Category Archives: Theatre Lovers

Happy Birthday, Theatre Upstairs!

Have you ever been to a theatre’s birthday party? Well, I never. Before yesterday. Dublin’s very own, Dublin’s very fair Theatre Upstairs has celebrated its 3rd birthday yesterday!

This is not a review. This is an experience sharing.

I didn’t know what to expect, but when the event was announced I knew I had to be there. My very first time in Theatre Upstairs was about 2 years ago around Christmas time. I went to see “The gift of The Magi”. I liked it so much that I went to see it twice. And the second time I brought a plus one, because an experience like that just had to be shared. “The gift of Magi” (directed by Gemma Doorly) was one of three The Yule Tide Tales staged in Theatre Upstairs that Christmas. The second one was “The Little Match Girl” written and performed by the amazing Katie McCan and the third one being “It’s a wonderful life” by Gary Duggan. All three plays were outstanding.

I quite vividly remember that back then Theatre Upstairs was a bit different from how we know it today. The stage was smaller… I remember entering the house for the first time with a bunch of other people and I still can’t help but remembering one old man’s comment “Oh, it’s so small. Intimate, that’s what they call it.” And Theatre Upstairs is quite an intimate place when you get to know it. It has its own spirit, its atmosphere, its soul…. it’s nothing like the Abbey or The Gate. It doesn’t have those big auditoriums ready to accommodate more than half a thousand people. That’s something I extremely like and value about TUpstairs: every time I go to see a play, I know almost everyone in the audience (which doesn’t necessarily mean that they know me) and no matter whether it’s an opening night with overbooked house or a Wednesday matinee performance where you can easily feel like the only bird on the wire.

Yesterday was a particularly special night because of both the audience and the performers. I guess it’s a problem any theatre goer comes across at least once in a lifetime: will I see this again? We all know that, more or less, any play can be redone over and over and over again… in a different theatre, with different decorations and a different cast… something better something worse… During the three years of its infancy Theatre Upstairs has premiered a countless number of brand new shows enabling some of Ireland’s most talented and creative emerging actors, directors and theatre companies to showcase their original work. Every show runs for no more than 15 performances; 15 Performances it’s 15 chances to see something before it might be gone forever… It’s not a Broadway show where a play can be on for years. Theatre Upstairs’ plays are like pieces of cake that will be quickly gone if you don’t catch one. I would also advise anybody booking to book a ticket quite early in the run, the chances that you will want to go and see it again are very high.

That’s one of the reasons why yesterday was so special. It gave us one more opportunity to glance at those shows that are already gone. The evening was full of surprises, the company in residence did truly an amazing job to host the whole evening… talented in something, talented in everything: the extracts from plays, the spoken word, the fairy tales, the songs… Moments can’t be counted, memories can’t be counted… they can only be lived and remembered and nurtured in one’s heart. Yesterday was definitely an evening amongst friends. An evening that one will always remember when one will step into Theatre Upstairs (which shall be soon).

By the by: Happy Birthday, Theatre Upstairs. Here is to another countless years of joyful drama!


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The Cobalt Café: I’m going through something (Dublin Gay Theatre Festival).

The Dublin Gay Theatre Festival is just about to conclude its first (out of two) week of drama, dance, music and fun.

Yesterday I went to The Cobalt Café to see I’m going through Something by The Dean Kriel. A play written and performed by Dean Kriel, a performer from South Africa who lives and works in Moscow. Through his play Dean is talking about the life of a homosexual man living in Putin’s Russia.

I had a very personal interest in seeing this particular play. The moment I saw the description, I booked my ticket. When I was living in Russia (some 8 years ago) there were not that many anti-gay sanctions and propaganda. And even if there was, it wasn’t as commonly known as it is now. Having loads of Russian friends and knowing their points of view and and how the propaganda is affecting them, I was extremely curious to see a piece written about a life of gay foreigner in Russia.

Unfortunately, to my biggest disappointment, the description of the play was a bit misleading. And there was no word about Russia or Putin or gay life in modern Russia… and even if there was something, it was so disguised in words and poetry that I totally missed it. Unfortunately. And something is telling me that I wasn’t the only one. Maybe it was a mistake (from our part) but we (the audience) expected a bit more political, a bit more revealing, a bit more risky play.

When you enter into the café’s room that has been converted into a mini stage, on each seat there is a script with the full content of the play (well, almost full. But no spoilers!) for the audience to follow. I’m not the kind of person who likes siting during the whole performance with my nose in the script trying to follow the lines word by word by… In the script it even says, at some point, that there is no need to read, the performer will say all those words and if he is a good performer who is convincing then we should simply trust him and put the script aside. But would you be able to resist?

To be completely and utterly honest, for the greatest part I was lost. I understood that there were two characters on stage (played by the same person) and one of them was … going through something. But that’s about it.

I did enjoy though making the paper boats.

There was one part that I particularly liked. This play was unlike any others. It was very interactive. The audience sits in a kind of circle and the performer is constantly in the middle. From time to time he would interact with the audience and say something to them or ask them questions. Unfortunately, the audience didn’t often respond back.

I’m going through something is running in The Cobalt Café till May, 9th. For more info or to buy tickets:

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Filed under Dublin Gay Theatre Festival, Equality, Go and See, I'm going through something, The Cobalt Cafe, Theatre Lovers

The Peacock Theatre: The Man in The Woman’s Shoes.

Loco and Reckless Productions Ltd. presents “The Man in the Woman’s Shoes”.

Originally “The Man in the Woman’s shoes” was commissioned by Sligo’s Hawk’s Well Theatre for the Bealtaine Festival 2012. And this spring 2015 the play came to Dublin’s Peacock Theatre.

To be honest, when I booked my ticket for this performance I had no idea what it was going to be about. I try to see as much as possible and I never judge a production by its description (well, almost never!). And when a friend of mine (from Co. Mayo I must add) had gone to see it weeks before me, I was really worried. She said that to fully appreciate the play you have to be “…of a certain age and from the Irish country.”

Ok. I thought. I’ll manage, I thought.

So, yesterday, when it rained cats and dogs I arrived at The Peacock Theatre to get my piece of matinee Irish village life in the late 70s. To my big surprise, the place was absolutely packed with all-aged audience.

And so it started… Ireland, Co. Sligo, year 1978.

“The Man in the Woman’s Shoes” is a one-man show (written and performed by Sligo’s very own Mikel Murfi) telling the story of a cheerful and easy-going (as much as he possibly can) person Pat Farnon. Pat is a happy middle-aged man who mostly lives in his head. You see, he is deaf and mute but it does’t stop him from enjoying life. He is a shoe maker. A sort of. And on this October day he has an important task to do: he’s just made the shoes for Kitsy Rainey (an extraordinary local GAA club supporter) and he has to break them in, so the minute Kitsy puts them on it’ll be like walking on a cloud. In order to do that Pat puts the shoes on (himself) and walks into town to have a bite to eat before the mass and a match later on. On his way to the town he meets a number of locals…

Mikel Murfi is an amazing actor and mimer. I just had to say that. It is a real skill to keep the audience engaged for an hour and a half! He is funny. He is smart. He is serious. His ability to play so many different, truly different, characters is extraordinary. And yet again, there is absolutely no confusion (as it could be in a one man show sometimes) of who is who talking on stage, be it Kitsy herself or the Bishop from Roscommon.

The audience was absolutely in stitches as the well-known and easily recognisable characters came alive on stage.

I was really enjoying myself and think that I even got the majority of the jokes (“The bees” one is still rumbling in my head… Do you really have to let them know when their feeder dies?). It might be because I personally am more than familiar with Co. Sligo (the Benbulben sightseeing was very much appreciated! No Sligo piece should be performed without mentioning Benbulben!) and its life or because Murfi gave such an amazing and truly outstanding performance.

Unfortunately, the show closed yesterday. But it did tour a lot a lot and there is hope that it will tour more. For more details or to listen to The Abbey’s podcast about the show, please, visit: 

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Filed under Irish Stage, Loco and Reckless Productions Ltd., Peacock Thetare, The Man in The Woman's Shoes, Theatre Lovers

The Peacock Theatre: Death of A Comedian

“Listen up and I’ll tell a story about an artist growing old… some would try for fame and glory, others aren’t so bold.”

– Daniel Johnston 

The Lyric Theatre, Belfast together with Soho Theatre, London and The Abbey Theatre, Dublin co-producted a fantastic and heart-breaking play “Death of a Comedian”, written by Owen McCafferty.

The production is “two for the price of one” kind of plays. It tells you a story about a career of a stand-up comedian from the moment when he is just starting out to the point when he becomes famous, a TV famous type of artist. So the play itself consists of a few brief stand-up comedy bits, showing us the progression (or, well, degradation) of the career succession path of a comedian Steve Johnston, played by Brian Doherty.

Steve starts as a stand-up comedian performing in local pubs and clubs on a very amateur level. He is very insecure about himself and the kind of jokes he’s telling; he’s afraid he is not funny! But he has a girlfriend who is always there to give him her support. Soon after an agent appears (one of those with a big name and promises). The play beautifully pictures the argument between the girlfriend who is reminding Steve why he’s doing what he is doing (for the love of it and the right reasons) and the agent who offers Steve what anyone could only wish for: money and fame. Obviously money and fame don’t come in easy, some sacrifices will have to be made…

So will Steve Johnston make the right decision?

The set was simple but very smart. When it comes to stand up comedy we have a certain stereotypes in our heads, like a mike and a tiny stage on which the comedian would stand. As the audience and, therefore the space, grows bigger this environment has to change. From the dirty basement to a nice pub to a bigger stage to being on TV…

Expect some fireworks and bright images, as well.

There was one tiny thing that I thought didn’t really work very well: the very ending. For such a good and strong play, I thought, it was a tiny bit weak. There was a very good moment to finish the play at and, funnily enough, it happened few minutes before the play actually ends: “Turn the lights off”, says Steve. It’s a beautiful moment that shows the desperation and misery of an artist, the true death of a creative mind and slavery the fame and money brought upon him.

“Death of A Comedian” is a beautiful and very funny production. I can highly recommend it to anyone interested in either or both: Theatre and Stand-Up Comedy.

The play will run in Dublin’s Abbey Theatre until April, 4th. For more info or to book tickets, please, visit:

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Filed under Death of A Comedian, Irish Stage, Lyric Theatre, Peacock Thetare, Soho Theatre, The Abbey Theatre, Theatre, Theatre in Ireland, Theatre Lovers

Project Arts Center: Witness

“Witness”, written and directed by Carmel Winters, is a theatrical adaptation of the featured film Snap (2010).

The play tells the story of the O’Shea family: mother, son, grandfather. The mother gives birth to her first child at the age of 15, after which she decides to leave him with her parents. By the age of 15 Stephen has grown up into a very disturbed and socially inept boy. After his grandfather has a stroke, he does something that shocks everyone: he kidnaps a toddler Colin. Nobody knows about it. Stephen keeps the toddler in his grandpa’s house while living himself on and off in his mother’s house.

Why did he do it? How does he treat Colin? How does the mother react to that? What happens to all of them?

The story is being told by both mother and son. Both are portrayed by the very talented Kate Stanley Brennan.

Hood on/hood off: It’s amazing to see how quick and impeccable the character change is. Once the actress starts talking you know straight away who we are witnessing at that particular moment. The play offers a very high kalibre acting. It’s breathtaking sometimes to see how radical the change could be. One can’t help but question: is it still the same person on stage? The details in movement of both characters are simply flawless. Amazing how one person can portray two absolutely different creatures and give them some very recognisble and believable characteristics of real human beings.

I’ve noticed lately that many plays I go to present very elaborated sets, along with outstanding sound and light effects. Funnily enough, the set of Witness is one of the simplest I’ve seen. It has very few props on the stage but all of them are very representative at the same time, like an old chair with an old man’s scarf and a cap. It’s the grandpa. He is not there, you can’t see him. But you can feel his presence.

The same goes to sound and light, it was very basic but powerful at the same time. I just want to add that as for the sound it was a really nice touch when Kate Staneley herself was singing a’capella.

I saw Witness in the Project Arts Center in Dublin, but the company is bringing this production to Cork. For more information or to book tickets, please visit:


Catch it before it ends!

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Filed under Performing arts, Project Arts Center, Theatre in Ireland, Theatre Lovers, Witness

Project Arts Center: Everything Between Us.

It’s only two days before Everything Between Us ends in the Projects Arts Center in Dublin.

Before going to see it I had already heard some very positive reviews from friends who had already seen the show. Even on Twitter it has been getting some very good feedback. So one can only imagine how excited I was to finally go and see it myself tonight!

Everything Between Us is a play by the Belfast-native David Ireland. It’s produced by Dublin’s Rough Magic, directed by Sophie Motley and stars Stacey Gregg and Abigail McGibbon.

Everything Between Us is a very certain type of play. Not everyone would like it, not everyone would understand it. And there is a number of reasons for that. First of all, the play is 100% Northern Irishy and Belfasty. And I really mean it: it’s set in Belfast, the two actors on stage talk with thick Belfast accents; they talk, naturally, about Belfast and about people from Belfast. I would say that one has to know something about Northern Ireland, West Belfast and The Troubles, otherwise the jokes (which are really good, by the way) will be quite difficult to get and easy to misinterpret.

I think I’m being really lucky because apart from my general interests in The Troubles and Northern Ireland at this very moment I’m also reading a book called “Eureka Street”. The book is set on the streets of Belfast during the early 1990s and the two main characters are the typical Belfast boys (one being Catholic and the other Protestant). There are loads of jokes or just mentions in Everything Between Us and in the book that just click together. Like Teeni (played by Stacey Gregg) talking about her year in New York reminded me about Chuckie’s trip to the Empire State. Sure, everybody knows that “New York is  very much like Belfast. Just bigger and has more jews”.

Second, Teeni character is a nice but lost kind of girl. She is an extreme racist, too. And she doesn’t hide it. I understand that some people try to avoid plays with strong language, but this one takes it to a totally different level. Nevertheless, for me it was a good thing. It just gave Teeni a certain dimension and made her even more human; she is a racist, that’s just the way she is and she is not going to hide it. So you can either take it or leave it.

There was one thing in the play, though, that I wasn’t very happy about. The pace. For me the pace was a bit slow sometimes. For such a strong script and some very good lines (and well, let’s acknowledge it: a very unusual and interesting set!) the energy in some scenes just died. The actors would eventually pick it up, of course. But anyway, at times it felt like something was missing. The scene was not moving on.

Otherwise, I would strongly recommend it to anyone interested in either Northern Ireland (or Belfast) or Northern Irish plays. As a part of the run after some shows there is a post-show discussion panel with invited guests a a host. Mainly they talk about Northern Ireland, the current situation in the country and other relevant topics. The last in this series discussion will take place on February 28th, and it’s called “Truth and Fiction: representing Northern Ireland”. The tickets are free, but booking is necessary. For more info:

Everything Between Us runs in the Project Arts Center Dublin until February, 28th. To book tickets go to:

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Filed under Everything Between Us, Irish Stage, Performing arts, Project Arts Center, Theatre in Ireland, Theatre Lovers

The Abbey Theatre: A Midsummer’s Night Dream.

“The course of true love never did run smooth.”

– Willian Shakespeare Midsummer´s Night Dream

It was so good I wanted to cry.

The fact that The Abbey was going to stage Shakespeare´s Midsummer’s Night Dream I found out last November during a member’s special event. We were also told that the play (directed by Gavin Quinn from Pan Pan Theatre Company) wasn’t going to be a usual one… the action was going to take a place in an old folks house, therefore all the characters are elder people. That sounded fantastic, methought!

I think I won’t be too far from the truth if I say that Shakespeare isn’t for everybody: some don’t like him, others don’t understand him. I blame school and the way Shakespeare is taught. After all, he was a playwright, not a writer. Shakespeare is meant to be seen, not read.

So, what Pan Pan did in the Abbey was simply incredible. It made Shakespeare interesting, entertaining, understandable and fun. I couldn’t believe that I was actually getting everything (and I mean every single line!) that was going on on stage and everything made sense.

I must say that Midsummer’s Night Dream was a different (together with last year’s Twelfth Night directed by Wayne Jordan) and what some might call alternative adaptation. From what I’ve heard in the audience, people didn’t expect anything like that at all. They were shocked, but in a good way.

The actors were excellent. Everybody suited so perfectly their characters. But I think there was one actress in particular who just stole the show. I am talking about the beautiful Stella Mcusker who played Peaseblossom. Her fairy was the fairiest fairy I’ve ever seen. The way she wheeled around the stage with a huge butterfly on her head was just unforgettable. Definitely one of the highlights of the whole play.

Another actor who also stole the show was Daniel Reardon. He played two characters (as many other actors did): Puck and Philostrate. I don’t know what exactly it is, but there is certainly something about this man. He is a natural on stage. His rockish Philostrate was simply amazing. So was his Puck the Priest. I’ve never seen an actor who is more comfortable on stage than Reardon.

There are some changes to the original version (a little spoiler alert here): instead of a father Hermina now has a son who wants to marry her off, for example. I’m not going to give away it all. So, go and see it yourself!

A very special thank you has to be given to the tech theatre team who built an absolutely fantastic set. It easily converts from an old folks house into a fairy forest. The idea with the light along with orange curtains is simple and beautiful. A very strong effect also produced the room behind the window.  It gave the set a certain dimension.

The same goes to the sound team. The music was surprising, but fitted perfectly the scenes. The Italians sitting next to me were trying to sing along. I was really surprised to see some actors use microphones on stage. It’s not a normal practice for the Abbey. Personally, I don’t normally like it when the actors on stage use microphones (except, maybe, when they are used to create a certain effect: like an echo, for example), but this time it worked fine and didn’t cause any distraction.

The last but not least goes to the costume team. I loved how bold were the costume choices, especially Lysander’s outfit (the one on the posters all over Dublin). The flowery trousers were so… right and so Shakespeary. They put a smile on many people’s faces. Titania´s costumes were simply beautiful. Fiona Bell is a very beautiful woman, in general, but especially in this play.

Midsummer’s Night Dream by Gavin Quinn is definitely a must-see. So, catch it before it finishes on March, 28th. Tickets can be purchased here:

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Filed under Irish Stage, Midsummer's Night Dream, Pan Pan Theatre Company, Performing arts, Shakespeare, The Abbey Theatre, Theatre, Theatre in Ireland, Theatre Lovers