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Pearse Centre: Both Sides Now (IDGTF)

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The International Dublin Gay Theatre Festival 2017 has opened its wide and ever welcoming doors to another year of theatre, art, music and creative performances. Filled with pieces on gay awareness, the two weeks of the festival have on offer something very special for each and everyone.

Both Sides Now, written and performed by Nicole O’Connor, is just one of the rich variety of plays that is presented by its creators to be truly enjoyed and experienced. Being part of a double bill deal (see two plays for the price of one; who would say no to that?) along with Leah Moore’s Wasting Paper, Both Sides Now tells us the story of Lydia – a young bisexual girl who is on a long road of discovering herself and her sexuality. Lydia is doing her first steps into the world of the unknown where she meets Carrie, her first love. After making plans of travelling the world together, the young couple doesn’t even survive the summer. Not being able to get completely over Carrie, Lydia looks for her cure – a sort of, at least – in Joni Mitchell’s songs.

The way this forty minute piece is delivered is both touching and charming. It’s simple and very natural but captivating, at the same time. O’Connor, who plays the title character, just like an old friend brings you through the story. She makes it funny and sad; she even has a cute handmade presentation to explain some things.

Both Sides Now is a beautiful mix of music and storytelling. And if you happen to be an admirer of Joni Mitchell’s, then you are undoubtedly in for a double treat.

Both Sides Now, an original piece of theatre directed by James O’Connor, runs in the Pearse Centre Theatre until May 6th (with a 4PM and a 7.30PM performances on Saturday). For more info or to book tickets: https://gaytheatre.ticketsolve.com/shows/873572855/events 

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Theatre Upstairs: Hero

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A new season in Theatre Upstairs has started with what can only be described as one of the most touching love stories told by a man. Ken Rogan’s new play Hero is an absolutely breath-taking one hour piece about a love, loss and life as it happens sometimes.

Smithy (played by Daithi Mac Suibhne) is a good-looking single guy who enjoys just as much the big sport as the company of his best mates. And everything is going well for The Captain Smithy until one night the football pitch converts into a dance floor and he meets her, the girl who is to steal his heart forever. But he doesn’t know it yet. All that matters for the moment is that he, the man, gets her, the woman. Marissa studied law and bends her head the way that makes Smithy forget about everyone else. A couple of unoriginal cheeky chat up lines later, a kiss lands on her cheek that is to change everything… for Smithy. For Marissa life continues the way it used to be: occasional night out with a friend, facebook status updates, texting him when she’s had one too many. All this time, Smithy seems to be happy to fool around and to be fooled. But everything changes when he realises: she is the one, the true love he was looking for. And for the first time, he wants to tell her this using the actual words. But she doesn’t seem to understand. She just wants to have another round. The game has changed for Smithy. The stakes are as high as they have never been. But is he to win or lose this one?

A wonderfully structured piece that goes right through your heart doesn’t only benefit from Rogan’s masterful writing. The outstandingly passionate solo performance given by Daithi Mac Suibhne makes all the justice to the carefully crafted script. It’s all in the little, almost subtle, details that Mac Suibhne brought so skillfully to life with the help of Amilia Stewart, for whom Hero is none the less but a directing debut. Stewart added a very nice gentle female touch to a play both written and performed by a man. It made Hero not only better or different, but very diverse and with a certain grain of profundity .

The magic of the space that Theatre Upstairs is has been hugely enhanced by the absolutely smashing set (by Naomi Faughnan) and lighting (by Eoin Byrne) design. Such a beautiful game of light against the sparkling glass all throughout the piece is indescribable; the perfect example of something that no amount of words can paint and it simply has to be seen.

Once again Theatre Upstairs has exceeded all the expectations and brought to life a truly beautiful and tremendously touching production that has both elements of comedy and tragedy. A play that demonstrates clearly: a true love is always worth fighting for. In association with Lakedaemon, Hero runs till January 28th. For more info or to book a seat: http://www.theatreupstairs.ie/what-is-on

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The Gate Theatre: The Heiress

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“You are good for nothing unless you are clever.” 

–  Henry James, The Heiress

Ruth and Augustus Goetz’ adaptation of Henry James’s novel Washington Square, The Heiress is probably one of the most perfectly unimpressive plays. It’s a typical story of the late 19th century life of  the other half. The constant battle of money, affection and betrayal. It’s also a story where one of the main characters is none the less but a house,  beautiful but soulless space that becomes a prison for some and the entrance into the garden of Eden for the others. New York’s Washington Square charms, it attracts and mesmerizes people who have once seen its rich beauty and now are unable to let it go.They want it for themselves no matter what.

Slightly over two hours long The Heiress is a flaying piece with only a handful of characters. Centered mainly on the life of Catherine Sloper (played by Karen McCarthy), the only daughter of Dr. Sloper (played by Denis Conway) and his late but still very much beloved wife. A simple, bubbly, home life appreciative Cathy perhaps isn’t the best match for the gentlemen of the New York nobility but a spark of hope lights when she meets Morris Townsend (played by Donal Gallery). Against her father’s will and with the help of her spinster auntie Lavinia (played by Marion O’Dwyer), who is a great character herself, a secret marriage has been arranged. For Catherine the decision has already been made but what about the young fiancé who is a bit unimpressed to find out that in the case of this marriage taking place his young wife most definitely will be disinherited?

A cruel story of false promises of love, sour betrayal and cold-hearted but sweet revenge shows us one of the best examples of a strong female characterization in a dramatic play. Catherine is indeed a very enjoyable character whose personal growth is nothing but fascinating to witness.

Even though the play does have some very nice lines to feed one's mind and the acting is as superb as always, there was something missing in the piece to make it stand out. Too sweet and perfect to challenge the audience.

On a slightly more positive note, Jonathan Fenson’s stunning stage and dress designs made it an absolute pleasure for the eye to watch the play. I really enjoyed the captivating depth of the stage and how well it symbolically represented the story.

Directed by David Grindley, The Heiress runs in Dublin’s Gate Theatre until January 21st. Only a few chances left to catch it. For more info or to book tickets: http://www.gatetheatre.ie/production/TheHeiress2016

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Filed under Henry James, Ruth and Augustus Goetz, The Gate Theatre, The Heiress, Uncategorized, Washington Square

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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Filed under Bewley's Café Theatre, Oscar Wilde, show in a bag, Tiger Dublin Fringe 2016, To Hell in a Handbag, Uncategorized

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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Filed under Bewley's Cafe Theatre, kate gilmore, Th Wickedness of Oz, Tiger Dublin Fringe 2016, Uncategorized

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