Category Archives: Theatre

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 Peacock Theatre: Scratch Night

Nothing wakes you up after a week holiday in Spain better that a night of theatre, laughter and friendly atmosphere in The Abbey Theatre.

Peacock Scratch Night takes place, as you could have guessed, in the Peacock Bar. The chairs are brought out and the mics are installed for a series of brand new extracts reading from works-in-progress by emerging Irish artists.  I would also like to mention that Scratch Night 2015 was completely sold out and when I arrived there were people waiting to see if they could get it.

This year there were 8 different extracts presented by 8 new but already highly acclaimed Irish playwrights; and a bonus piece by a well-know writer, whose name was kept in secret till the very end. It came as a nice surprise to find out that 4 actors will be doing the readings. For some reason I thought that the playwrights themselves might present their works.

So the four actors were: Ali White, Kate Stanley Brennan, Manus Halligan and Don Wycherley. Needless, to say that the acting (or shall I say the rehearsed reading?) was on an excellent level. It never ceases to amuse me how so naturally and believably some actors can switch characters.

The 8 extracts, each lasting approximately seven minutes, were: “Baggage” by Erica Murray, “Angels of Mercy” by Lee Coffey, “Through the Tabernacle” by Philip Doherty, “Normal” by Catriona Daly, “The Kudome Valentine” by John Morton, “Long to me thy coming” by Neil Flynn, “Something Lost” by Barry McStay and “The Church of Matthias Mulcahy” by Fiona Doyle.

All the pieces were very different. Some are better than others or, well, better to say that some were more elaborated than others. The mood was very different and constantly changing. Murray’s “Baggage”, for example, was light and funny, a perfect piece to set the mood and open the night while Coffey’s “Angels of Mercy” was about such a difficult and profoundly contrasting topic as euthanasia.

Personally my favourite one was “Through the Tabernacle” by Philip Doherty. The extract could have easily been an episode of Father Ted had it been written some twenty years ago. Very funny and edgy. Great characterisation and dialogue.

The long waited and gossiped about “Bonus” piece was an extract from a new play by Marina Carr. Another amazing piece with a very entertaining and original plot about a happy couple leaving in paradise, literally.

All the pieces left me wishing to hear more. Here goes to the hope that one day, hopefully in the near future, all nine productions will be staged!

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Theatre Upstairs: Hollow Ground

It’s been more than a year since I’d been to Dublin’s Theatre Upstairs. And the first thing that came to my mind as I entered the building today was “Why hadn’t I come back earlier?”.

Funnily enough, the last performance I saw was Katie McCann´s adaptation of The Little Match Girl in late 2013. The Theatre Upstairs itself and productions were very different back then: smaller (much smaller!), the space was teeny tiny, with minimum sound/light effects, decorations or props. As fas as I remember, actually, there has been no props whatsoever on the stage.

As for the play itself, The Little Match Girl (which was a part of three Christmas’ Yule Tales), I loved it. It was extremely well done. Katie’s acting was at a very high standard and the adaptation itself was very original.

So last week, when I saw that Katie was presenting her second piece, I couldn’t miss it.

“Hollow Ground” is one story told by two different people: a brother and sister. It’s a very difficult play, to be honest. Very emotional. Very tragic. It’s a tragedy within a tragedy. A story of a broken family and of what’s left of it.

The brother is played by the very talented Rex Ryan, who gives a very memorable performance of a disturbed man-boy Graham. Graham, now grown up, struggles to fit in. He is different and he is being punished for it.

The sister is played by Katie McCann herself. Just like her brother, she is struggling in her every day life. But she’s a bit luckier, she is the one who managed to get away from her childhood home and from her past. She is able to have some sort of a “normal” life. I simply loved Katie’s brilliant ability to switch characters at a blink of an eye. So many different, invisible, characters became so alive and real.

Hollow ground has been directed by Theatre Upstair’s Artistic Director Karl Shiels. Shiels also directed another play that had been showed earlier this year in The Project Arts: Leper+Chip. Even though Hallow Ground and Leper+Chip are two very different plays, they are very much like each other at the same time. One can definitely identify a certain pattern there. So if you liked Leper+Chip, you’ll love Hollow Ground.

As for the set: simple but very accurate for the play. The set is so smart that you only realise it some half-way through the play. And just like in Leper+Chip the lights are very important for the perception of the show. So, do expect some flashing lights from time to time.

Hollow Ground runs in Theatre Upstairs till March, 21st. If you book for an 1pm matinee performance, you will also be able to get some light lunch in the theatre itself, which is completely complementary. For more info or to book tickets:

http://www.theatreupstairs.ie/hollow-ground

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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:

http://www.abbeytheatre.ie/whats_on/event/death-of-a-comedian/

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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

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: http://www.abbeytheatre.ie/whats_on/event/a-midsummer-nights-dream/

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Project Arts Center: Leper + Chip

It’s always good to go and see a good play, but it’s even better when there is a post-show discussion after it.

I was very glad when I found out that after the performance of Leper+Chip that I had a ticket for there was going to be a post-show discussion with the writer of the play, Lee Coffey, the director of the play (as well as Theatre Upstairs), Karl Shiels, and one of Ireland’s best playwrights Mark O’Rowe. I am quite proud to be able to say that I knew all three of them. Two of whom I know personally and the third one… Well, I met Mark O’Rowe when I went to see his “Our few and evil days” in the Abbey earlier last year.

If you ask what Mark O’Rowe had to do with the play: apparently when Lee submitted his play to Theatre Upstairs, Karl Shiels read it and it reminded him of O’Rowe’s “Howie The Rockie”. “Leper+Chip” was sent to Mark to get his opinion and approval.

This February saw the second coming of Leper + Chip. The play premiered in Dublin’s Theatre Upstairs in May last year. And now it was brought (with some changes and a slightly different ending) to the Project Arts Center.

The play is very different from anything I’ve ever seen.

The actors (the two of them) are on stage from the moment you enter the auditorium. It’s actually a great move to set the audience straight into the right mood. The actors don’t talk to each other, they don’t communicate with the audience. They do their routine, their movements and, by the time the play starts, you’re already in.

The play is only about 45-50 min long. The pace is incredibly fast. One line after the other, no time for waiting, no time for thinking, no time for disconnecting. During the post show discussion the writer, Lee, said that he wrote it on the luas. Actually it explains so much, and many things about the structure start making sense. The play is like a train, it moves fast. It does make occasional short stops, but no time for destruction, it’s back on the move again. One story, the next one, the next one, the next…

Both actors gave quite an extraordinary performance. It’s a pity that they didn’t interact with each other a bit more. Nevertheless, they were incredibly synchronized. And it did make an impression. To be able to do that you really have to listen to what your partner is saying. Getting it wrong by a single second would’ve made a huge difference.

Even though there were only two characters on stage, they were plenty of them off stage (and some quite interesting ones). I won’t be wrong if I say that it’ll be some time before the audience will be able to get over Sarah.

A separate huge thank you should be given to the tech team. Leper+Chip is the second play where I am absolutely amazed by the work that the technical crew has done. The idea with the lights were just genius. It still amazes me how such a small thing can make such a big difference. It’s like a photo camera effect. The word. The flash. And it’s forever engraved into your memory. The same goes to the set. It was simple (even minimalistic), but very smart: just a white wall with light bulbs around it.

The play does contain a lot of strong language. But it has, what I would call, a voice (and an accent, no doubt about that!). The emotions the stories transmit are just like a crazy roller-coster. It starts with two characters whom one wouldn’t really sympathise and by the end… No, I’m not going to spoil it for anyone, but there were a few wet red eyes when I was leaving.

Unfortunately, Leper + Chip ended this Saturday. But who knows, it might be coming back! So watch out.

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Project Arts Center: A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing

Yesterday I started (for myself) a new theatre season at the Project Arts Center. It’s been a while since I’ve seen a play there, so I was very much looking forward to this performance: A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing.

A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing (written by Eimear McBride, adapted and directed by Annie Ryan, performed by Aoife Duffin) premiered during Dublin Theatre Festival’14 at The Samuel Beckett Center. Originally “A girl is a half-formed thing” was written as a novel. It has won quite a big number of literary prizes, among which Baileys Women’s Prize for fiction, Desmond Elliott Prize and many others. At the moment, “Girl is a half-formed thing” is one and only of McBride´s novels. She’s working on her second.

During the Dublin Theatre Festival the play was very well received and it got some excellent reviews. So when The Corn Exchange decided to bring it back to Dublin I thought that no doubt I should go. I was just very curious what was exactly that the people loved so much about it, to be honest.

The tickets are a bit pricy for the run, so I decided to go on the first (preview) night, which cost me 16 Eur. I went with a friend, who also brought a friend. As with all the performing spaces in Project Arts, the seats are not allocated, basically you can sit wherever you want. So we arrived just in time to snap up good seats in the first row.

If it wasn’t sold out, there should’ve been very few tickets left as the place was absolutely packed. For those of you who are familiar with Project Arts Center, the play was performed in the space upstairs, which is quite a nice and spacious area. The first row is a bit away from the stage, so it allows you a slightly better view.

Before anything, I should probably mention that I am not the biggest fan of one man/woman shows. But, at the same time, I just have to acknowledge that some of the one person shows I’ve seen were exceptionally good (the first one that comes to mind is definitely Pondling by Gúna Nua. I’ve seen it twice!). After all, this time I didn’t really know what to expect so I just kept open-minded.

I’ve never read the novel therefore I can’t really compare it to the stage adapted version. The first thing that struck me was that the girl on stage (Aoife Duffin) wasn’t telling the story as a monologue, but actually, at times, she was playing different parts. On a very simple basis, of course. But it did throw me off a little bit. The next thing was: the play is clearly written by a very disturbed person. The story is shocking. But it’s like there’s no light whatsoever. It goes from bad to worse. It’s not real life, so why don’t you add some sort of positivity or something that won’t make you want to kill yourself after watching it. It is my personal opinion: I don’t understand what’s the point of basically hearing a story about somebody being constantly raped by a family member; in addition to which, the child has no father, a mother who doesn’t really care, and a brother who dies of cancer…

Some people might say “yeah, well, that’s life for some of us”. Even if it is, there’s always something we cling to, something we go back to at the darkest moments to stay happy, to stay sane. Every story is a story about coping with problems. We are all humans, we don’t need to be told what kind of problems there are out there, but how to deal with them, how to remain positive.

In addition to all that, the technical side wasn’t great, either (again, comparing to Pondling where the set and the directing were simply amazing!). There was no set, no costume (the girl was wearing pjs). There was not a single prop (which is ok), nothing, not a single thing to make it look believable, something we could relate to, something to show us a connection between the story and the story teller.

The only thing that actually is worth mentioning was the great acoustics. Aoife’s voice sounded really clear and powerful.

I didn’t like the show. Neither did my friend. Or her friend. They described it as “horrific”. The audience seemed to have a better opinion about it since the performance got a standing ovation at the end.

I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone I know. But for those of you who got interested: it’s running till the 14th of February. Tickets available at: http://projectartscentre.ie/event/girl-half-formed-thing/

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24 Hour Play at the Abbey Theatre.

“I regard the theatre as the greatest of all art forms, the most immediate way in which a human being can share with another the sense of what it is to be a human being.”

– Oscar Wilde 

How long does it take to write a play? To publish it? To cast people to play the characters? To rehearse?….

24 Hour play is a very unique project that was born in New York in 1995. This year was the 4th year the 24 Hour Play was brought to Dublin. For the last three years it has been held in The Abbey Theatre.

The idea is: the day before the event some 20-30 selected actors, playwrights and directors gather to introduce themselves. They all have to bring a prop and a costume. During the introduction each actor talks about a special skill they have as well as something they’ve never done on stage. All these things are meant to inspire future pieces. The next step (and it’s about 11 pm): the playwrights go to write their original pieces. The new plays must be ready and printed off by 7 am next morning. Actors and directors gather again to find out who will be working with whom. Then the rehearsals start. Each piece gets about 20 mins to run a technical rehearsal on stage. About 5 pm (2 and a half hours before the opening) the actors go to learn their lines and then… it’s time to let the audience in and lift up the curtains. All in under 24 hours.

For me the first 24 Hour Play ever was last year. And I thought it was absolutely brilliant. In a way it’s quite honoring to be able to share such a moment with so many talented, creative and ambitious artists. This type of events are one night only. It’s not being recorded in any way. It’s a truly once in a lifetime experience. The audience is mainly actors, artists, theatre makers, friends and family of the actors on stage and just people who have a real passion for good old theatre. I wouldn’t be mistaken if I said that the atmosphere of the night is very homey.

24 Hour Play shall not be mistaken for a standard play. Neither people shall have the same expectations. In a way that’s exactly what’s so wonderful about it. And one can very quickly learn what works, what not. As an example, actors only get few hours to learn their lines… even though they stick to the script, loads become improvisation at the end. But a very high quality improvisation. 24 Hour play requires some really extreme acting. An actor on stage simply must be comfortable with making a fool of oneself and really (really!) enjoy what one is doing. And as one wise man said: “Boring is a theatre where there are actors on stage, not people.”

In addition to all these, The Abbey Theatre also invites a singer to entertain the audience during breaks. This year it was the incredible Jerry Fish. Jerry sang a very beautiful cover of “Story of an Artist” by Daniel Johnson as well as a couple of his own songs.

Now to the plays. There were six of them, each about 15 min long with a small cast of 4-5 actors. Each of the pieces was original and really (and I mean really!) funny and witty. I don’t know if there is one specific topic that writers would like to explore each year, but if there was one … this year it would definitely be homosexuality and relationship. At least 3 of them spoke about it openly and one or two implied it. Absolutely all of them were about relationships.

The first (“Crouching Garda, Hidden Garda”, written by Kate Heffernan and directed by Bairbre Ní Chaoimn) and the last one (“talkdrinklaughkiss” written by Dylan Coburn Gray and directed by Oonagh Murphy) had quite a similar structure. Both had four actors on stage and in both of them the story was being told by two actors, then the other two would try and retell the story but in a different way, with their own words. Funnily enough, in my personal opinion, those two mini-plays were the best ones.

I cannot but also mention “Heritage” (written by Michelle Read and directed by Ronan Phelan). This play in particular had some very bold directing choices. It had a style. it was unique amongst the uniqueness. The way the actors (Clara Harte, Andrea Irvine, Simone Kirby, Aonghus Óg McAnally and Ste Murray) played it out was simply amazing. This play was a perfect example of how not the strongest piece of writing could become something absolutely marvelous simply by the way it was directed and played out.

“Bridget hits the Healing Ceiling” (written by Róise Goan and directed by Gary Keegan) and “Hello, stranger” (written by John Butler and directed by Dan Colley) were probably most memorable by some of its lines. It’ll be long before I forget the sound of … whatever the musical instrument Reeve Carney was holding and his “The vibes, the vibes, the vibes, dude”. As for the “Bridget…”: “…. Do it for the oyster catcher, for the unborn babies, for the English women traveling by ferries.” Caroline Morahan was so unbelievably funny and passionate about what she was doing.

The last one but not least was “Glengorlach” (written by Barbara Bergin and directed by Gerard Stembridge). Eileen Walsh was very authentic with her cape and… no, not a bottle of bleach, but a bottle of true Irish poitín. I absolutely loved the way the scene was played with stage lights. It was brilliant and well thought out. And the Clontarf original Justin Timbermake was outstanding.

Big congratulations and thank you to everyone involved. We, the audience, really did have a ball! I’m so much looking forward to the next year and to this, as I already said, truly once in a lifetime experience!

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Filed under 24 Hour Play Dublin, Irish Stage, Performing arts, The Abbey Theatre, Theatre, Theatre in Ireland, Theatre Lovers

The Peacock theatre: Lippy.

“We are 36 days not eating, our stomachs are devouring themselves . . . Please, please listen, none of us fore saw it could be this cruel and slow.”

– Brigid Ruth 

It hasn’t been a week yet and I am already back in The Abbey. This time I was going to see Lippy on the Peacock stage.

Before saying anything I must point out that Abbey’s Peacock stage is famous for staging mainly new plays by not-yet-so-acclaimed writers. It was opened in 1927 and, interestingly enough, Peacock Theatre (in 1928) provided its first home to The Gate Theatre.

Being of a more classical-traditional taste, I haven’t been in The Peacock theatre that many times (in comparison to The Abbey Theatre). As a matter of fact, I think I’ve been there only a couple of times: first time to see “Conservatory” by Michael West and second time yesterday. In addition to that I did go to 3 different staged readings there. And I’ve also been there as part of “Backstage tours: Halloween” in 2013.

Yesterday’s performance of Lippy was a preview (one and only), it opens tonight, January 30th. I don’t know if the preview was sold out, but it looked very much like full house to me yesterday. I was also very glad to see a few familiar places (Dublin is such a small place!).

The performance started very unusually. Two of the actors were already on stage (with a huge screen as a background). They were looking at the audience, saluting old friends, acting normal… (if you can say that about an actor!). And then it started… with a post show Q&A session. Call me a fool, but I did really think that something might have gone wrong or I was at a wrong show or at a wrong time… they kept me confused for some good 20-30 mins. Well, during the whole “Q&A session” actually (and that’s called good acting!).

The three actors on stage were extremely funny and seemed very natural… as if they were really having a post-show discussion.

And then it started.

Lippy is what I would call a play in a play. There were only 5 of them on stage. The lines were very few, but very appropriate. The play is more about the way we perceive sounds and image.

Joanna Banks was simply amazing. So graceful and light, she looked like a little flower willing to fly away any second, which she did at some point.

Eileen Walsh. The  ending was truly shocking. She was on stage when she wasn’t. Lippy. I was looking at her huge mouth (on the screen) and was following each single movement. I think I was more concentrated on the movements than the actual words. The idea of using only actress’s lips to tell a story was brilliant.

Cathríona Ní Mhurchú: she’s brilliant in whatever she is doing. I would go and see any play she is in. Her acting is so wonderful, that one might forget that she’s just an actress, she literally becomes her character.

It must be a hell of a sound and image effect to put on. I was mesmerized. Here huge respect goes to the tech team. It was a preview, the first one (even though the show had been on stage already during the Dublin’s Fringe Festival and, if I am not mistaken, also had toured) and it was almost flawless. Normally when you see a play, you congratulate the actors (c’mon, who really notices that perfectly shaped shadow on the main actor in act 2 scene 5?) afterwords, Lippy is the kind of a play where sound and image effect guys were just as marvelous as the actors on stage.

Imagine now: one second you see an actor talking to you, the next second you realise that he/she isn’t moving their lips, and the sound is coming from an amplifier. I was amazed. The music matched the feeling perfectly as well. You know those kinds of songs that, even though they are not scary, they can get under your skin so much that you would be feeling goose bumps for no reason. It would just scare you so much. It was that cheerful song about home and being happy playing non-stop on the radio in a house where four women starved themselves to death…

As for the plot (or the play inside the play) it was based on a real story that happened in Dublin in 2000. Four women (an aunt and her three grown-up nieces) decided to commit a suicide by starving themselves to death. When, few weeks later, the bodies were discovered they found loads of bin bags lying around the house. The bags were full of shredded paper. The women didn’t just want to commit a suicide, they also wanted to delete every possible trace of their previous existence. The reason why they did it still remains unknown. There is a footage from a CCTV camera of two nieces coming out of a shop talking. It was the last time any of them were seen alive in public. A man was hired to read their lips.

Lippy, at the Peacock Theatre by Dead Center. Opening night tonight, January 30th. Runs until February 14th. Book tickets here:

http://www.abbeytheatre.ie/whats_on/event/lippy/

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Filed under Lippy, Performing arts, The Abbey Theatre, Theatre, Theatre in Ireland, Theatre Lovers

The Abbey Theatre: The theatre of War Symposium 2015.

The 3-Day Symposium of War at The Abbey Theatre is now officially over.

According to the Abbey Theatre, the symposium welcomed 250 guests and 31 speakers from all over the world, who either worked or came from (post) conflict zones like Rwanda, Palestine, Israel, Afghanistan, Belarus, etc. There were also speakers from Ireland and Northern Ireland talking mainly about The Irish Civil War, The Lockout of 1913, The Troubles.

Apart from the discussions and talks there were two staged readings in the evenings, one musical performance and during the three days of symposium visitors could also go and see “Oh My Sweet Land” production on The Peacock Stage.

I personally attended all the talks and the reading of “Shibboleth”. I didn’t go to the reading of “Returning to Haifa” because I had seen it already in The New Theatre, Dublin, earlier last year. Nevertheless, I was more than happy to meet Naomi Wallace and Ismail Karim Khalidi, people who adapted “Returning to Haifa” into a play. Naomi presented another of her plays, which was read out by Khalidi during the symposium.

I would like to start my review with a quote by Luke Gibbons, the very first speaker of the Symposium: “There is always something left over from the past and it is the future”. 

I was at the first Symposium at The Abbey last year (The Symposium of Memory) and I can’t simply compare these two events. I was a bit concerned before booking my 3-Day ticket because, even though I am very much into current affairs, I don’t really know that much about the current situation in Palestine, let alone Africa. I was just scared that I would be sitting there not understanding what people are talking about. I don’t want to sound ignorant, but I am afraid that many people who live in the 1st world country and live comfortably don’t really know what’s going on outside of their comfort zone/home countries. We are marching for not wanting to paying water charges, Palestinians don’t even get enough water to drink. It’s sad, but it’s the reality. That reminds me of one of the speakers, Ruwantie de Chickera from Sri Lanka, who before beginning her speech explained that she had been asked to talk about her home country because the audience might know very little or nothing about it.

Anyway, I did go further and booked my ticket. And I was indeed very excited about the 3 days. I really enjoyed all of the speakers and their subjects. I was also very glad to see some of the last year’s speakers, like Stacy Gregg.

The amazing thing about this symposium was that many speakers come from different backgrounds and have all sorts of experiences. It was a theatre symposium, so the main focus was, naturally, on theatre makers. But there were also such speakers as Ray Dolphin, who works for United Nation’s Office of Humanitarian Affairs.

Ray’s talk was about Israel’s West Bank and occupied Palestinian territories. He presented a very clear and easily understandable map of the current situation between Israel, Palestine and Gaza. He explained the building if the wall that would separate Israel and Palestine. The conditions in which the Palestinians have to survive (like not having access to cultivate their own land) and the total separation of Gaza, where citizens are held almost like prisoners in their own country.

Or Professor David Cotterrell, who talked about his amazing and heart-breaking experience in Afghanistan. He was commissioned by the Welcome Trust to go to the country and produce an installation called Theatre as a part of War and Medicine Exhibition.

More about his experience can be found here: http://www.cotterrell.com/

One man in particular deeply touched and inspired me with his talk: John Scott. He is a choreographer in Dublin. Scott works with refugees and asylum seekers coming to this country, people who had suffered some sort of trauma. He not only helps them to express their pain and emotions and previous trauma with dance and movement, but he also communicates with them and helps them to find a way to legally stay in this country. He takes this “invisible people” and creates a piece of art, a piece of theatre aimed to help them.

Some speakers (to be exact 6 of them) came as part of one big project: Ariadne Project. Ariadne Project is appointed to finding female theatre makers who either work or come from (post) conflict zones. At the moment the project counts with 6 of them: Hope Azeda (Rwanda), Dijana Milosevic (Serbia), Frederique LeComte (Burundi), Iman Aoun (Palestine), Patricia Ariza (Colomiba) and Ruwanthie de Chickera (Sri Lanka).

Project Ariadne is unique not only because it deals with theatre in war zones, but also because it’s created by women. Even in peaceful countries we have very few female theatre directors,  so how inspiring should it be to see and hear somebody talk about their absolutely unique experiences and, more importantly, their passion for what they do and their desire to change this world for better. And theatre is a way of changing it. Theatre is a way of saying something that can’t be just said out loud. Theatre is a way of expressing emotions that couldn’t be expressed in any other way. Theatre is a way to bring different communities and different peoples together.

I’ll talk very briefly about only one example, Frederique LeComte from Belgium talked about her experience making theatre in Burundi. She has worked with all kinds of people: the ones who had been tortured, imprisoned for political reasons, raped, whose families were killed, on one hand, and on the other, with people who tortured, killed, raped. With the consent of both sides she would produce a play involving both of them. The torturer and the tortured one would work side by side to create something to overcome their pain, their past, their emotions.

Federique LeComte worked during the time of war in Burundi, she has staged very provocative and very risky types of plays. “The types that you could be killed for right during the performance” putting it into her own words.

On the very last day of the symposium I was particularly interested in hearing one speaker: Vladimir Shchrban from Belarus. Vladimir was the only one who spoke with a translator. He spoke in Russian, so I was particularly happy about it. It really does make a difference hearing somebody talk and hearing somebody talk in their native language.

Anyway, Vladimir spoke about his theatre company Belarus Free Theatre. As Vladimir said it himself, after the USSR split up in 1991, Belarus has obtained a dictator. Vladimir along with a couple of other free spirited young people wanted only the best for his country and this “best” he saw in freedom. Freedom of speech, freedom of mind, freedom of being able to express your opinion without being arrested or killed for it. So he created a theatre company. After the company was born the first thing they needed to sort out was what they wanted to make plays about. The answer was simple “tabu topics”. And it looked like they had it very easy because every topic was tabu in Belarus.

Vladimir and his company has suffered a lot during the 90s and 00s. Both the artists and the audience members were persecuted for getting involved in this sort of art. Belarus Free Theatre had difficulties finding venues for the upcoming productions, they would take anything they could rent or secure: it was somebody’s house, in a forest or in even in a sauna. As most of the plays were staged illegally the company needed a legal reason to be there, so that’s where there creativity once again found itself. They would pretend that they were hosting a wedding, a friend’s party or even a family gathering.

For obvious reasons, and as Vladimir puts it himself, most of their plays are “passionate but short”.

Another thing I thoroughly enjoyed was the staged reading of “Shibboleth”  by Stacy Gregg. There is a hope that The Abbey Theatre will produce this play at some point soon. I’ve always been very interested in Northern Ireland and The Troubles. So needless to say that I was more than keen on hearing its first reading. The reading was preceded by a panel discussion “Barriers”, in which Stacy Gregg (together with another Northern Irish artist Brendan Ciarán Browne) talked about the peace wall in Belfast and the responses and reactions to barriers and boundaries.

The play exceeded all the expectations. It was smart, it was funny, it was very Northern Irish. I absolutely loved the cast and their portraying of the characters with thiсk NI accents. “Brick by brick by brick by.”

All talks were very informative and very what’s called first-hand experience. Of course it would be childish of me to think that I know more about conflict zones. I don’t. But this symposium was a great opportunity to start knowing more about this world we live in. It was a great way for me to be introduced to some amazing projects, theatre companies and theatre makers, both nationally and internationally. It’s a starting point. And I’m very much looking forward to the next (unfortunately last) symposium in 2016.

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Filed under Performing arts, The Abbey Theatre, Theatre, Theatre in Ireland, Theatre Lovers, Theatre of War Symposium, TOWS2015