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The Peacock Theatre: The Ireland Trilogy

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THEATREclub, without any doubt, is one of those theatre companies that is not afraid to create some truly thought-provoking, relevant and challenging plays that aim not only to entertain but to make people want to take action. The company takes some of the most controversial (often frowned upon by the rest) topics and makes a performance out of it. A performance that can easily be described as naturalistic and close to the real life. As a matter of fact, some of their productions are on such a thin line between the imaginary world and the reality that it becomes difficult to differentiate wether it’s all still just a game. The actors use their own names, they easily and eagerly interact with the audience and make the script come from their heart.

Having been to other productions by THEATREclub, I was somewhat prepared for the trilogy. Well, at least I thought I was. I knew well that I was going to see three pieces about possibly shocking but truthful reality, about what’s going on behind the closed doors and shut mouthes, about what is not only not being talked about but is being ignored and willingly forgotten by many. The company is famous for its thorough research process, for devising their plays inside the company and for the deep belief that a change is always possible. I was ready to be challenged. I was ready to see the real Ireland.

The Ireland Trilogy consists of three plays: The Family, Heroine and History. All of them are played by the same core ensemble of actors and directed by the company’s very own Grace Dyas.

The Family, just like the title suggests, peeks on the life of an ordinary Irish family. Here we have everything from: unrequited love to fathers and sons battles, to a relative leaving for America, to the fact that a family doesn’t exist as a family anymore, it’s just a bunch of cohabiting people who can’t or don’t want to listen, to understand and to support each other. All this is set in a freshly painted cardboard house with the romantic Andy Williams songs playing in the background. A beautifully wrapped glossy candy that is slightly rotten on the inside.

This piece strikes from the beginning as the characters acknowledge the audience’s existence straight away and even keep track of the “show time”. We become part of the play. What’s happening on stage isn’t happening to some faceless fictional “them”. It’s happening to our relatives, to our friends, to our neighbours… Sometimes, it’s even happening to us. The sound of a million voices, all shouting, screaming, whispering at the same time, makes it difficult to make out the words and sentences but impossible not to try to. All we have to do is just listen.

Heroine takes a look at the abuse of illegal drugs in Ireland for the last half of the century. A very beautifully composed piece with elements of poetry, spoken word and nostalgia for the good olden days. Heroine has a totally different feel to it as opposed to The Family. From the pink cotton candy fifties, we move to the cool, leather-jacketed, edgy seventies of sex, drugs and rock-n-roll. The children of yesterday have grown up. They live in shabby apartments with their questionable friends, where they pump up hard drugs down the pulsing veins and watch trash TV programmes all day long. They don’t care about the future or the world. All those bad things happening around, they are not happening.

This piece particularly stands out because of the emotional delivery. The ensemble gives a heartbreaking performance of three broken – completely lost and drug dependent – souls.

History is the last part in The Ireland Trilogy. When one starts talking about the history of Ireland, the first thing that springs into mind is, of course, The Civil War, The Revolution, DeV and Michael Collins, the conflict between the Republic and Northern Ireland. History is indeed written by the winners. It’s also written by a selected group of the elite. People, common folks like you and me, unfortunately do not write the history. At least, not the one that will be composed into a book and studied by generations onwards.

And that’s exactly what’s on THEATREclub’s agenda: to show to the public the real history of Ireland (who deep inside is a beautiful ginger girl wearing an emerald green dress), the life of the other half, without sugarcoating or overdramatizing anything. History mainly looks on the historical importance of Richmond Barracks, where the British Army was homed during the Civil War; Goldenbridge Church that once used to be one of the infamous laundries housing unmarried and unwanted young mothers-to-be; and finally on the long tragic sixteen years of regeneration of Dublin’s St Michael’s Estate, that was built to fight the housing crisis of the 60s.

Originally built in 1969, the estate fell in to such a decay that by the end of the 80s  a survey was conducted amongst its inhabitants on what to do with the site. The absolute majority of the tenants preferred it to be completely demolished and rebuilt rather than refurbished. It will take the government sixteen long years to put an end to the inhuman living conditions of Inchicore’s council flats. The government has forgotten about these people, if it ever remembered about them in the first place. Even the statue of Virgin Mary erected on the premises felt like she had failed her devoted worshipers.

THEATREclub looks at modern Ireland through the spectacle of equality, with the broad meaning of this word. All people are equal and all of them deserve equal treatment and promise of a better – fairer – future therefore everybody’s story is important, everybody’s story is relevant and deserves to be heard. For more info about the plays and the company’s work: http://www.theatreclub.ie/our-work/

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Filed under Heroine, history, The Family, The Ireland Trilogy, The Peacock Theatre, THEATREclub, Uncategorized

The New Theatre: Risk Everything.

Risk Everything by George F. Walker has recently had its premier in Dublin´s New Theatre. I had the chance to see it on its closing night after a two week run.

Risk Everything, directed by Liam Halligan, is a new play presented to us by Whirligig Theatre Company. With a small cast of four, the play tells us quite a trivial story in a very untrivial way. Carol (played by Ann Russell) has hit the wrong side of forty some good few years ago but she still can´t let it go: the adventures, the spiciness of life, the risk taking, the unexpected… the gambling addiction. Carol is a typical low class American who trusts no one but herself. She also lives for no one but herself. She steels a considerable amount of money from a big local gangster and makes a bet. She wins. But now the gangster is after her and after the money. Carol is not afraid, she is not that kind of person. In addition it’s not her first time stealing. So she contacts her daughter Denise (played by Teri FitzGerald) to ask for help.

Denise is a character herself. Once a rebel teenager, a drug addict, she had already lost the custody of her young daughter. Denise is really trying to change her life now. She longs for normality and peacefulness. She wants to be nothing like her mother who has never learnt anything from her own mistakes. Denise is married to RJ, who is a decent Canadian guy (played by Neil Fleming) with an addiction to day-time TV.

Carol has a “brilliant” plan of how to escape the gangster and his threats. This plan leads to RJ getting a bomb hanged on his chest and a couple of hours to bring the money to the gangster, otherwise they will all be blown to pieces.

Later in the play, we meet Michael (played by Pat Nolan). Michael is a nice guy who shoots porn. He meets Carol and says that he has made an enormous impression on him. Carol involves him into her plan and few minutes after, Michael also comes back onto the stage with a bomb around his chest.

This extremely funny and provocative piece of theatre isn’t about gangsters and bombs and low class Americans. it’s about addiction and how far is one willing to go to get what one wants. Carol has the money. She also has lives of two innocent people in her hands. Why is the choice so difficult? Is there nothing human left in her? She is a character one can only pity. There is no doubt that shall the situation repeat itself, Carol will do the exact same thing all over again.

As the genre dictates, there is a happy ending. Well, as happy as it can be.

All the characters have beautifully played their roles. RJ being my absolute favourite thanks to his innocence and perfectly delivered lines. All the little, but noticeable, touches made the play more believable.

Another word goes to the set designer. I always like it when the set works on multiple levels, in other words whenever an actor  exits the stage (to go to a different room, for example) he/she doesn’t simply disappear but you can still feel their presence. That’s exactly what I can say about Risk Everything. Being set in a motel room, I could clearly imagine this sort of a place, which was not limited to the stage.

Risk Everything has already closed, but for more info, please, visit:  http://www.whirligig.ie/Whats_on.html 

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Filed under Risk Everything, The New Theatre, Whirligig Theatre Company