Tag Archives: acting

Theatre Upstairs: Fizzy Drinks with Two Straws

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Tea + Toast Theatre Company in association with Theatre Upstairs presents Fizzy Drinks with Two Straws. And if the title itself hasn’t already intrigued you enough, then maybe you should stick around for a bit longer to find out what it’s all about.

An original piece of theatre, written by Joyce Dignam and directed by Dignam herself and Meabh Hennelly, Fizzy Drinks is a simple story told from a very nontrivial point of view. It tells us about an Irish family on their holidays in Wexford. Maybe not the fanciest of all holiday destinations, one might think and Lara (played by Ali Hardiman) and Rosie (played by Tara Maguire) will definitely agree with you. But it’s not the lack of exoticism or Mediterranean sun on the resort that upsets the little girls; it’s the feeling that something bad is going on in their family and nobody would tell or explain them anything. Mam and Dad seem to be enclosed in a local pub with a family friend, while Lara and Rosie are left to play by themselves in a playground outside. Nevertheless, their minds can’t help but wonder what’s really hiding behind all that grown-up talk that even playing Mommies and Daddies doesn’t help.

In this approximately one hour play, we witness the story from the point of view of two little girls – the eldest being only ten. It’s definitely catchy and refreshing. Both Hardiman and Maguire are excellent at portraying little girls as well as adults. The sense of naiveness and childishness that they transmit to the audience is nothing but adorable and hugely entertaining.

Fizzy Drinks with Two Straws is an easy to watch and enjoy production showcasing some of the raising talents of the Irish theatre. The play was presented as part of this year’s Scene and Heard Festival last month. Apart from decent acting, there is some nice lighting (by Shane Gill) and sound (by Conrad Jones-Brangan) designs. As for the set design, being presented as a playground, it’s quite outstanding with a real slide mounted on the Theatre Upstairs’ cozy stage.

Fizzy Drinks with Two Straws runs in Theatre Upstairs till April 8th. It’s never too late to be a child again and perhaps remind yourself how it all used to feel like. For more info or to book tickets: http://www.theatreupstairs.ie/fdwts

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The Complex: The Leaves of Heaven

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From big theaters to small lofts. From traditional spaces to the most unorthodox and challenging ones. Only a true theatre goer knows that the beauty of those unconventional places hides in the fact that every performance there is a technical, artistic and directorial surprise. The little spaces are usually the ones that invest all their heart and soul into staging a small scale but otherwise truly big productions. The Complex is a venue exactly like that. You are always in for a nice treat when you walk through the little side door on Little Green Street.

First going through an exhibition room beautifully decorated with candles and much needed winter warmth, you finally end up in the performing space, which is carefully designed to meet the needs of each performance separately. For The Leaves of Heaven the audience is seated on one side facing the stage. And from the second you walk in, all your attention is immediately and irreversibly drawn to the set (designed by Stephanie Golden and Justyna Marta Nowicka). But the real astonishment hits when you realise that the majority of the decoration and props – doll houses – is done with simple DIY tools like cardboard cut outs and paper. Placed on a side they create a somewhat nostalgic image of a child’s room. While on the other side we have a paper tree and a bench – a very symbolic representation of solitude and loneliness, the feeling of which consistently penetrates the story. To add a slightly edgy and even, perhaps, creepy angle to the piece a number of dummies inhabit the already eerie stage. In a corner is hanging a big full moon.

Balancing on the periphery of this world and the imaginary one, we finally meet Francie Brady (played by Brian Mallon) – the butcher boy. In The Leaves of Heaven Pat McCabe revisits one of his most famous characters but only as a ghost, amongst many others, who is there to document Brady’s story not to interfere with it. Following the horrifically abusive childhood and the murder it lead to, Francie ends up in the place where he was always meant to be: a criminal asylum. As his mental state deteriorates and the mind is being almost completely overtaken by profound delusion, it becomes more and more difficult to say which part of his story is real and which one is entirely a plot created by his ill imagination. The only one thing is constant: the apparition of our Holy Mother Mary (played by Mairead Devlin). She is the only one who never gave up on Francie.

Both Mallon and Devlin give an absolutely jaw-dropping performance. Brian’s impeccable spot-on boyish physicality and the impossibly tragic portrayal of the decay of the butcher boy’s mind allows the audience to see a total different side of Francie. He is frail, he is sad but, most of all, he is human. Both Mallon and Devlin play a whole range of different characters, all vary in age, gender and nationality, but every single one of them comes across as a complete real human being. You look at a dummies’ face and you don’t see a dummy, you see a person – a personality – hiding, at times being completely lost, behind it. The embodyment is so creepily exact sometimes that it’s hard to process the fact that there are only two actors on stage. Devlin’s breathtaking voice is indescribable and unreviewable. Her Ave Maria was pure heaven.

To round up the whole experience, the ultimate atmosphere setters are undoubtedly the lighting (by Conleth White) and the sound designs. Music is so perfect for the mood, it makes you cry. It pinches that other sense – hearing – that allows you to perceive Francie’s state of mind on a more profound level. The Leaves of Heaven is one of those plays where the props (by Stephanie Golden, Justyna Marta Nowicka, Sam Lambert, Derek Hathaway and Lewis McGee) are just as important as the actors. The incredible moon that would turn from peaceful white to ominous red was a whole being of its own adding a powerful eerie touch to the surrealism of it all.

McCabe’s play transfers you from a hopeless Irish small town (that the novel is set in) into an absolutely unique and colourful universe that reins in Francie’s mind. Just like their stories, all the characters’ voices are unique and easily distinguishable. And even though their life paths might be gruesome, at times appalling and even shocking, the beautiful storytelling of McCabe’s play allows the audience to surpass those actions of long ago. We witness the real, though heavily decaying, humanity behind the dummy’s mask.

The Leaves of Heaven is impossible not to connect with. The plot, the performances, the characterisation, the actors’ output and, of course, the directing (by Joe O’Byrne) of this production will leave you in an awe. This 90 min piece holds so much of dramatic tension and human emotion that  can only be experienced in a comfort of a safe intimate space like The Complex. The play runs till November 27th. For more info or to book tickets: https://www.tickets.ie/events.aspx/search?s=leaves or by calling (01) 544 6922

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Magistorium: Midnight in Nightown

Christmas is just around the corner and if you are on a lookout for a very special seasonal experience, then Dublin has something very unique and very different to offer. Behind the little blue door at N 22 on South Anne Street (just off Grafton Street) there is a venue very few know about. The grand Munnamed-1agistorium, where the ticket master will welcome you from inside a confession box, has opened its doors for the wide audience who is yearning not only for food for the stomach, but also for the thought and the soul. All three will be provided, no doubt of that!

Midnight in Nightown is about three hours experience that starts with a real feast of some of the most delicious foods, all at the accompaniment of the live harp playing on the background. A three course meal where even the bread and butter are so indescribably tasty, they will leave any food critic in want for more. But remember to leave some space for the mains and the desert. I almost wished I was a food critic, who, through the power of good strong wording, could make people taste the tenderness of a lamb or the richness of a bouquet of a matured wine. But, unfortunately, I am not. So, here you will simple have to believe me: the food is tasty and plenty. You shall not be disappointed. They also offer vegetarian options.

Approximately two hours after savouring the delicacies and enjoying the intimate atmosphere of the venue deepened in the soft purple light, it’s finally show time. The actors – stylishly playing Georgian prostitutes, priests and other colourful characters of the past – come out to interact with the audience. Suddenly we are in one of Europe’s most famous Red Light Districts – Dublin’s Monto. And who is here to join us? None the less but W B Yeats (played by Tom Moran) and James Joyce (played by Rex Ryan) themselves. For the next hour our attention will be stolen by the tragic story of Yeats’ extramarital affair with a local prostitute girl Honour Bright (played by Lisa Byrne), with whom he fathered a son. Unlike her last name, Honour’s fate was far from being bright. And she is on stage tonight to tell her own story, as well as those of other Monto’s girls.

But not to worry, your fancy night out won’t end on a tinge of sadness. The company has got a lot in store to keep the audience entertained, singing and dancing. Midnight in Nightown, directed by Lisa Byrne, is unnamedfilled with poetic passages, melodic songs and references back to romantic Ireland. It’s 1922, the Easter Rising has already happened, Ireland has finally become a Free State. We are offered a slightly different sneak peak on the life of those who are normally left unheard, whose stories are usually spared. It’s not Ireland in the midst of a Civil War, this part of the country is fighting its own different battle. Here we will hear everything from The Dubliners to the famous Molly Malone song to extracts from the just published Joyce’s Ulysses as it’s being reenacted on stage at the same time by Leopold Bloom (played by John Doran).

The audience isn’t only welcome but also encouraged to participate in all the singing and dancing. And believe me, many of you will find it difficult not to! A truly Irish experience that could be enjoyed by both the locals and the visitors of the city. Midnight in Nightown is hugely entertaining. It bears the traditional Irish spirit of eating, singing along and telling stories.

Magistosium opens its doors to this very special experience every Friday and Saturday starting from November 11th. Advanced booking is highly recommended as those seats will be filled very quickly. A perfect opportunity for a cultural night out with friends, family or loved ones. For more information or to book tables, contact the venue directly at 01 7079899 or through their website: http://www.magistorium.com/

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Bewley’s Café Theatre: To Hell in a Handbag

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Tiger Dublin Fringe might be just over (all the winners have been announced) but I’m yet to write one more review. And let me say just how delighted I am the festival has ended on such a high note for me.

To Hell in A Handbag, The Secret Lives of Canon Chasuble and Miss Prism, by Helen Norton and Jonathan White is an amusing play about… And that’s exactly how you would expect me to start a review. But, not this time! Do you love fan fiction as much as I do? I can tell you even more, I myself might have penned a line or two re-imagining the lives of my favourite characters and fantasizing about what they might be doing and talking about behind the scenes. And that’s exactly why To Hell in A Handbag was such a dear to my heart production. You’ve been warned now, so proceed with care!

Who hasn’t heard about Oscar Wilde’s The Importance about being Earnest? We have all seen the numerous stagings and re-stagings of cucumber sandwich eating and posh talking snobs in their most beautifully designed English households and countryside manors. Even Lady Bracknell being played by a man isn’t  novice anymore. But what about the little people? Those who usually say little but mean much more. Shall they forever be forgotten in the shadows?

Helen Norton and Jonathan White decided to give the resolution (and a chance for a slightly better future) to some of the most colourfully shaped of Wilde’s characters: Canon Chasuble and Miss Prism. In a wonderfully staged 60 min production, Wilde’s original ending of the story is happening off-stage (“Oh dear, I think I can hear him turning in the grave”, one might be thinking) while the main stage is being overtaken by Chasuble and Prism who happen to have quite a lot to tell each other. Being faithful to the title of the original play, they also show each other the importance of being earnest (and how to get away with it). While they reveal to us their own secrets and events form the past, we are also given the opportunity to witness their personalities and relationship with each other unravel.

Needless to say (but crucial to mention in a review) that the dialogue in this play is a pure masterpiece. Not for a second it sounds as if it hadn’t been written by the master Wilde himself. And those who know Wilde well will appreciate it as his style is quite unique, to say the least. In addition to the language, both Norton and White deliver their lines and reactions with such precision and perfect timing that the outcome exceeds itself: the audience is left in stitches  with amusement.

I would also like to point out the quite masterful lighting design (by Colm Maher) that really helped to bring out some of the moments and enhanced change of locations and moods. The piece also wouldn’t be complete without the absolutely Wilde-esk set design (by Maree Kearns) that once again helped shape the play as one whole piece.

The usage of the audio was quite a nice touch. It added that extra something that would make you believe the characters existed outside of the stage. It was also a great reminder of the story itself and how it fitted and intervened with what was happening on stage.

Definitely one of the major highlights for me during the festival! If Sir Wilde was still present amongst us (even though I am quite convinced he was, in spirit) this day, I am sure he would be in the first row giving a standing ovation. I can only add that Helen Norton and Jonathan White did all the justice to their characters; they did even more: they gave them a second life. For more info on the play: https://2hellinahandbag.com/

 

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The Bewley’s Theatre: The Wickedness of Oz

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“I think you are wrong to want a heart. It makes most people unhappy. If you only knew it, you are in luck not to have a heart.”

– The Wizard of Oz

Sooner or later all good comes to an end. Tiger Fringe Festival isn’t an exception. Two weeks of creativity and arts are ready for its final applause. Tonight the final curtain will fall on one of the undoubtable highlights of the festival – Kate Gilmore’s The Wickedness of Oz.

Presented as show in a bag, Gilmore’s 60 min play is a superb mixture of music, theatre and storytelling. The Wickedness of Oz isn’t all about the strength of the story (even though the script is amazingly entertaining and amusing to follow) but rather the stunning performance given by Gilmore, who is also the writer of the piece.

With the familiar tunes from the beloved musicals (slightly new wording though!), we follow Debbie, a young Dublin girl who holds a degree in hospitality and works in a travel agency. Debbie is twenty one, in love with her boyfriend and slightly irritated slash bored with her life trapped in the same old routine. She checks her phone only to see photos of other people, who seem to enjoy life much more than she does. And a light of hope sparks for Debbie when her boyfriend gets a visa for New Zealand and invites her to come with him. Will she go with him? Can she go with him? Can she be so selfish to leave her mother and father, who already lost two of their children? The middle one, Debbie is stuck. The yellow-bricked road seems to lead nowhere and sometimes there’s truly no place like home. No matter how grey the reality there might be.

Kate Gilmore brings her  play off the stage right into the midst of the happily roaring audience. Easily transforming from a dancer into a cabaret singer, and back into an office assistant, she blows her viewers away with her talents (that seem countless) and the ability to capture different characters and their traits.

The Wickedness of Oz is one of those plays that is so vocally strong that you start perceiving it from a different angle. Everything ceases to be only and simply visual; the different voices, the songs, the sounds, the pronunciations of the words start playing a huge role in the creation of the bigger story. Close your eyes and the picture will be just as vivid and colourful. It shows Gilmore’s incredible gift for transmitting the meaning through her voice.

I don’t want to underestimate other things, like the performance itself or the choreography (by Kitty Randle), which were all impossibly flawless. I just want to point out what made this performance in particular stand out from the bunch of other shows on offer. Kudos to Gilmore’s vocal coach Shelley Bukspan and the direct of the piece Clare Maguire, who made the Kate’s inner sunshine spread to the last rows of the packed theatre that the Bewley’s was on the night I visited it.

If you are choosing to step on a yellow path, let it bring you to The Wickedness of Oz, there might be no great wizard there but a very talented artist instead, who pulls down all the curtains to tell her story. The Wickedness of Oz, directed by Clare Maguire, closes on September 23rd. For more information: http://www.fringefest.com/festival/whats-on/the-wickedness-of-oz

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Project Arts Center: Coast

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From The Beach I slowly migrated last week to the Coast.

Presented by the award-winning Red Bear Productions, Coast is a drama about four lost souls anchoring on the edge of  darkness and reality. Each one of them finds him- or herself in a very difficult, unstable, place in life. A coast is a beautiful metaphor to the state of mind for the characters in the piece. Neither water nor ground, they are in such a state when there is no possible connection could be made with either the deepest darkness of the blue or the solid steady soil. Inbetweeners on the edge of eternity.

Carol (played by Camille Lucy Ross) is caring for her elderly mother, who has dementia and struggles immensely with the simplest of everyday tasks. The situation only worsens when the mother wonders off and Carol can’t find her anywhere.

Ann Marie (played by Aoibhéanne McCann) is a young mother of two suffering from severe depression, who wants to run away. But is it her children or herself she is running from?

Karl (played by Gordon Quigley) is a young gay guy, who lives with his sister and spends all of his free time watching porn. But even he isn’t happy with his life. Lonely, he also finds himself stranded along the coast, where he encounters Gerry (played by Donncha O’Dea), a man about a dog. Quite literally. He is walking his dog along the shore on the night. We find out quite little about Gerry’s past, but from the monologues it’s evident – it wasn’t the happiest one. He also has some dark secrets hidden deep inside and bothering his mind.

Written by Tracy Martin, in this magnolia type of play all the characters will come to cross each other’s paths at one or another point. The beautifully entangled script will unravel itself in front of the audience but only as much as it needs to. The rest will be left to the wildest of imaginations.

With the simple but spot-on set design by Ciara Murnane, thanks to the cubes turned into seaweed decorated boulders the Project Art’s Cube seems to disappear into the space while we are being transported to the lonely, almost melancholic, seaside. The darkish, cold autumn night mood is being brilliantly conveyed by the wonderful acting. All four actors give quite a touching performance but Donncha O’Dea outshines them all. Whether it’s the tragedy of the character itself of the actor doing masterly his job, Gerry’s story is heartbreaking.

Coast is an 80 min piece of quality theatre that won’t leave anyone indifferent. Catch it before it ends on September 24th. The second week of Tiger Dublin Fringe has a handful of surprises and treats! For more info or to book tickets: http://www.fringefest.com/festival/whats-on/coast

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Project Arts Center: This Beach

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The first week of Tiger Dublin Fringe 2016 has drawn to its end with some of the shows having their last curtain call just last night. Personally, I closed the first week of this edgy, risky and ever so wonderful theatre experience with This Beach by Brokentalkers.

Not knowing what to expect from the play, I was quite intrigued from the moment I entered the auditorium. Usually wide opened, the Space Upstairs in The Project Arts Center had a drawn shower curtain hiding the stage. What’s behind it? – was saying my inner voice. And with a click of somebody’s finger (the power of the theatre) we were transported from rainy autumny Dublin to a sunny sandy beach in a somewhat more weather-lucky country. The only downfall was that that beach was private therefore no aliens allowed.

You see, the people who own the beach – a typical  caucasian upper middle-class European family, of course –  have had it for generations now. From father to son, this promised land has always remained in the same family. The current heir of the place, Bryan, is to marry the young and beautiful artist Breffni; so they can live and breed happily ever after on this beach. As Breffni is being concerned about the safety of the world outside of the beach, she tricks her mother, Pom, to join them. Resilient at first, Pom quickly realises that in this piece of paradise you are either in or dead. So, the family lives on the beach, where the sun is always shining and the beer is plenty, until one day a complete stranger – an alien – is being washed onto their shore. The obvious question arises: shall we keep him or kill him? The stove hasn’t cooled down yet.

This stunning production by Brokentalkers brilliantly reflects the current world situation through the play. It shows the immense and boundless power that some people have and the utter despair that is left to the rest. This Beach, directed by Feidlim Cannon and Gary Keegan, doesn’t create unnecessary metaphors or blurred out images of the shadowy reality, it openly shows the absurdity of the current situation concerning refugees. The world is an unfair place. The world where somebody owns a beach and is allowed to kill anyone who washes in on it (either willingly or not) is a dangerous, nightmarish place. A world, where people have forgotten how to dance, emphasize or care is a world that is doomed.

In addition to the brilliant concept of the story, I was taken by surprise when all the actors used their own names all throughout the play. They were not hiding behind a mask that somebody else has cut for them; they were proudly standing with their faces up high and bare in support of what they were doing.

Having seen quite a few shows during the first week of the Fringe Festival, I have to say that This Beach is one of the most, if not the most, powerful production with a huge emotional impact on its audience.

Presented as part of Europoly, the play was devised for Tiger Dublin Fringe 2016. Unfortunately, the play ended on September 18th. But, I strongly believe and hope that it’ll make a come back. A play like that should be seen. A tragic, but beautifully created story of a rotting future, if we don’t do something about it. For more info:  http://www.fringefest.com/festival/whats-on/this-beach

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Filed under Brokentalkers, Project Arts Center, This Beach, Tiger Dublin Fringe 2016, Uncategorized