Tag Archives: aonghus óg mcanally

#WakingTheFeminists

Just back from #WakingTheFeminists meeting at The Abbey.

I’m trying to think of words that could describe the emotion and the energy charge that was created in The Abbey’s Auditorium this afternoon… and there are simply no words big or explicit enough.

My passion for theatre started in The Abbey more than five years ago. If it wasn’t for that theatre, I wouldn’t be where I am now. And even though, I do not have an Irish passport I consider it my National Theatre. In the last three years I barely missed a play in The Abbey. For the last two and a half years I was also a member of the Abbey. I was there when Waking The Nation programme was announced.

I’m not going to lie, I liked the programme. And to my shame, it has never even occurred to me to count how many plays were written/directed by women. I’m very glad that Lian Bell did it for me and for all of us. And I’m also very glad and thankful that she brought attention to the problem. It was a very brave and courageous move. It was also a push that we all needed.

Lian might have been the first to vocalise the truth. But she is not alone. Not anymore. There are hundreds and thousands of both women and men out there waiting, yearning for gender equality. And today’s meeting was just another proof of it! The Abbey’s main space has slightly under 500 seats… for all I know, the event was sold out in less than half an hour after the tickets became available, and today there were more than a hundred on the wait list queueing outside hoping to get in. On a Thursday afternoon, all those people from all around the country and abroad came to The Abbey to support the gender equality. They didn’t come to see a show; they didn’t come to a catch a freebie; they came to show their support and respect for their fellow theatre artists. They came because it mattered. It mattered to show that regardless of your gender, profession or nationality you recognise the huge gender imbalance and flow in the system that supports and encourages the imbalance. It mattered because, just like some six month earlier, our future (and that of our children) depended on here and now. 2016 is a very important year in the Irish history. Let’s not forget that the history was written by both men and women. So why a hundred years after we shall forget about it?

As I said at the beginning, I have no words to express my feelings right now. I’ve been in a super hyper active cycle ever since I found out I got a ticket for the meeting today. I still can’t believe that it happened. I want to thank all the amazing actors, directors, playwrights and theatre makers who spoke on and off The Abbey stage today. Each one of the speeches was incredibly powerful and important to hear. I strongly believe that everyone is entitled to have an opinion and to express that opinion. Even though the problem of gender inequality has existed in the Irish society for a good while now, it’s great that women finally started speaking out (and look at all the brave and beautiful voices they have!). Every single word spoken in The Abbey today has indeed travelled. And not only in space, but also in time. For, hopefully, years and generations after today will be seen as a day that did make a difference. I strongly believe in the importance of vocalisation of your thoughts and opinions. If it’s not said out loud, it can’t exist. And women were kept in silence for way too long.

As a theatre lover, maker, goer, critic… myself, I strongly believe in female voices and stories. That’s a side of life we all want and need to hear (for once!). People say, it’s 2015, it’s time… I say, it’s been time for the last 2015 years and beyond. Our society has shackled and put limitation on us, women; with years those invisible chains grew only bigger and heavier. But a woman isn’t a small and helpless creature… A woman, any woman, is a true warrior. And it’s time to shake off those chains to finally free out voices.

The Abbey wants to wake the nation. Well, we are wide awake and ready and there’s not a single thing that will stop us now.

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The New Theatre: At the Ford (Dublin Theatre Festival)

The Dublin Theatre Festival 2015 has officially opened! The programme this year looks amazing, with some really interesting productions, events and talks.

I started the festival for myself with one of the festival’s definite highlights and already an almost sold out production At The Ford, a new play by Rise Productions and directed by Bryan Burroughs.

This very unusual and absolutely beautifully choreographed play tells us the story of a very traumatic Irish family. Post-Celtic Tiger, a businessman, who has gone bankrupt, swims into the Irish sea to never come back. Did he commit  suicide after not being able to pay the debts or does the family bear a much darker secret? His three children are left with a tough decision to make: try to save the business their father once started or sell it out to pay the debts.

The first part of the play is focused on two brothers (played by Ian Toner and Aonghus Óg McAnally) arguing over the business proposition. The two brothers, just like two little boys, try to find the solution quite literally with bare knuckles. Slap after slap after slap after slap. Blood on the walls, blood on the floor, blood on the cloth. Surely the blood must be completely covering their eyes, too, thus they can’t see properly that for the money a brother is going against a brother. For them, that’s the only way to communicate. This physical closeness of a fist against a fist is what actually makes them understand each other. The scene is very beautifully staged. It’s like a dance of two bodies. Even the language, from time to time converting into a poetic verse, synchronizes with the movements.

But it’s the sound that makes the scene so attractive. The sound of a bone hitting a bone, of a nose cracking or a cheek being smashed… it does give you the sensation of watching a real fight.

The second part of the play bears a striking contrast to what had been happening before. Now it’s a brother agains a sister (played by Rachel O’Byrne). No bare knuckle, I am afraid, will do here. The emotional fight takes over. The power of the words, the ability to charm, to attract, to appeal, to play, to confuse… Max is a girl who had desperately wanted to be accepted into her elder brothers’ world. She wanted them to fight with her, too. She wanted to play their games. Now, grown up, they have no choice but to play hers. And there will be only one person driving away with the bugatti into the sunset.

This very unconventional and beautifully staged play is running in The New Theatre until October, 3rd. Get your tickets before they are gone! For more info: https://www.dublintheatrefestival.com/Online/At_The_Ford

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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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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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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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