Category Archives: The Abbey Theatre

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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The Abbey Theatre: Anna Karenina

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“Rummaging in our souls, we often dig up something that ought to have lain there unnoticed. ”

– Anna Karenina

2016 has been a huge year for the arts. 2016 was anything but a challenging year for the Abbey Theatre in particular, a year filled with the most unexpected, brave decisions and thought-provoking plays. In addition to seeing one year round up of #WakingTheFeminists meeting; Ireland’s National Theatre has also had a change of directors welcoming Neil Murray and Graham McLaren to the steering wheel.

The last play of the departing year is none the less but Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, adapted for the stage by Ireland’s very own literature giant Marina Carr.

No doubt, Tolsoty’s masterpiece is a poignant, heavy piece in all senses possible. Starting with the fact that the play lasts approximately three and a half hours (which then pass by quicker than a fly). But above all, it’s a Russian tragedy where, unfortunately, there is no place for a happy ending.

Anna Karenina (played by Lisa Dwan) is a wife, a mother and a woman, who one day falls in love with Vronsky (played by Rory Fleck Byrne), a well-built handsome young man. Tolstoy has never created a weak woman in his work and Karenina isn’t an exception, either. But just as any human being isn’t safe of making mistakes, she gives in to temptation and finally decides to leave not only her husband but also her son Seryoza and the respected position she occupies among the Russian intelligentsia. She looses everything for a chance to live maybe not a happy but an emotionally fulfilled life. Nevertheless, happiness does come but only for a short time before Anna realises that some things can never be replaced or substituted in life; that people remember it when you did them wrong; that people betray, lie and simply get tired of what once excited them; that some of the most tender souls hide behind the thickest walls; that no heart is made out of stone and every heart breaks in its own way.

This absolutely stunning interpretation of a Russian classic is a truly jaw-dropping piece to watch. It should definitely be placed among the strongest pieces produced by the Abbey last year. Unsurprisingly brilliantly directed  by Wayne Jordan, the play transports us to pre-revolutionary Russia where the  freshly spilled blood is an ever constant contrast to the peacefully falling snow. In a very simple but wonderfully decorated set (by Sarah Bacon) we witness the lives, loves and tragedies of a grand total of 42 characters. Dressed in some of the most eye-catching ribbons and bows (by Sarah Beacon),the piece presents to our display a whole range of mothers, daughters and wives and their everyday struggle. From Dolly (played by Ruth McGill), who perhaps doesn’t even remember what it feels like not to be pregnant and who also is living a tragedy as she has a cheating husband, to Kitty (played by Julie Maguire) a young girl who is only preparing to enter wifehood.

In one single play, we are given the incredible opportunity to see the same problems being dealt with by different people and from alternative angles. With beautifully stylised musical accompaniment (by David Coonan), the cruel Russian reality ideally translates to the Irish stage. Anna Karenina has it all: tragedy with elements of comedy, very nice pace for a long piece, stunning decorations and costumes and some absolutely superb acting. The cast, the majority of whom double and triple, truly gives a performance of a lifetime with each single one of the ensemble being exceptional.

Anna Karenina is a beautiful experience that won’t leave a dry eye. The play runs in The Abbey Theatre until January 28th. For more info or to book tickets: http://www.abbeytheatre.ie/whats_on/event/anna-karenina/

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The Abbey Theatre: Donegal

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“All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”

– Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina

The beautiful season of golden Irish Lughnasa inevitably brings us back to county Donegal. After the successful national and international run of McGuinness’ Observe The Sons of Ulster Marching Towards The Somme, we have the pleasure to witness another work by the Donegal-born playwright. In his new play Frank McGuinness introduces us to The Days, a west country Irish family with a musical spark.

Donegal isn’t a musical, it’s “a play with songs”. Quite good and catchy ones, too. Once rich and famous, Irene Day’s (played by Siobhan McCarthy) singing career has seen better times. She barely sells any tickets, no matter how hard her husband Conor (played by Frank Laverty) and sister Joanne (played by Eleanor Methven) work to lure the audience in. Irene has the whole family working for her to regain the love of the Irish music lovers. But no family is a proper family without a black sheep in it. Jackie Day (played by Killian Donnelly), Irene’s own son, is a country singer, too. Be it the jealousy of his success or the accusations that he throws at her for being a bad mother, Irene admits that she had never listened to anything that he had ever produced. But, life is a tricky thing. Now she depends entirely on him to bring her old life back.

What we once learnt with Brian Friel, we can now solidify with Frank McGuinness. Every good Irish play has a deviated torn apart family in it. Generation after generation, they hate, bad mouth and poison each other, but no bonds are stronger than the family bonds. Relatives wash down with liquor all their little tragedies and unhappinesses just to wake up the next morning and carry on with life as it is. The only difference with Donegal is that this play also has some sparkly costumes (designed by Joan O’Clery) and nice tunes (by Kevin Doherty) that you can hum to.

One of the absolute bonuses of seeing this show is evidently the fact  they there is a live band at the very back of the stage (under a black veil). Personally, it’s always a plus when for the price of one you get to see a production and listen to some high quality music. It’s also a positive if you are into west-country songs but even if you are not, the melodies of the show create a very powerful atmosphere of a different (somewhat unknown in Dublin) Ireland.

The stunning set design (by Liam Doona) converts from something very simple outdoor-ish into The Day’s house, pub and even a performing arena. That’s when the lighting design (by Ben Ormerod) plays its memorable part. It does create a feeling of a very colourful bright experience; the light will be shining long after the play is over.

Always at its best is Frank McGuinness with the profound characterisation and pencil-sharp lines. Such characters as Magdalene Carolan (unforgettably played by Deirdre Donnelly) shall remain in the history  of fictional bad mouthes for a long time. The modern plays are getting corkier and corkier. The usage of language is changing; what once used to be a taboo or, well, fringe, is now a part of life.

An entertaining show, undoubtedly unlike any other, probably makes Donegal one of the absolute highlights of this year’s Dublin Theatre Festival. Impossible not to enjoy, that’s for sure. Runs until November 19th. For more info or to book tickets: https://www.abbeytheatre.ie/whats_on/event/donegal/

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The Abbey Theatre: Observe the sons of Ulster marching towards the Somme

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The final curtain is falling on the Abbey Theatre’s summer season and with it we must witness the end of Waking the Nation – Ireland 2016 programme. The centenary of the 1916 Easter Rising is a few months short of being over, but The Abbey is already bidding its farewell with Frank McGuinness’ play Observe the Sons of Ulster marching towards the Somme.

A truly unusual choice of a theatrical piece to celebrate an important milestone in Irish history. McGuinness’ play, as the title might suggest, captures immediately before events occurring a short time prior to the battle of the Somme (July 1916), during which the British and the French armies fought against the German Empire. Some might say those events were insignificant and even unimportant on a bigger scale, but they might have made all the difference to the seven young Nordies and one Englishman who have all just signed up to fight in the first world war. Seen from the point of view of the eight volunteers, the play is primarily about the human side of the war. Eight young men: each one of them is very different from the other, each with his own background, beliefs and destiny. But all of them with one solemn reason: to fight for Ulster. The young men are thrown together into one barrack and then into one battlefield, but war smooths all the indifferences and disagreements so they can become brothers – the true sons of Ulster.

Knowing McGuinness from such works as The Hanging Gardens, Someone who will watch over me, Mutabilitie and many many others, it’s quite evident that the Donegal-born playwright has a very particular style of delivering a story. Observe the sons of Ulster isn’t an exception. Looking up to such prodigies as Shakespeare, this play opens with a twenty minute monologue of an old man (played by Sean McGinley) reminiscing, almost in a state of delirium, about his own experience prior and during the battle of Somme.

It’s been thirty one years since The Sons of Ulster Marching towards the Somme premiered in The Abbey Theatre. Now, this Award-winning play might not be the most obvious choice for an Irish centenary, but it’s an interesting choice regarding the diversity of plays staged in Dublin in 2016. McGuinness’ play shows the alternative story of 1916, what was happening in the world (and, by the way, let me just remind you that  WWI was happening) and how that might have affected the future events in both the Republic and the North. By no means, I want to underestimate the Easter Rising and overshadow it by a different piece. On the contrary, Observe the sons of Ulster just draws a broader picture of the horror happing in the world at the beginning of the twentieth century.

This production immediately stood out for me thanks to the ever so creative and hardworking cast and crew. The lighting design (by Paul Keoghan) was simply outstanding. An amazing example it was of a piece that hugely benefited from the light changes. The perfectly captured shades of bloody red or peacefully blue sky made all the difference while setting the mood. I was also quite fond of the idea to elevate upstage (designed by Ciaran Bagnall). It slightly changed the perspective but hugely influenced the perception of the space, which made the first couple of rows be really grateful for.

I have to mention that the acting and directing (by Jeremy Herrin) was quite on a top level; nevertheless, it made me wonder if a female perspective would have revealed something interesting and unexpected in this purely male piece?

The Sons of Ulster Marching Towards the Somme runs in The Abbey Theatre until September 24th. The last piece in Waking The Nation – Ireland 2016 programme. For more info or to book the tickets: http://www.abbeytheatre.ie/whats_on/event/observe-the-sons-of-ulster-marching-towards-the-somme/

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The Abbey Theatre: The Wake

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The summer season is on. While The Gate is hosting The Constant Wife, The Abbey Theatre is having a grim wake. More precisely The Wake, one of Tom Murphy’s most famous plays. If that wasn’t enough to make you run for the tickets, then let me also mention that this particular production is directed by Annabelle Comyn.

Tom Murphy has a long history of working side by side with the Abbey Theatre. Written for the Abbey and originally staged in the venue in 1998, eighteen years after The Wake makes its return.

As many traditional Irish plays are, The Wake is a story of a deeply dysfunctional family from the West of Ireland. After years of leading a promiscuous life in New York, Vera O’Toole (played by Aisling O’Sullivan) returns home to Ireland. After the death of her dear grandmother, Vera now is in possession of a family hotel. Making Vera the only owner of the hotel made the other three of her siblings breathe fire and brimstone. (Just like in any good Irish play: it’s always all about the land. Brothers turn against brother when it comes to a piece of tangible property). In her childhood hometown, surrounded by the ghosts of the past and present half-dead half-alive, Vera reminisces on her life. The only person she ever cared for – her grandmother – is now dead and nobody cared to let Vera know. Now, being finally back, the only thing she wants to do is have a wake: a wake for her grandmother, or just maybe for her childhood dream. Vera’s wake for a dream.

In this beautifully staged production of one of Murphy’s classics, the mood is being superbly conveyed by the stunning lighting design (by Sinéad McKenna). As the space is being filled with the dark game of light and shadow, it gives us the perfect feeling of Vera’s emotional state. Sometimes, the only light that you have in life is a small candle dancing in the obscure corner of your soul.

Together with the lighting, another hugely influential mood-setter is, of course, the set design (by Paul O’Mahony). From the very first scene until the very end, the somewhat minimalistic stage is just like a chameleon turning  from a tiny one-bed room into a hotel, a family home and finally into a graveyard. It’s just another example of how much can be achieved with very little.

Whenever it comes to seeing a play in The Abbey, the high quality of acting is just something that goes practically without saying. But, in this particular piece, I want to mention the absolutely amazing performance given by Aisling O’Sullivan and Brian Doherty. Tom Murphy’s dialogue driven script with many quite static scenes, in addition to a handful of references to Greek tragedies and Shakespeare, is being completely turned upside down by the energy that the actors bring with them onto the stage.

A truly Irish play, The Wake will keep you thinking about the bad and good in people, about their dreams and failures, about life and death long before the final curtain falls heavy onto the floor. The play runs in The Abbey Theatre until July 30th. For more info or to book tickets: http://www.abbeytheatre.ie/whats_on/event/the-wake

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The Peacock Theatre: Town is Dead

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The Abbey Theatre continues to be waking the nation. After the enormous success of Cyprus Avenue and Tina’s Idea of Fun, another gem has just hit the Peacock’s stage: Town is Dead, written and directed by  Phillip McMahon with the music composed by Raymond Scannell.

Through this series of Ireland-focused plays, the Abbey theatre wants to present to the nation a window into the life of common Irish people: what’s happening behind the closed doors of those, whose stories normally never get to be heard; what’s going on in the lives and minds of those who live on the edge of city and sanity.

Town is Dead is brought to the Peacock theatre by Phillip McMahon. Some of you might be already familiar with McMahon’s previous work, which includes the hugely successful musical comedy Alice in Funderland (premiered on the Peacock’s stage in 2012) – a play also dedicated to Dublin and its citizens.

At this stage it’s safe to say that Mcmahon definitely has a good set of skills for writing an enjoyable musical that stands out and also carries a message.

Town is Dead is a North Inner city Dublin story unlike many others. A typical creature of her natural habitat Ellen (played by Barbara Brennan) is being moved from her house into a shoebox room in her sister’s place. And just before the last box is packed and sealed, an unexpected visitor (played by Fia Houston-Hamilton) comes for a visit. Ellen’s house and mind is anything but ghostless… and that’s exactly the reason why Rachel is there. No matter how hard one is trying to escape the ghosts of the past, in one form or another, they will soon inevitably reach you.

The first impression of the play starts with an incredible set design (by Paul O’Mahony). The stage is divided into two spaces: Ellen’s house and the backspace, where the live mini-orchestra is placed behind a veil. With the skillfully elaborated lighting design (by Sarah Jane Shiels), one or another part of the stage is accented at different times, the veil being a huge part (both literally and metaphorically) of it too especially when it comes to play with light and shadow. Let me just point out here that unlike many somewhat more traditional musicals, Town is Dead is first and foremost a play. The beautiful ensemble of keyboard (by Danny Forde), harp (by Christine O’Mahony) and clarinet (by Conor Sheil) is used primarily to enhance and highlight the dialogue.

Town is Dead counts with five on-stage debuts: Kate Gilmore, Fia Houston-Hamilton, Conall Keating, Danny Forde and Conor Sheil, all starring alongside one of the veterans of the Irish stage: Barbara Brennan, who gives an absolutely smashing performance. McMahon’s writing is refreshing with spot on jokes, which is easily proved by the unstoppable laughter coming from the audience.

Town is Dead is only in its previews, but it’s already selling super fast. Don’t miss your chance to see the play. For more info or to book your tickets, please, visit: http://www.abbeytheatre.ie/whats_on/event/town-is-dead

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The Abbey Theatre’s Costume Storehouse tour.

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When the weather is nothing but gloomy and gray, here is one way to bright up the day: a trip to the Abbey Theatre’s Costume Department Storehouse.

Even though located in a somewhat far away Finglas Business Park, the storehouse is quite easy to access by public transport from the city center. And the roughly 40 min ride is absolutely worth it.

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A few posts ago, I’ve already written about my experience doing the behind the scenes tour at The Abbey Theatre itself; this time I’ve decided to take it a bit further. As a member of the Abbey Theatre, I got an amazing chance to visit the costume storehouse and literally touch a tiny part of Abbey Theatre’s history.

The costume storehouse is already of a quite considerable size, but they are constantly expanding. The props storehouse, that is currently located across the road from the Abbey theatre, is soon going to be relocated and part of all the props will be stored in the new building next to the costume storehouse that has been purchased by the theatre. At the moment in the costume department there are two floors absolutely packed with clothes and shoes plus a room full of hats, gloves and other accessories.

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The storehouse would be of a huge interest to anyone who has ever seen a play on either The Abbey or The Peacock stage or is in any way interested in theatre/TV costumes and what they are made of.

Abbey Theatre’s Costume Department is most probably one of the biggest places of its kind in Ireland that rents period and stylised clothes. The Abbey’s costumes can be seen not only in The Abbey Theatre but also in such famous TV Productions as Rebellion and Ripper Street. The costumes are also available for hiring by both professional and amateur theatre companies. And the best news is that the hiring price couldn’t be more reasonable and affordable. This allows some of the smaller companies that don’t have a huge budget to be able to stage a quality production.

 

If you are a usual goer to the Abbey Theatre, then you will be able to see (and touch) some of the most beautiful and carefully hand crafted dresses, gowns and shirts: anything from Hester Swane’s wedding dress in By The Bog of Cats (the pre- and post fire versions) to Dolly’s red tutu in You Never Can Tell, to an almost century old shawl that has been used in every single one of Abbey’s stagings of The Plough and The Stars (except for the most recent one), to Fiona Shaw’s extremely detailed and crafted dress from John Gabriel Borkman to (personally, my favourite) Alan Rickman’s costume from the mentioned Ibsen’s play that he did in the Abbey in 2010.

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An amazing experience and just more proof of how much thought and detail goes into each theatre production. A lot happens on stage, there is no doubt there, but even more happens off stage. Abbey’s Costume Department is just a perfect example of this; some of the best designers have worked for the Abbey, including Joan O’Cleary, Peter O’Brien, Joan Bergin and many others.

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The Abbey Theatre’s Costume Department is open to the public (by appointment only!) for viewing and also for costume hiring (if you are staging a production not a Hallowe’en party). For more info: http://www.abbeytheatre.ie/about/costume-hiring/ 

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The Abbey Theatre: Othello

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“O, beware, my lord, of jealousy;
It is the green-ey’d monster, which doth mock
The meat it feeds on.”

– W. Shakespeare, Othello.

In the year when the world is commemorating 400 years since the death of, undoubtedly, one of the most influential writers of the English speaking world, The Abbey Theatre celebrates the occasion by staging one of the bard’s widely known, but sometimes very unjustly underestimated, plays – Othello. Having brought up recently such productions as King Lear, A Midsummer’s Night Dream and Twelfth Night, it’s the first time ever for the Abbey Theatre to stage the play about the jealous Moor.

And, the man who was appointed to direct the piece couldn’t have been chosen any better. Apart from having served as an Artistic Director of The Abbey Theatre, Joe Dowling has a very vast and very profound experience of re-imgaining Shakespearean work for the last couple of decades.

In the best of Shakespearean traditions, Othello is a story filled with flawed human beings and anti-heroes who give in to the worst of their own weaknesses. Othello (played by Peter Macon) is a Moorish General in the Venetian army who secretly marries the local Senator Brabantio’s (played by Peter Gowen) beautiful daughter Desdemona (played by Rebecca O’Mara). Despite her father’s disapproval and unreasonable rage about the newly concealed union, Desdemona and Othello are happily married and deeply in love.

The news about the Turkish attack on Cyprus is soon to arrive, and Othello is quickly summoned to be re-settled on the island as part of the army corps. Othello, as the general of the army, had promoted Cassio (played by Barry John O’Connor) to be the lieutenant to his army. That immensely angers Iago (played by Marty Rea) who, also a soldier, considers himself to be better suited for such a promotion. From this moment on Iago has an axe to grind with Othello. Being a very poisonous and ill-natured person, Iago doesn’t simply want to prove that he is better than Cassio, he wants to take revenge on Othello by such means that only a truly evil person could come up with.

This play can easily be considered one of Shakespeare’s masterpieces in mind games and personality transformations. From a gentle loving husband, Othello quickly becomes a blind jealous puppet trapped in all the lies and stories that he has been fed by Iago. But the audience still pities and feels for Othello no matter what his actions are; for his actions are those of an extremely confused and sick animal who can’t see much beyond his own nose. Iago, in his place, who is the real anti-hero of this story, does not win the audience’s compassion for he’s a rotten person who has no remorse for his ill actions.

In this brilliant and and what is set to be a memorable production, the stage set is very much part of the play. The wonderful Riccardo Hernandez together with the amazing Sinéad McKenna (lighting designer) put us, the audience, from the outside world into the real place of action – Othello’s head. Very simple at first sight, the set design allows us to experience what is happening inside Othello’s mind when he’s being input the ideas of Desdemona’s infidelity.

The beautiful reflections on the warm painted beach, while the characters sit on the cold marble stage benches are a strong representation of two sides of one coin; the play of light and shadow is amazingly symbolic. Nothing creates a more dramatic atmosphere than the lighting and sound affects moving in unison with the action and the energy of the scene.

The beautiful ensemble of sixteen actors is the true force of this production. Each one of them with their own easily-distinguishable resonating voices and perfectly chosen army-style costumes brings Othello from the military Cyprus of the sixteenth century to the modern-day Ireland.

Othello, the tragedy of the Moor of Venice, runs in The Abbey Theatre until June 11th. Unlike any previous productions, the audience of Othello will be able to experience the play from the Abbey stage itself. There is a very limited number of tickets available, so do not miss your opportunity. For more info or to book tickets, please, visit: https://www.abbeytheatre.ie/whats_on/event/othello

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Filed under 2016 The Abbey Programme, othello, Shakespeare, The Abbey Theatre, W Shakespeare, Waking the Nation

The Abbey Theatre: The Plough and The Stars

You might have seen a production of The Plough and The Stars before; you might have even seen it more than once; but you definitely haven’t seen The Plough and The Stars the way Sean Holmes presented it in The Abbey Theatre for the centenary of The 1916 Easter Rising.

Ever since the Abbey announced its Waking The Nation program earlier last year, people haven’t stopped talking about the plays chosen to celebrate one of the most important anniversaries in Irish history. Do we really need to see The Plough and The Stars again? people asked, since it’s been only four years since the time one of O’Casey’s most famous works was last staged by Ireland’s National theatre. But, could such a huge event in the life of Irish people have gone by without bringing back all the memorabilia and some of the most famous characters and lines ever spoken from the Irish theatres?

Now, how does one review a play without giving anything away?

The Plough and The Stars doubtlessly does not need introduction. O’Casey’s four act piece revolves around a tenement house in inner city Dublin, over the period of six months between November 1915 and Easter Weekend 1916. With thick Dublin accents and even thicker personalities we eavesdrop on lives of Mr. and Mrs. Clitheroe (played by Ian-Lloyd Anderson and Kate Stanley Brennan), a young cheerful couple, who gets separated way before their time; The Clitheroes share their flat with Nora’s uncle Peter (played by James Hayes), an old man with fiery republican beliefs, and Jack’s cousin Covey (played by Ciarán O’Brien), a passionate and full of communist ideas and beliefs young man. In the house there is also Mrs. Coogan (played by Janet Moran), an old widow with a teenage daughter, Mollser (played by Mahnoor Saad), who is dying of consumption; and sharp-tongued Bessie Burgess (played by Eileen Walsh), a Protestant mother whose son is fighting in The First World War with the Brits.

The life of all those once happy people have been shaken by the outbreak of the Irish Civil War and the Easter Rising of 1916 that led to it.

Apart from being a masterly penned play, The Plough and The Stars is an amazing piece of theatre that simply has it all. When acutely written dialogues aren’t enough to express the emotions behind them, the singing comes in. And nothing could have portrayed a true Irish soul better than a mix of spoken word and hearty lyrics. The words of love for a woman slowly, slenderly become a confession of love for one’s own country: “Ireland is greater than a mother”. “Ireland is greater than a wife. ” 

O’Casey’s masterpiece hasn’t only survived almost a century without loosing its meaning or relevance, it also shows how one person in 1926 managed to embalm in paper the very essence of what it is to be an Irishman or an Irish woman.

From my own experience, there is no point of staging a production that had been staged numerous times before, if the director can’t blow into it a breath of fresh air. Fortunately for us, Sean Homes brilliantly carried out this task. This particular production is a must see for many reasons, but one of them is the beautiful link of 1916 and 2016. Everything from the set design (by Jon Bausor) to the costume design (by Catherine Fay) shows that a lot of thought went into the piece and it’s not just another one of many many others. This is nothing  but O’Casey’s timeless writing.

The ensemble (including David Ganly, whose Fluther the Jolly Good Fella will stay with me for a long time; or Nyree Yergainharsian who plays the unforgettably cheeky Rosie Redmond, and others) of actors is absolutely outstanding and deserves a special mention: a total of 14 energetic and high-spirited actors brought this up-scale show to an amazingly enjoyable two and half hour result. Not a single second is dragged or boring. Some moments, such as the very opening of the play with Mollser singing of Amhrán na bhFiann as Gaeilge, are absolutely fantastic and a wonderful atmosphere setter.

Long story short: The Plough and The Stars is one of those events without which the celebration of upcoming Easter Rising wouldn’t be complete. The play runs in Dublin’s Abbey Theatre until April 23rd before it sets out on a National and International tours. The tickets are selling out like hot pies, book yours before they are gone! For more info or to book tickets: http://www.abbeytheatre.ie/whats_on/event/the-plough-and-the-stars-2016/ 

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Filed under 2016 The Abbey Programme, Easter Rising, sean o'casey, The Abbey Theatre, the plough and the stars

The Abbey Theatre: The 24 Hour Plays.

For five years now the last Sunday of January is celebrated in the Irish theatre community by going to The 24 Hour plays (that, in the last couple of years, has been hosted by The Abbey Theatre).

For a good cause, in aid of Dublin Youth Theatre, this almost charity event opens for one night only to show its audience that a real talent and passion for acting (and all theatre making related) is truly limitless and often self-sacrificing.

Originally from the other side of the Pond, The 24 Hour Plays was meant to be a one off charity event, but the people liked it and wanted more; so now, more than twenty years after, it has been welcomed by the theaters of all across the globe: New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, London, Dublin, Athens and others.

The concept is pretty basic: in a time frame of 24 hours a number of writers, directors and actors come together in order to create six brand new short plays. In order to inspire imagination everyone brings in a prop and a costume, the actors are asked about a special skill that they might use during their performance and also what they have never done on stage but always wanted to. This last part is my favourite. Apart from finding out some rather interesting and peculiar skills that one might have, it’s great to see them being employed in the performances in the most obvious but unusual way.

The groups are quickly formed; the writers and directors chose which actors they are going to work with.

After less than a day of rehearsals, and a 20 min of technical rehearsal (those involved in theatre will understand the complete ridiculousness of this last bit) and I don’t know how much time (but it’s definitely not a lot) of learning the lines, working on the character and developing the back story, the audience is finally invited in.

This year the list of writers had such fast rising names as Emmet Kirwan, Rosaleen McDonagh, Jacinta Sheerin and Tracy Martin, Lee Coffey, Derek O’Connor and Tara Flynn.

The directors are all industry professionals: Selina Cartmell, David Horan, Aoife Spillane-Hinks, Madeline Boughton, Conor Hanratty, Donnacadh O’Brien.

With a total number of 28 devoted actors, including such names as Lorna Quinn (who is currently appearing in The Importance of Being Earnest at The Gate Theatre), Denis Conway (You Never can Tell, showing at the moment in The Abbey Theatre), the beautiful storyteller, broadcaster and actress Nuala Hayes, Camille Lucy Ross (Big Bobby, Little Bobby that has recently been part of First Fortnight in Dublin), Kate Stanley- Brennan (who has just gone into rehearsals for new Abbey’s production of The Plough and The Stars that will premier in March of this year as part of Waking The Nation programme).

This year’s 24 Hour Plays was my third and I must say that every year it never ceases to amaze me how much talent and creativity there is in Irish artists. They are not only able to pull off a sketch (completed and fully developed from scratch literally in the last 24 hours), but also engage its audience in a way that not every traditional play (with the appropriate amount of rehearsing and writing time) can.

I’m going to be honest, not every sketch is a masterpiece, but there is something in absolutely every piece that makes you want to watch it and find out more about its characters. Be it a sci-fi based story set in a dystopian future or a ridiculously funny piece from somewhere closer to home and the heart, there is always something that one can relate to and find interest in.

Another amazing and wonderful at the same time thing about this type of event is that each group of artists works so organically and complementary together that where the writing might not be the strongest side, the directing or the acting will be. It’s very much a team work. And being able to work in a team is already a huge step towards success in theatre making.

This post wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t mention the beautiful and absolutely charming The Evertides, the Irish group that totally rocked The Abbey yesterday. With their meaningful and gentle songs, the evening was complete. And the girls took the 24 Hour challange upon themselves too, and wrote a completely new song from scratch.

Unfortunately, The 24 Hour Plays is a yearly event for one night only. For more information, please check it’s official web page: http://www.24hourplays.com/

 

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Filed under Dublin Youth Theatre, The 24 Hour Plays, The Abbey Theatre