Category Archives: The Gate Theatre

The Gate Theatre: The Heiress

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“You are good for nothing unless you are clever.” 

–  Henry James, The Heiress

Ruth and Augustus Goetz’ adaptation of Henry James’s novel Washington Square, The Heiress is probably one of the most perfectly unimpressive plays. It’s a typical story of the late 19th century life of  the other half. The constant battle of money, affection and betrayal. It’s also a story where one of the main characters is none the less but a house,  beautiful but soulless space that becomes a prison for some and the entrance into the garden of Eden for the others. New York’s Washington Square charms, it attracts and mesmerizes people who have once seen its rich beauty and now are unable to let it go.They want it for themselves no matter what.

Slightly over two hours long The Heiress is a flaying piece with only a handful of characters. Centered mainly on the life of Catherine Sloper (played by Karen McCarthy), the only daughter of Dr. Sloper (played by Denis Conway) and his late but still very much beloved wife. A simple, bubbly, home life appreciative Cathy perhaps isn’t the best match for the gentlemen of the New York nobility but a spark of hope lights when she meets Morris Townsend (played by Donal Gallery). Against her father’s will and with the help of her spinster auntie Lavinia (played by Marion O’Dwyer), who is a great character herself, a secret marriage has been arranged. For Catherine the decision has already been made but what about the young fiancé who is a bit unimpressed to find out that in the case of this marriage taking place his young wife most definitely will be disinherited?

A cruel story of false promises of love, sour betrayal and cold-hearted but sweet revenge shows us one of the best examples of a strong female characterization in a dramatic play. Catherine is indeed a very enjoyable character whose personal growth is nothing but fascinating to witness.

Even though the play does have some very nice lines to feed one's mind and the acting is as superb as always, there was something missing in the piece to make it stand out. Too sweet and perfect to challenge the audience.

On a slightly more positive note, Jonathan Fenson’s stunning stage and dress designs made it an absolute pleasure for the eye to watch the play. I really enjoyed the captivating depth of the stage and how well it symbolically represented the story.

Directed by David Grindley, The Heiress runs in Dublin’s Gate Theatre until January 21st. Only a few chances left to catch it. For more info or to book tickets: http://www.gatetheatre.ie/production/TheHeiress2016

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Filed under Henry James, Ruth and Augustus Goetz, The Gate Theatre, The Heiress, Uncategorized, Washington Square

The Gate Theatre: Who’s afraid of Virginia Woolf?

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“When that big wolf came around only bricks and stone are wolf-proof”

– English Fable.

George (played by Denis Conway) and Martha (played by Fiona Bell) might be living in a house made of brick and stone but it doesn’t mean that they are safe from the big bad wolf. The dark creature has taken a different form and has already penetrated not only the house but also the minds of its inhabitants.

A dark, perhaps moon-less, night somewhere in New England. The  middle-aged disappointing underachiever George and his older with some clear daddy-issues wife Martha are clearly not on their first drink of the night. Soon the couple is joined by another – somewhat younger and much less bitter – couple of newcomers to the town: Honey (played by Sophie Robinson) and Nick (played by Mark Huberman), who is to work in the biology department of a small Ivy League university that Martha’s father is the president of and where George has been teaching history since before the war.

Edward Albee’s 1962 play is a fierce three hour piece almost completely consisting of  meaty raw dialogues and conversations. The lines are so masterfully written that they are like a game of ball which the characters are constantly throwing at each other. The point, of course, is not to drop the ball. Talking about games: the play is divided into three clear acts; each one of them could be represented by a fictional game that the characters play. Ironically the games consist of one of the characters mocking the insecurities and poorly-made life decisions of the another in a very cruel, selfish and disturbing way.

But the liquor cabinet is unfathomable in George and Martha’ house therefore the night of verbal abuse and human degradation continues. Who’s line is it anyway? What is it going to be: a smack or a smooch? Albee creates a locked room situation where instead of a house, each character is a prisoner of his or her own mind and past. Each one of them is trying to protect their own “roof” while provoking the beast all at the same time. So inevitably comes the moment when the big bad wolf comes along and starts blowing that roof off. But, given the chance, those piggies gladly become the wolf themselves.

Staged in the absolutely stunning decorations (by Jonathan Fensom) of a very realistic upper middle-class intelligentsia living room, the play is one hundred percent a success thanks to the snappy sharp acting and punch-perfect delivery of the lines. It’s not easy to bring up such an overloaded (in all senses) play and make it “can’t take my eyes off” type of watch but Bell and Conway are simply outstanding in this production. They create the kind of love-hate relationship situation that is fresh and magnetic. The highly skillful ensemble of four masterfully holds the tension and the drama for the whole three hours of the piece. The play does bear its moments of dramatic action and sudden comic relief in some of the most unexpected places.

So, if you think you are not afraid of the big bad wolf, then may The Gate Theatre be your house for the evening. Who’s afraid of Virginia Woolf?,directed by David Grindley, is back in The Gate Theatre by popular demand. This time around it has a very limited run of only nineteen performances with the closing date as soon as November 12th. For more info or to book tickets: http://www.gatetheatre.ie/production/WhosAfraidofVirginiaWoolf2016

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The Gate Theatre: The Father

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If you are tired of sweet cozy autumn romances and have an aching desire to find the perfect match for your long cold/rainy afternoon moodiness, then The Father by Florian Zeller might be just right for you.

This tragic family drama unravels the story of Andre (played by Owen Roe) and his decaying mind. Now an old man, Andre is just like a tree that has entered its autumn. Leaf by leaf, the bits of Andre’s memory detach themselves from the branches of his mind and fall down, never to be picked up again. Andre isn’t the only one who is suffering. His daughter Anne (played by Fiona Bell) is also being hugely affected by it; she has fallen in love with Pierre (played by Simon O’Gorman) and soon will be joining him in London. Anne is looking for a caretaker for her father when Pierre suggests putting the old man into a home. But what is to happen to Andre for whom the only constant of his current life is his daughter and his wrist watch? Is he about to lose both of them?

This absolutely heartbreaking play, directed by Ethan McSweeny, shows the fragility of a human mind. Zeller’s brilliantly structured piece allows us to see the events the way Andre sees them. It might come as a surprise that the order of the events sometimes seem random or it’s difficult to understand wether what’s just happened was Andre’s imagination or the reality; the breaking point here is that it all doesn’t matter. When you live with a person who suffers from dementia you don’t try to understand the way their mind works (or doesn’t work), the best you can do is to comfort them and be patient. The same with The Father, if you, as a member of the audience, feel lost it only proves that you’re going through the same journey (though artificially imposed onto you by the creators of the piece) as the main character.

I like repeating that every good piece of theatre must be engaging and challenging. And this particular production is both. The creators of The Father invite its audience to experience theatre on a different level; it opens up a different spectrum of senses. The production doesn’t only reveal a character but it allows you to be the character.

The simplistic, beautifully minimalistic, set (by Francis O’Connor) looks almost framed into the stage. It plays a great symbolic part in the production. Just like Andre’s memory, drawers open up and close down, furniture appears and disappears, or moves to a different place altogether in a quick flash of light. There is no sense of time and space, only Andre trying to pick up the bits and pieces of his own being.

The small ensemble of actors (6 in total), the majority of whom double characters, give an outstanding performance. The jewel in the crown is, of course, Owen Roe, whose breathtaking acting won’t leave a dry eye.

The Father by Florian Zeller is definitely amongst the best plays I’ve seen this year. This beautifully paced 90 min piece touched the very core of my heart. Even though heart breaking, I wouldn’t think twice if I could see it again. It shows much more than the loss of one’s own mind – it portrays the loss of one’s own life and identity.

The Father will open in The Gate Theatre on September 14th. It will run until October 22nd. Simply not to be missed. For more info or to book tickets: http://www.gatetheatre.ie/production/TheFather2016

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Filed under Christopher Hampton, Ethan McSweeny, Florian Zeller, The Father, The Gate Theatre, Uncategorized

The Gate Theatre: The Constant Wife

The summer season at The Gate theatre has been opened with W. Somerset Maugham’s The Constant Wife. Interestingly enough, this is not The Gate’s first time staging this particular production; the previous revival of one of Somerset Maugham’s most famous plays was staged at the Dublin’s Gate Theatre exactly ten years ago, in 2006.

The Gate definitely does like its classics. Now with a new cast and in new decorations, this funny and, dare I say, feminist play strikes again. The Constant Wife (written in 1926) is a story of an upper-class wife, fatefully named Constance (played by Tara Egan Langley), whos husband is cheating on her with her best friend, the young and cheerful Marie Louise (played by Caoimhe O’Malley). The affair isn’t a big secret to anyone, including Constance, her mother (played by Belinda Lang) and younger sister Martha (Rachel O’Byrne). Each of the three women has her own opinion, hugely influenced by the time and society she was raised in, on what Constance should do about the adultery. Being a smart and progressively thinking woman herself, who can foresee the situation and use it for her own good, Constance makes a very creative though slightly unorthodox decision on how to teach her unfaithful husband a lesson. This decision, anyhow, might have been, in its turn, influenced by the return of an old but long-lasting flame of Constance’s; the man named Bernard (played by Conor Mullen), who had already tried his luck but was  bitterly turned down, has again entered the picture.

The Constant Wife, being a comedy of manners, is an interesting play that through crisp and funny lines raises an important issue. No doubt, this play was way beyond its time and popular ideas when it was written. The beautiful, predominantly female, ensemble of nine characters draws an interesting picture of the epoch. Being a sort of rebel, each one in her own way, the women in The Constant Wife express their opinions on marriage and family  with passion and far from narrow-thinking. They come across as strong, decisive, smart and even a bit of a risqué women of their time; while the men of the play are pictured rather dependent, foolish and somewhat childish.

With the brilliant and, at moments, ludicrously funny plot (especially, the second part of the play), beautiful period costumes (by Peter O’Brien) and the absolutely stunning set design (by Eileen Diss), the two hours simply fly by. The Constant Wife is another great example of a play that is timeless. Written almost a century ago, the issues and the situations that the play presents are easy to understand, enjoy and relate to.

This particular production really stood out for me mainly because of the actors’ ensemble. A very strong casting choice was made by the director of the piece Alan Stanford. Tara Egan Langley as Constance is a beautiful icon of female strength creates a very nice contrast to O’Malley’s bubbly, happy-go-lucky and absolutely careless Marie Louise. Special kudos have to be given to Belinda Lang, who gives a splendid performance as Mrs. Culver, and to Simon O’Gorman, whose character really comes alive in the second part of the play.

The Constant Wife runs in The Gate Theatre until August 13th. It’s a great pick for a fun night out. For more info or to book tickets: http://www.gatetheatre.ie/production/TheConstantWife2016

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Filed under Alan Stanford, The Constant Wife, The Gate Theatre, W. Somerset Maugham

The Gate Theatre: The Importance of Being Earnest

The Gate Theatre loves its classics. And this Christmas is no exception. One of the absolute masterpieces of English literature, The Importance of Being Earnest, came to the Gate this festive season.

Wilde’s most famous work is a witty and mouth-stretching piece of theatre that, without doubt, is one of the most loved plays. First performed in 1985, time simply stood still for this play and its content. The XIX century superficial English upper-class still can’t be regarded without a smile and The Importance of Being Earnest  brilliantly shows. The upper lip has never been stiffer.

This farcical comedy where two men argue over eating muffins and cucumber sandwiches, and women write diaries, study German, and even attempt to pen novels, doesn’t only entertain but also teaches a valuable lesson.

Unfortunately, The Gate’s production completely fails to challenge or excite. It merely entertains its audience.

The biggest challenge of staging a classical piece is to give it a breathe of fresh air; to bring something new and yet undiscovered. But all this production does is just stage the same old dialogue in the same old decorations. For those who would have seen the play before, it might feel like watching the same episode of a beloved soap opera playing over and over again .

By all means, the acting was brilliant, the costumes were spectacular, the directing was spot-on, the set was amazing… Rea, Lambert, Dwyer, Donnelly gave a first class performance for they are some of Ireland’s very finest actors. There has never been a single doubt of them being able to do so. Nevertheless, this production, directed by l, is a great example of good old professional theatre. Good, but far from great. I felt that in this particular reincarnation of Ernests there was a huge lack of novelty, of something that would distinguish this production from many-many others.

I’m unhappy to say that after so many really brilliant plays in The Gate, this one is just as plain as the poster that advertises it.

Wilde is probably one of the most staged of playwrights. What’s the point of bringing one of his plays if it’s going to be no different?

Those who have never seen a production of The Importance of Being Earnest might, and probably will, enjoy it. But those who have, keep your thirty up quid for something else.

The one thing that I really liked was the set, designed by Francis O’Connor. Even though quite simply, it really beautifully created the illusion of three different spaces. The transformation was very subtle and it kept me wandering what was behind every door. A really smart decision for not a very easy task.

The Importance of Being Earnest runs in The Gate until January, 30th. For more info or to book tickets: http://www.gatetheatre.ie/production/TheImportanceofBeingEarnest2015#

 

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Filed under Oscar Wilde, The Gate Theatre, The Importance of Being Ernest

The Gate Theatre: A View From The Bridge

“His eyes were like tunnels; my first thought was that he had committed a crime, but soon I saw it was only a passion that had moved into his body, like a stranger.”

– A View From The Bridge

Casting my memory back to last summer, I can definitely say that A Month in The Country was one of its highlights. I’m one of those people for whom summer is a rather depressing time, so a good, funny and thought provoking play was definitely quite awakening and mood changing for me.

In late October, I definitely felt like it was time for me to return to The Gate Theatre. A View from The Bridge by Arthur Miller was well into the run, when I came about getting my ticket.

This year celebrates the centenary of Miller’s birth. Arthur Miller is one of the most acknowledged and indisputably talented American playwrights of the last century.

Arthur Miller was born and grew up on the Manhattan island. With a father who was a manufacturer of ladies coats, young Miller growing up didn’t know poverty. Nevertheless, everything changed in 1929 when the stock market crashed. Then 14 year old Arthur had to leave school to find a job. The ten long years of Great Depression followed by another six years of destructive war couldn’t have gone by unnoticed. The memories of fruitful and happy childhood were shadowed by poverty, lack of jobs, fear of invasion and death. It all found its reflection in Miller’s plays.

A View From The Bridge is a great example of post-depression era, when America came out as a definite winner of World War II. The country was an immigration heaven filled with money, jobs, opportunities, freedom and the shiny lights of Broadway theaters.

The old lawyer Alfieri (played by Bosco Hogan) who was once an immigrant himself and thought he had seen it all, has encountered himself with a very unusual request. Through Alfieri’s eyes we witness the story of Eddie Carbone (played by Scott Aiello), an Italian immigrant who, with a wife (played by Niamh McCann) and a beautiful seventeen year old niece (played by Lauren Coe), has long settled in Brooklyn. He has a job and a more or less steady future. Eddie also never forgets where he came from. So when two cousins of his wife’s, Marco (Peter Coonan) and Rodolpho (Joey Phillips), come to New York, Eddie opens the doors of his own house well wide to the illegal immigrants. The two Italian brothers are very different: while Marco is looking for any job to send the money to his wife and three kids, Rodolpho is a young adventurous man who just wants to take from life as much as possible. Eddie’s welcoming spirit turns its back, when his young niece, Catherine, falls for Rodolpho and announces that they want to get married. Eddie doesn’t like, doesn’t approve of the boy. Eddie thinks Rodolpho is wedding Catherine only because he wants to become an American citizen. Eddie’s wife thinks that there might be a different, darker reason for his non-approval.  

This brilliant production with a taste of the era transforms us from modern day Dublin to Brooklyn of the 50s. I think this play presented one of the strongest capabilities of establishing time and place. The accents (both Italian and American), the costumes, even the set design set the mood from the very first seconds. The drawing of the Brooklyn Bridge that covered the rear wall was a nice nuance that kept reminding the audience that while these people, day to day, fight for jobs, for keeping their families warm, safe and fed, on the other side of the river, regardless of anything, the bright lights of Broadway theaters never cease to come up. And these lights are the very lights that are luring the lost foreign souls to leave their families and friends behind to come to this promised land of America. 

Needless to say, that all characters are very well captured and embodied. And, even though the main actor is an Italian-American from New York, his Irish colleagues did an amazing job portraying an Italian family of immigrants. The sharp accents and the energy of the piece were spot on. I kept wondering if it had something to do with the fact that the Irish themselves must be feeling very compassionate and understanding towards the Italians, for many of them also chose America as their new home. The feeling together with the story was too close to home not too percept it in a very personal way.    

A View From The Bridge, directed by Joe Dowling, is running in The Gate Theatre until October 31st. Catch it before it ends, to book tickets… http://www.gatetheatre.ie/production/AViewFromTheBridge2015

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The Gate Theatre: A Month in The Country.

The Gate Theatre presents Brian Friel’s adaptation of one of Turgenev’s most famous plays “A Month in The Country”.

The plot of the story is, once again, as old as the world: somewhere in the deep Russian countryside there is a big house owned by a rich family with an oldish matriarch (played by Barbara Brennan) ruling over it. Upstairs, Downstairs. Both the rich and the poor are bored with themselves and the lack of absolutely anything happening around. So they have to make the life bearable by their own means. Natalia Petrovna (played by Aislín McGuckin) is the young lady of the house. Once married, she isn’t attracted to her rich husband (played by Nick Dunning) anymore. She doesn’t share his passions or interests… as a matter of fact, she is more interested in the family’s best friend Rakitin (played by Simon O’Gorman). Rakitin is a very educated, noble, rich and not that bad a looking man. He truly loves Natalia, but out of respects to her husband (his best friend), he doesn’t dare to do anything. Everything changes, when a new teacher has been hired for Islayev’s youngest son. Belyaev (played by Dominic Thorburn) is a 21 year old man from a very middle class family, who has earned his education and now works as a teacher. For him living with the Islayevs is fascinating. He had never been allowed before to a world of rich, elegant and sophisticated people. He immediately becomes attracted to Natalia for she is unlike any other woman he had seen before. She is also attracted to him, but more out of boredom. He is like a breath of fresh air in the routine of the everyday life, a new toy to play with, a different creature to study.

A Month in The Country is a very interesting piece of theatre because it strips downs the very human nature and shows it as it is. Rakitin leaving Natalia and the house, so he will not be “interrupting” his beloved’s happiness any more. Natalia, who for her own happiness, is ready to destroy another person’s life. She barely thinks twice when offered to marry out the little Vera (played by Caoimhe O’Malley) to a “fat, old and very stupid man” (played by Pat McGrath). Vera has fallen in love with Belyaev and therefore is considered to be blocking Natalia’s way to her own happiness.

The cheeky doctor (played by Mark O’Regan) comes and goes. He is that person who got stuck “in between” the classes. Being a worker, he will always remain a middle class man for the rich, but by constantly visiting and trying to get them to like him, he thinks that one day he might be able to join the club. A person of a good nature, he also doesn’t think twice when offered to play a part in the marrying out the “old, fat and stupid man” to Vera, as long as it profits him.

Then there is Herr Shaaf (played by Peter Gaynor), a German gentlemen, a friend of the family. Shaaf is hilarious. Due to his bad English, he doesn’t really know what’s going on. He likes Katya, the young maid (played by Clare Monnelly) and it’s quite clear that Katya is happy about that. Everyone is looking for their own benefits: the old German is attracted by the young blood, while Katya herself hopes to get out of the life of a poor maid. But, yet again, the two worlds can’t quite come together. The class gap is way too big. The only consolation to Katya is Matvey (played by Dermot Magennis), a forty year old man servant.

The story line is much more complicated than I have described it. Every single characters has a drama or an addiction of his or her own. By the way, talking about the characters… After having seen this particular production of A Month in The Country, I can honestly say that there are no small characters but only small actors.

A Month in The Country is a play full of characters whose storylines aren’t particularly huge and important, but! And here comes a very big But! All the actors made their small characters look so outstanding and full that I was simply wowed. Take, for example Lesaveta Bogdanovna (played by Ingrid Craigie). The woman didn’t play the part, she lived it. Every movement, every line, every gesture… for somebody who studies acting, that was an eye-opening performance. There are actors who act beautifully and doubtlessly are very talented, but Ingrid Craigie just was there and that was enough.  During the interval I heard some whispers from the audience and was indeed very happy to realise that they all agreed with me.

The same goes to Nick Dunning. The only difference is that I had already been familiar with Mr. Dunning’s way of acting but, nevertheless, his astonishingly perfectioned skills never seize to amaze me. No movement is a small movement, no word is an insignificant word… It’s incredible to see real people on stage not just good actors.

And that’s what The Gate Theatre is all about: comfortable plays, beautiful sets, amazing dresses and very skilled actors. The play doesn’t really challenge or raise any serious modern issues. It’s just one of those cosy little plays that one can’t help but enjoy on a rainy Saturday afternoon.

A Month in The Country runs until August 22nd in The Gate Theatre, Dublin. For more info or to book tickets, please visit: http://www.gatetheatre.ie/production/AMonthInTheCountry2015 

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