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Smock Alley Theatre: Bronte


Illustrated Productions present a bitter tale of feminism, family and fame.

A story within a story, Bronte brings us through the lives of five members of The Bronte family. Growing up near a moor in Yorkshire, the three famous sisters start their story by explaining why their tales have always been inhabited by so many orphans. Though there was a father (played by Ruairí Lenaghan), the mother Bronte has departed from this world way too early; the same cruel fate has not passed by the elder two sisters. But Charlotte (played by Louise O’Meara), Emily (played by Katie McCann) and Anne (played by Ashleigh Dorrell) together with their only brother Branwell (played by Desmond Eastwood) lived long enough to give this world such truly outstanding stories as Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights.

Illustrated Productions has created an atmospherical story that brings you back to the nineteenth century England in a blink of an eye. The beautifully structured two hour piece mainly centers on the lives of the three sisters but doesn’t leave out the not-so-famous brother, either. In a very subtle way the play shows us what and, mainly, who inspired the Brontes to write their masterpieces. Here is the overprotective father, the abusive brother, the virgin, the mad wife, the lover… the list goes on and on. The barrier between the real world and the Bronte’s one at times gets so thin that you forget who is a fictional character and who is the real one. The company has used a visually powerful device: when one of the sisters is writing a new passage of her story, another member of the family re-enacts it on stage.

The brilliant casting decisions are more than evident from the very beginning. All five protagonists come across as real truthful human beings. The diversity and particularity of character of the Bronte sisters that McCann, O’Meara and Dorrell so masterfully portray is striking and quite appealing to watch. The way the characters build up the story and develop the relationships between each other is incredibly strong.

Bronte grabs your attention and doesn’t let it go until the very end. The set (designed by Sinead Purcell), the lighting (designed by Brian Nulty), everything is there to transport you to anything but charming Victorian England and show how three poor unknown spinsters became some of the finest female writers of their century and beyond.

Bronte, written by Polly Teale and directed by Clare Maguire, has enjoyed a sold out run in Smock Alley Theatre. For those who didn’t get lucky, there is still a chance to catch this absolutely magnificent production when it transfers to the dlr Mill Theatre, Dundrum next week. From 16th to 18th March. For more info or to book tickets: http://www.milltheatre.ie/events/bronte/

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Filed under Bronte, Illustrated Productions, Smock Alley Theatre, Uncategorized

Smock Alley Theatre: Animalia


Tiger Dublin Fringe 2016 is in its prime with the first week shows in full swing. With the three shows under my belt, this review will be about Ian Toner’s new play Animalia.

Developed at Fringe Lab with the support of Tiger Dublin Fringe and Theatre Lovett, this fifty min piece follows the story of two girls who could’ve been best friends: Danielle (played by Louise O’Meara) and Sarah (played by Ashleigh Dorrell) – two eleven year olds, who are going through fifth grade crisis of identity, popularity, friendship and first love and loss. What could be more existential than two children being faced with every day – every life issues known to anyone who has ever been a child.

So, why go and see this play out of all others on offer during the fringe? The answer might be somewhat more obvious that many would expect. Because we’ve all been eleven years old, we’ve all experienced what Sarah and Danielle (and Brigid and other girls and boys in the play) are going through. And now, when we are in our twenties and thirties or further down the road, now we can finally look back and not only smile at our young selves, now we can see how smart we were and how big some of those issues were and how wise we managed them despite our age and inexperience. Animalistic instinct – first rule of survival.

To bring this onto a different level, one of the main characters – Sarah – is given a trivial, at first look, but crucial to the story hobby: she loves reading about animals and natural life. So, the characters are not only being compared to the inhabitants of the somewhat wilder nature, but their actions, decisions and personalities are all animalistic to the very core. Simply because inside of each one of us there is an animal.  That helps to understand the play on a more instinct-driven level. We’ve all had a friend who was as hissy as a snake, as cute and adorable as a panda or as timid as mouse. When we talk about animals, we don’t consider only the outside but rather the inside, the very nature of a being.

Animalia, with its absolutely superb acting, is the perfect example of how tragedy is shown through comedy. Both O’Meara and Dorrell portray a whole range of characters (varying quite masterly both gender and age). Even though it does take some time to get used to the idea that one actor can be playing two different characters in the same scene, once you’ve got your head around it, the characters come across quite vividly and crystal clear.

With a quite minimalistic set (by Katie Foley), Animalia is one hundred percent acting driven. But then, who needs layers and layers of decor and elaborated design (as fancy as it might sometimes be), when the almost magical space that The Boys’ School is can be filled with wonderful voices, movements and real human emotions.

If you are on a lookout for a time travel machine into the past (with the benefit of not having to travel too far), then I couldn’t recommend anything more than Animalia, written by the talented Ian Toner and directed by the wonderful Sarah Finlay. Runs in the Smock Alley Theatre until September 18th. For more info or to book tickets: http://www.fringefest.com/festival/whats-on/animalia 

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Filed under Animalia, FringeFest 2016, Smock Alley Theatre, Tiger Dublin Fringe 2016, Uncategorized

Smock Alley Theatre: Tender Napalm


Pain is real when you get other people to believe in it. If no one believes in it but you, your pain is madness or hysteria.
– Naomi Watts

It’s only natural that children see their parents go; but when parents have to witness their children die, this is not right. It brings pain, an incomparable state of sadness and despair that no parent will be able to recover from. In order to survive your mind decides to wander off into the wilderness.. or a deserted island.

Have you seen the view?

It’s beautiful out there. The sea. The sand. The sky. You can be the king of the world. Or the queen. And all the monkeys that inhabit the island will follow you; they will bring you food, too: mango and passion fruit.

He (played by Stephen Tadgh) and She (played by Asleigh Dorrell) now live on the island. Actually, they are the island. Having the reality hitting them like a tsunami, it wrecked the ship of their lives and stranded them on this deserted island. The modern, but far from sinless, Adam and Eve are stuck in a place where the border between what’s real and what’s not so much is anything but transparent. Monkey wars, giant sea serpent and even a castle made out of bones and resembling Taj Mahal is all part of it. But what brought this man and this woman here? What made the two of them embark this reckless and barely stable on the waves “ship” in the first place?

Tender Napalm, written by Philip Ridley and directed by Sarah Finlay, is a beautifully structured piece. The far from conventional way of the narrative makes the whole story captivating from the beginning till the very end; the audience never knows where another piece of puzzle will be dropped. And only towards the very end you see the whole picture and even the maddest bits finally start making sense. This story makes you wonder, it makes your imagination run wild and believe in the craziest of the scenarios. The solid story that Tender Napalm is, it has it all: it’s funny, it’s touching, it’s captivating, it even has elements of stage fighting…

Enhanced by the atmospheric lighting (by Cillian McNamara) and sound (by Enda Roche) effects, in addition to the already magical space the Smock Alley’s Boy school is, Tender Napalm is a strong visual piece. But I am happy to report that the small cast of two big stars outshines it all. Dorrell and Tadgh are simply superb as Man and Woman. They make the ninety minute play fly by. Their stage skill and ability to tell stories makes it very difficult to lose attention even for a split second. Their different approach to bringing alive their characters is what makes this play so beautifully outstanding.

Tender Napalm runs in The Boys’ School at the Smock Alley Theatre until July 9th. Do not miss this gentle piece of heart-breaking theatre. For more info or to book tickets: http://smockalley.com/tender-napalm/

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Filed under Good Buzz Productions, Smock Alley Theatre, Tender Napalm, The Cup Theatre Company, Uncategorized

Smock Alley Theatre: The Wise Wound

And now for something completely different.


If you are tired of all the 1916 hassle and just want an easy, enjoyable and entertaining night out, then I have something just perfect for you! Smock Alley Theatre and Teri Fitzgerald present something very special and unique: The Wise Wound, a farcical comedy about four upper class 19 century sisters, whose father has left them to fight in the American war.

The beautiful, young and blushing Meg (played by Ashleigh Dorrell) is about to be married to John Brooke (played by Shane O’Regan), a young local politician and a son of her father’s good friend. Meg is head over heels about the idea of becoming a wife, but her sisters can’t bare the thought of having to part with their dear Meg. They all cope in their own ways: Beth (played by Megan O’Flynn), who doesn’t only have TB but also is wheelchair-bound, is trying to play on Meg’s heartstrings by purposely coughing blood and looking pale; Jo (played by Clodagh Mooney Duggan), a typical 19 century suffragette, groundbreaking (well, almost) playwright and women rights activist, simply thinks that no woman shall be subjected to a man, so she, with the help of her younger sister Amy (played by Teri Fitzgerald), who is already showing some quite vicious and violent tendencies, decide to work out a whole plan on how to stop Meg and John from getting married. The two girls might just be getting carried away a little bit. Just a little bit.

It is supposed to be Meg’s happiest day, but will it?

This 90 min piece has a very talented and inspiring cast of 14 actors! And not a single role is wasted. No matter how big or small the part is, every character was beautifully fleshed out by the great writing and the skillful acting. Special kudos to Jo’s group of suffragettes who with equal passion (of course, because equality is everything!) discuss men-hating, cake-baking, poetry-writing and how much they would not want to go to the war.

Teri Fitzgerald, who both wrote and performed in this piece, once again has shown the ability to create a whole new world of ridiculously beautiful and tremendously funny characters.

I thought it would be difficult to repeat the success of A Lesson in When to Quit, bit I was mistaken. Quite similar in structure, both plays are quite unique on their own. You can’t really compare The Wise Wound to anything else showing at the moment in Dublin, and that shows the diversity of Irish theatre and gives the audience the possibility to choose.

The Wise Wound, directed by Philip Doherty, has it all: comedy, drama, sing-a-long, and even a miracle. And who doesn’t need a miracle?  And sometimes, it’s just good to know that all’s well that ends well. 

With very simple set, lighting and sound design, but quite interesting costumes and one very questionable costume-prop, this play  one hundred percent relies on acting and story-telling (or story-singing at times). So, if you are feeling blue and in a need of a good dosage of happiness and laughter, then this play is exactly for you. For more info or to book tickets: http://smockalley.com/wise-wound/

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Filed under Smock Alley Theatre, teri fitzgerald, The Cup Theatre Company, The Wise Wound

Theatre Upstairs: A Lesson in When To Quit.

The Cup Theatre Company presents A Lesson In When To Quit.

A Lesson In When To Quit is a musical comedy about Ruby (played by Teri FitzGerald), a girl who too early became too famous. Ruby was a typical one movie star-kid, who disappeared as quickly as she appeared. After the film she went on to do commercials, very bad commercials… now Ruby is 40, she works in a diner and dreams of a comeback. She even still has an agent – Dick Headski from Headski and Sons (played by Keith James Walker) . But rejection after rejection after rejection… What Ruby would have done if it wasn’t for her younger sister Sandy (played by Ashleigh Dorrell), who blindly (both literally and metaphorically) believes in Ruby and Ruby’s talent. But let me tell you more about Sandy! Being the younger sister  Sandy has always been a bit overlooked. She has always been the talented one, which had, unfortunately, been overshadowed by Ruby’s earlier fame. And everything would have been way too grim, if it wasn’t for Archie (played by Kieran Roche), he is the other of Headski’s sons and madly in love with Ruby.

A Lesson in When To Quit (written by Teri FitzGerald herself and directed by Philip Doherty) simply WOWs you. Th story is as old as life. Who hasn’t heard of a girl who did one film  when she was 5 that made her unbelievably famous and then, suddenly, disappeared from the public eye? It’s the way this play is presented that is so original and smart that you can’t help but fall immediately in love with the writing and and the amazing acting. So many completely different characters, so elaborated and so precise!

Being set in New York City, A Lesson in When To Quit has carried the best from American traditions of film and TV. I was truly amazed by how elaborated all the smallest details were. And it never, not for a second, ceased to amuse me with its plot “twists” and director’s decisions. You have to see it yourself to understand, I am afraid. It’s so good that no words can explain. Definitely one of the most entertaining and brilliantly done productions I have seen… ever.

As for the set… well, standing ovation to anyone who could manage to fit a bit of Manhattan into Theatre Upstairs stage! I absolutely admired the idea of how Headski’s office became Ruby’s/Sandy’s bedroom. I think it must have been a pain to build it but it was totally worth it. It really made you feel like you were in America and not in the middle of Dublin.

And absolutely the same goes to the light/sound crew. I can’t help but mention the moment when Dick Headski talks on the phone and we hear the person he is speaking to. The thing is that we don’t hear actual words, we hear mumbling. A method that was used in the old American comedies, if I am not mistaken! Whoever came up with that idea for the play, was simply a genius. Or the moment when Ruby receives her one and only Oscar and then we see her life as it starts degrading from bad to worse as the camera flashes. All those little moments they just add up together and that is exactly what makes this play such a masterpiece.

Curtain. Standing Ovation.

A Lesson in When To Quit closes tonight in Theatre Upstairs. For more info, as always… http://www.theatreupstairs.ie/a-lesson-in-when-to-quit

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Filed under A Lesson in When to Quit, The Cup Theatre Company, Theatre Upstairs