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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Filed under Irish Stage, New Plays, Peacock Thetare, Scratch Night, The Abbey Theatre, Theatre

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:

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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:

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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:

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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

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:

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Filed under A girl is a half-formed thing, Irish Stage, Performing arts, Project Arts Center, Theatre, Theatre in Ireland, Theatre Lovers