sharpened script, wonderfully fleshed out characters and loads of enthusiasm and energy make Wasting Paper truly stand out.

Wasting Paper really flies by before one can think twice, so cherish every minute of this female-driven experience. It’s really refreshing to see plays about both gay men and women as such an important issue touches both genders equally.

Wasting Paper, directed by Craig Connolly, runs in Pearse Center Theatre till May, 6th (with a 4PM and a 7.30PM performances on the final night). Fore more info or to book tickets: https://gaytheatre.ticketsolve.com/shows/873572855/events

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Filed under IDGTF, Pearse Centre Theatre, Squad Theatre Company, Uncategorized, Wasting Paper

The International Bar: Gulp

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If you had just over half an hour to explore a typical Irish topic, what would it be? What aspect of every day Irish life would be interesting, understandable and easily relatable by the young modern audience? Looks like SQUAD Theatre Company got this one right!

As we sit down on the second floor in the International Bar (from where every door unmistakably and rightly so leads to the bar downstairs), drinks in hand, Friday night plans in head, Lorna Castello and Emma-Jane Purcell offer us an insight in the tenderest and, probably, longest-lasting relationship in their lives: the one with the alcohol.

In this hugely entertaining super fast-paced piece, where every one and a half liner is a total cracker (and not only because it’s funny but also because sure you can recognize yourself in the character), we quickly discover how Lorna tried her first bit of alcohol at the age of six – the cream on her grandfather’s pint of Guinness – and Emma-Jane promised to her mother to never ever drink… but the love and desire for a pint of plain, or creamy, or fizzy, or mixed, or not a pint at all but a shot, or a can, or a bottle was much stronger than keeping the small sweet girl’s promise to her mama.

The onomatopeyac Gulp, written by Lorna Costello herself and directed by Robert Dawnes, is a nicely structured piece. It even includes a real alcohol knowledge quiz, where members of the audience can win drink tokens. And how can anybody say no to that? So, don’t be shy and pick a place in the front row, closer to the action.

From a person who doesn’t drink at all, I can absolutely confirm that the play is a pure joy to watch. The amount of energy, only comparable to a Friday night out fever, both Costello and Purcell put into this piece is incredible. It starts off from the very first word and doesn’t stop until the last drop has been squeezed out of it. As the piece is only slightly over half an hour, it also means that the after-party drinks are never too long to wait for.

Taking into account the nature of a performance space like The International Bar, the lighting designer took quite an interesting approach to separate scenes. The blackouts were a good, strong choice that added colour and structure to the story. Another atmosphere setter was “a voice from the crowd” coming from the back of the auditorium. Little details like that very nicely extend the performing space making you believe that you are on the actual location rather than in a theatre.

Remember, “when health is bad and your heart feel strange, and your face is pale and wan, when doctors say you need a change – a pint of plain (or whatever tickles your fancy, for that matter) is your only (wo)man”. Gulp, by the ever so talented and never disappointing SQUAD Theatre Company, runs in The International Bar until November 26th. For more info or to book tickets: squadtheatrecompany@gmail.com

 

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Filed under Gulp, Squad Theatre Company, The International Bar, Uncategorized

The New Theatre: The Belly Button Girl

The Belly Button Girl, written and performed by Tom Moran, is a story about a twenty-something guy who falls in love with the cute barеутвук at his cousin Sharon’s 21st birthday party.

The story is simple and quite straight forward. Except, that it’s not. Set in, undoubtedly, one of the most beautiful corners of the Emerald Isle – Dingle Peninsula, this piece tells us a story of a guy who fell in love and wasn’t afraid to admit it to himself and to the others. In an age of masculinity and in a country when showing your feelings is still a dangerous and, mostly by choice and ever so pressuring society, unexplored territory (especially by men), this is a huge deal.

All throughout the 60 min piece not for second is The Guy scared to say what is really on his mind. The story is easy to follow and understand because it doesn’t come out as a pretentious overwritten piece but rather like somebody’s natural train of thought. Yes, it’s ridiculous at times, but it’s very truthful. Thanks to this, we forgive and even laugh with Moran’s character when he mentions some of the most unspeakable and unmentionable details of his dating the Belly Button Girl. Why would you say something like that? the audience might think. But then you remember, that’s something we all think about and there is nothing bad in saying the truth. It’s like Moran removed the filter that was holding the society’s daily courtesy talk routine and just poured it all out.

Another element that immediately attracted me to this play was the amazingly believable characterization. Every single one of them: from the main characters – The Belly Button Girl – to the smallest ones – The Massive Lad or The Sambuca Lady. It’s a very interesting tool that not many playwrights use: to identify characters by who they really are. Without too much description or an overload of names, I could easily picture all the characters in the play and know what kind of people they were.

Now to the setting. Dingle is a very attractive place to set a story. The furthest corner of the Irish land; anything can happen there. But Moran, once again hits the jackpot, with some very modest but easily recognisable imagery. If you’ve ever been to Dingle Peninsula, of course you would have heard about its main attraction: Fungie, the dolphin, who doesn’t show himself to everyone. And, even though being one of the most gorgeous places of nature and typical Irish landscape, there is very little to do on the peninsula.

I was also quite fond of the structure of this sixty minute piece. It finishes very much the way it had started. The circle has been complete. With the only difference that our main character – The Guy – isn’t the same anymore; he has grown up emotionally. And that’s what all the good stories are about: the characters journey on a self-exploration and self-development.

A tearing comedy with a somewhat unusual ending, The Belly Button Girl, directed by Romana Testasecca, is a beautiful piece of very touching and truthful theatre. Tom doesn’t use any props and there is barely any sound effects, the play is one hundred percent about  stripping down one’s own soul and sharing the experience with the audience.

The Belly Button Girlbrought to us by Squad Theatre Company and Intensive Purposes Productions, runs in The New Theatre, Temple Bar until August 27th. It’s the kind of play that has all the potential to woe the Fringe (be it Dublin or Edinburgh) audience. A very refreshing piece of truthful theatre. For more info or to book tickets: http://www.thenewtheatre.com/tnt_php/scripts/page/show.php?show_id=268&gi_sn=57bd6f62e9ebe%7C0 

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Filed under Intensive Purposes, romana testasecca, Squad Theatre Company, The Belly Button Girl, The New Theatre, Tom Moran, Uncategorized

Interview with Romana Testasecca and Tom Moran

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It’s less than a week before The Belly Button Girl opens in The New Theatre. I had an amazing opportunity to talk to the play’s writer and performer Tom Moran and Romana Testasecca, who is directing the piece.

Just before we dive into the interview, I want to make a special mention. I meet a lot of creative artists and theatre makers, who are, of course, very proud of their creations. But Tom and Romana were so passionate and enthusiastic about their upcoming play that the fire in their eyes were so contagious I couldn’t bare the thought of keeping it all to myself. Unfortunately, not always such an amount of belief and passion about your own work can be transmitted through the screen; so, I decided to simply say it.

Now to the interview.

I sat down with Romana and Tom primarily to talk about Squad Theatre company and The Belly Button Girl. It’s interesting to note that The Belly Button Girl is being brought to the audience not by one but two theatre companies. Walking almost hand in hand, Squad Theatre Company and Intensive Purposes are as close as sisters. Being formed around the same time (and as recently as 2015) by a group of DIT Drama graduates, both companies have quite an extensive experience behind their belts, including participation in Scene and Heard festival. Always trying to work side by side but allowing each other enough creative freedom at the same time, the two companies focus on creating their own content. The Squad is a company with 5 core members (and more than ten in total), while Intensive Purposes is pretty much a one-man project. It was Tom’s decision to be separated from the rest as he wanted to have the freedom to work on his own writings. At the same time, Tom and Romana gave me a feeling of a close unity between the two companies, they are always there to help each other to produce and present.

Having already some experience in writing and performing, creating The Belly Button Girl took more than a year to be fully developed.  Starting as a completely different story, with a different plot and a different title, Tom’s inspiration for the play came while practicing yoga. To be more precise, in a downward-facing dog pose. Acknowledging that he might have not been the best yogi and always being pushed to the back of the class, Tom felt like he was not getting enough attention from the teacher. Thus the idea of a guy who falls in love with his yoga instructor was born. “But then I realised that the play wasn’t about yoga at all, it was about the relationship”, says Tom. And that’s exactly what was left in the second draft: the relationship between two human beings.

“It’s very unfiltered”, says Tom about the nature of the play. “He – the protagonist – is not ashamed. There is a lovely kind of confidence in just being himself. He just says everything the way it is”, adds Romana.

Always trying to mix things up, Tom admits that he likes his “comedies to be dramatic and his dramas to be comedic”. “Otherwise it doesn’t feel real”, says he.

But it’s never easy to be the writer who performs in his or her own piece. Tom says that he always knew he was going to be the one telling the story not only from the page but also from the stage. When asked which of the two crafts he enjoys more, he honestly answers “I have this bone in my body that if I wasn’t performing I would probably go a little bit crazy”. He also notes that writing has become a huge part of his daily life and he couldn’t imagine himself not doing it anymore.

Tom admits that music is a very important component of his writing routine. It doesn’t only influence and inspire him and his mood, but it also helps him to find the rhythm of the piece. Evidently having a very well trained musical ear, he counts the bits in every word and every phrase to make it sound right.

Just like in any creative task, being the writer of the piece you are performing apart from the evident benefits also inputs some challenges. One of such might be that the actor starts taking liberties and creative freedom with his own (well-penned and already brought to perfection) script. It’s easy to change a word or a whole line while it’s your own creation. That’s why you have a director who is there to help you master the performance.

Romana came on board only a few months ago. While Tom knew from the beginning that he was writing a play for himself, he didn’t have yet a person in mind to direct it. “She gave me the best notes on the play”, says Tom who enjoys working with Roman and admits that he gets really excited when the two creative opinions collide in the rehearsal room and they have to find a way to make the scene work for both of them. Also coming from an acting background, Romana says that she always respects the actor’s point of view and ideas about how a scene should be acted out. But it’s always a mutual decision and the director has the benefit of seeing the performance from the outside. It’s definitely a challenge to find the balance in between imposing yourself as the director and listening to what your actor is trying to communicate to you.

The Belly Button Girl isn’t biographical”, says Tom “there is a lot of me in it, but none of it actually happened to me.” Inviting people to have a look at his own experience, Tom quotes Mark Birbiglia: “If you are not telling your secrets, you are not doing it right”.  And that’s exactly how Tom wants to engage his audience. “That’s what good art is”, he says, “telling your secrets. And this is what this play  – The Belly Button Girl – is. It’s the most unfiltered thing. He – the main character – is so free and lovely, and so disgusting. This play tries to show every part of a person and every part of a relationship.”

Not hugely relaying on the set design or props, the play is as stripped down as the protagonist’s soul in front of an audience. “He is there and he is telling you his story”, says Romana. “There is nothing else. It’s this guy on stage telling his story”.

Both Romana and Tom want the audience to have a real truthful understanding of a human experience. In his play, Tom aims to show people that it’s ok to go through different emotions internally but it’s even more ok to release them to the outside world. There is nothing to be worried or scared about. Even if you are a man. Especially if you are a man. Because before being a man, you are a human being. “Comfortable vulnerability” is the beautiful term that Tom uses for it, “to be comfortable with your own emotions and showing them.”

Tom and Romana have big plans for The Belly Button Girl. It’s less than a week before the play opens in one of Dublin’s city center venues, but the talk has it that the play will be well up for the Edinburgh Fringe in the next couple of years. Described as an “Unflinching, romantic and personal” play, The Belly Button Girl promises to be truly epic! So start booking the tickets before they are gone. For one week only with one day (Monday) preview at the price of 12.50 EUR only: http://www.thenewtheatre.com/tnt_php/scripts/page/show.php?show_id=268&gi_sn=57b34ad04e5ef%7C0 

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Filed under Intensive Purposes, Interview with, romana testasecca, Squad Theatre Company, The Belly Button Girl, Tom Moran, Uncategorized

The Mart: Low in The Dark

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You may know Marina Carr, you may think you know her work… But, have you ever heard of Low in the dark, written by Carr in 1989?

I didn’t. So, when I was invited to a staging of this play by Squad Theatre Company I had absolutely no expectations but rather decided to remain open to whatever theatre had to offer.

Staged in a cozy far from traditional venue – The Mart (in Rathmines) – the play had an out of ordinary plot and structure. It comes as no surprise that Marina Carr is one of the greatest of modern Irish playwrights. Doubtlessly, she has the skill and ability to create interesting and watchable characters. But it all makes it the harder for the theatre company to produce the play up to a certain standard and quality, to bring to life those characters and make the story appealing to the audience. Squad Theatre Company accepted the challenge and absolutely smashed it.

For the Squad Theatre Company Low in the dark by Marina Carr is the first staging of a published work. The director of the piece – Romana Testasecca – definitely had a certain vision of the play and Carr’s creations. The finely sharpened characters are recognised from the first seconds of the play.

Low in the dark is a truly universal play. It has a total number of five characters, it can be set anywhere any time. In a quite elaborated set design (by George Reeves), we witness the tale of Bender (played by Polly Lloyd) and Binder (played by Norma Howard). Presumably mother and daughter, they spent all their free time conversing in a bathroom and reliving their past encounters with men, all of whom are now long long gone. The tale of Baxter (played by David Greene) and Bone (Aaron Shiel) are very similar to that one of the women. Gender challenged (or confused) they are building a wall, while wearing high heels, eating cupcakes and getting pregnant… but, they too, are living in the world of a strange mixture of memories and imagination. The last but by no means least character is The Curtains (played by Julia Stipsits), a faceless and, presumably, genderless creature whose purpose is to tell the story of the man and the woman.

Low in the dark is a play that rediscovers and rethinks the nature of the gender and relationships. It’s also a play in which anything can happen, even the unexpected. Even the unexplainable. Even the unthinkable.

With a mood-setting soundtrack (by Michael Moloney and Kevin McLeod), superb acting and strong directing, Low in the dark is a surreal piece that doesn’t require deep understanding or possesses a profound meaning but rather offers you to keep an open mind and be welcoming to unorthodox ideas.

Huge kudos to the Squad Theatre Company for embarking on such a difficult (in a good sense) play and choosing it as one of their very first professional productions. All the cast and crew were outstanding and made the characters jump alive out of Carr’s pages. The venue only contributed to the whole atmosphere of being in a non-traditional space and time.

Low in The Dark runs in The Mart Rathmines until August 6th. Catch it before it flies away. For more info or to book tickets: https://www.eventbrite.ie/e/low-in-the-dark-by-marina-carr-tickets-26291575811

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Filed under Low in The Dark, Marina Carr, Squad Theatre Company, The Mart, Uncategorized