Tag Archives: Bewley’s Café Theatre

Bewley’s Café Theatre: Jericho

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Here’s some substantial and even, perhaps, existential thought for your lunch break: how did we end up in this giant puddle of poo-poo? I mean: us. Yes. Us. And the world. The little blue dot we all happily inhabit.

What do you do when you’ve been asked to make a play about the world? Our world. Where do you start? Where do you start?… The uneasy task was taken upon by one of Dublin’s most progressive and forth-looking theatre companies: Malaprop. The answer they came up with might not be the most obvious one but it sure is a very interesting approach to something so deep and important. Malaprop bravely decided to wrestle the discomforting subject. Both literally and metaphorically. And the result is Jericho.

After a couple of not-quite-so-satisfying attempts, Maeve O’Mahony finally emerges on stage the way she has always imagined it: with the triumphant music playing on the background and hundreds of fans cheering for her victory. But the question remains: what did she win? In the comfortable cosy life of hers, O’Mahony’s character is a young journalism graduate who works for one of those so popular nowadays newspapers that generates traffic on clicks. Our nameless heroine tells us she has to write a new story every 45 minutes and hope that it will be read (or at least clicked on) by as many people as possible. In an office meeting it was proposed to feature an article on Wrestlemania (the one where the current president of one of the most powerful countries on earth bodyshames another billionaire and entertainer by publicly shaving his head) and though she doesn’t know a thing about wrestling and thinks that maybe, perhaps, we should focus on something more important like feminism and women’s rights right now, yet she doesn’t say a thing and just smiles and nods.

Interestingly enough Jericho itself lasts for approximately 45 min. Just long enough for us to focus on one thing before our attention will inevitably be diverted by something completely different and undoubtedly much less important though hugely entertaining, like a video of a cute cat or a baby.

Jericho (“The city. Not the wrestler”… I think) is loaded with visual and audio materials. The smartly designed stage (by Molly O’Cathain) quickly transforms from our heroine’s office into her rented apartment, into a wrestling arena, etc. This production is a nice example of an interactive play where the audience can feel like they are being part of the created on-stage world. O’Mahony speaks with you rather than at you. The amount of flashing and sounding effects (by John Gunning) is overwhelming at times but it does the trick and produces the feeling of being so overpowered by the media that we can’t hear our own thoughts anymore.

O’Mahony does an absolutely fantastic job portraying her typical 21st century girl with a degree and a wish to make the world a better place. But, you know, life just gets onto the way sometimes. I mean: all the time. It happens to all of us and that’s why we, just like her, don’t say anything, don’t do anything and just carry on. Click. Click. Another page. Another story.

Jericho, devised  by Malaprop Theatre Co and directed by Claire O’Reilly, runs in the Bewley’s Café Theatre until March 4th. Food for thought indeed it is. For more info or to book tickets: http://www.bewleyscafetheatre.com/events/jericho

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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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Bewley’s Café Theatre: The Auld Fella (Tiger Dublin Fringe’15)

Only three days left until we wave Tiger Dublin Fringe goodbye until the next year, which, hopefully, will bring us another two weeks of crazy, highly enjoyable and ever so fringy shows.

Yesterday I caught the last performance of one of four Shows in a BagThe Auld Fella, written by Michael Glen Murphy and directed by Karl Quinn.

This extraordinary play starts in 1961, just a year before Dublin’s Theatre Royale closed. The father (played by Michael Glen Murphy) is a pro there: every evening he dresses up as a woman to go onto the stage and perform his act as part of a vaudeville show. Liffey, his lit’l irreplaceable helper, is always there to accompany the auld fella. Fame, recognition, joy, public’s love… The stage is the auld fella’s home. It’s the place where he has a voice. A voice that people listen to. Unlike in real life, where he can barely say a sentence without stammering.

A man of fierce courage (and I believe you can say so about somebody who was a drag queen in the catholic Ireland of the 60s!), the father is being very hard on his teenage son (played by Craig Connolly). And as it often happens, the son makes decisions that his father isn’t very happy about and doesn’t approve off. It drives the son away… far, far, away to the other side of the Atlantic in search of a new life.

Years after, he decides to come back to Ireland. And in Ireland, the old Theatre Royal was alive and running only in the memories of the people who once had the opportunity to walk its stage. The Auld Fella is also still alive and doing his act. Blue eye lids and red lipstick have never got old. Except that now, he has to settle for the lesser places in Scotland and Ireland, but it does´t stop the auld fella from doing the only thing he knows how to do.

The Auld Fella is a play that evokes a whole kaleidoscope of emotions. It has moments when the show almost converts into a farce: an old man standing on stage in a woman’s lingerie and screaming “I’m your father, you know”. Those bits can become so contradictive that you don’t know whether to laugh to to cry… It’s such a strange feeling to see a powerful man in such a vulnerable situation.

Michael Glen Murphy, being the diva the auld fella is, absolutely steals the show. And even though it’s a double act, the attention naturally draws to Murphy. From the moment he walks onto the stage until the moment he exits. The graciousness, the craft, the absurdity of the situation: everything is done with such precision and skill, that the play does leave you with a wow.

I always like to repeat that beautiful is the theatre where there are people on stage and not actors. And The Auld Fella is one of those shows, where you really do feel for the main character. The way he is literally deteriorating on stage… and it really is painful to see a man becoming a shadow of himself. Shaking, crying, screaming, he loses the touch with the reality. As if he ever had it. What our life is, but a play. A vaudeville show where one act is quickly overtaken by another.

The simple design of the set, the invisible Liffey (the character is portrayed by an old tweed jacket and voiced by the two actors), and the theatre intercom that you hear from time to time, adds to the whole atmosphere and creates the world far beyond the stage.

It’s a very nostalgic piece about something that was once there but now is gone and forgotten. It´s a bottle between the young and the old. Even the auld fella’s memory decides to stay in the past

The Auld Fella has already closed, but fingers crossed it might show again. It’s a very touching and rough, at the same time, production about the relationship between a son and his very unusual auld fella. For more info, please, visit: http://fringefest.com/festival/whats-on/the-auld-fella

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