Tag Archives: creative writing

Theatre Upstairs: The words are there


If a picture tells a thousand words, then what about a movement, a gesture, a pose, a step? How much of a story can be told by the way we move, turn, look or keep completely still and silent?…

Silence… Ronan Dempsey’s new piece is anything but silent. As a matter of fact, it’s screaming louder than any amount of words. A story about a man, whose whole life is as turned and broken inside as it is outside: a table balancing on three legs, a puddle of spilled wine so similar to a quickly growing pool of blood, a festive sign “Welcome Home” written to someone special, who was never meant to see it in the first place.

The Words Are There is the kind of tragedy that usually happens behind the closed doors. It’s not talked about. But it doesn’t make the screams of the abused one being any less louder. It’s just not everyone wants to hear them. The walls people build conceal everything.

He – The Man (played by Ronan Dempsey) is a person who has seen abuse from an early age. When he meets her – The Woman (voiced by Jessica Leen) – a little hope of a possible happiness is being born in his heart. They will live in Bettystown, by the sea. And everything is going to be fine because he has her and she has him. But not unlike him, she has demons of her own who are tearing her broken soul apart.

In his fifty minute piece and one single, almost spilled out, line, Ronan Dempsey presents a story deeper than those books worth a thousand pages. When actions speak louder than any words, the tale tells itself.

The Words Are There balances on the border between reality and fantasy created by The Man. Trained in physical theatre and mime by the very masters of their art, Dempsey builds a whole world on stage; only a true genius can make a mop not only come alive but also represent something beautiful and lovable.

A performance that speaks for itself. The Words Are There is an unforgettable piece of theatre that won’t leave anyone unmoved. The play is written and directed by Ronan Dempsey and presented by The Nth Degree Productions in collaboration with Theatre Upstairs, where it runs till May 20th. Fore more info or to book tickets: http://www.theatreupstairs.ie/thewordsarethere 

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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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Bewley’s Café Theatre: Jericho


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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Theatre Upstairs: Murder of Crows


“The only way to get what you want is to make them more afraid of you than they are of each other.”

– The Crimson Crow

Christmas could be very different. And sure it’s unlike anything else in Theatre Upstairs, where unravels a dark tale of friendship, foulness and fighting for the ones you love.

Bitter Like a Lemon in association with Theatre Upstairs presents its latest play Murder of Crows, a story about a school trip to hell. The three best friends Sam (played by Katie Honan), Dee (played by Amilia Stewart) and Jess (played by Aisling O’Mara) aren’t even meant to go in the first place but end up on the bus to the Garden of Ireland anyway. Just before the trip begins the girlfriends hear a prophecy that warns them of the black crows and begs them not to go anywhere near them. Not taking it too seriously, the girls set off on a journey that is going to change their lives forever. In Wicklow, they are scheduled to do some obligatory scholar activities that nobody is particularly excited about but the real fun starts after. The girls of St Brigit’s are being joined by students – mainly boys – from other schools. They start drinking, intermingling and do things that teenagers normally do. But the fateful hour has already been set. And maybe some people should be more careful with what they say and do, maybe they shouldn’t bully and make fun of others – weaker – ones… Maybe deep inside each one of us lives a little devil that is only waiting to be set free. The consequences of which sometimes can be harmful, even mortal or soul destroying.

Lee Coffey’s Murder of Crows is a heartbreaking piece with an unbelievable twist at the end. It’s almost impossible to digest how much raw meaty parts there is in this slightly under one hour play. Under the superb direction of Karl Shiels, the gradation of the piece is perfectly timed: it starts off nicely and slowly with no preparation of what is yet to come. You think it might be just one of those hight school plays where students talk about their problems. But you couldn’t be further from being wrong. Lee Coffey wouldn’t be Lee Coffey if he hadn’t written a play that actually aims to touch on some of the most tabooed and controversial subjects that teenagers encounter in everyday life but are afraid to talk about.

The script is being strongly supported by the outstanding cast of three actresses, who absolute nail their parts. The characterization and physicality is incredibly strong and it goes to both the main parts that the girls are playing and the secondary characters. I don’t think I’ll be wrong if I say that the way Aisling O’Mara delivered the prophecy sent chills to everyone in the audience. An absolutely out-of-this-world experience that petrified and mesmerized at the same time.

In a play like Murder of Crows, visual aspects can be very important and influential. The two things that caught my eye straight away were, of course, the set (by Naomi Faughnan) and the lighting (by Laura Honan) designs. Quite simple but visually very strong mood setters that made the piece even more atmospheric.

So, if you are in a mood for something completely different this season, don’t be a Grinch and steal Christmas. Go to see Murder or Crows and get your dose of darkness and brutal reality! Runs in Theatre Upstairs until December 17th, for more info or to book tickets: http://www.theatreupstairs.ie/murder-of-crows

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The Peacock Theatre: The Ireland Trilogy


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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Palace Theatre: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (Part I).


Would you call it dedication to sit in front of your computer for twelve straight hours just to book tickets for a play? But what if it’s not just for any play but a ticket to your childhood, to the place where letters were delivered by owls, where the good always won over the bad and where the-true magic existed!

It’s been nine years since the last book about the-boy-who-lived was published. It’s been five years since the last film about the unbreakable trio was released. It’s been a lifetime of a desperate belief that you too are a witch or a wizard, it’s just your letter to Hogwarts got lost on its way.

That’s not dedication, that’t just admiration and fandom. But what J K Rowling, Jack Thorne and John Tiffany did in Palace Theatre in order to give those avid Harry Potter followers a little bit of magic is a true dedication to the arts, to the literature and to their audience.

J K Rowling didn’t create one single fairytale. She changed childhoods of a whole generation, who went back from TVs to reading books and believing that “happiness can be found in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light”.

When I read Harry Potter and The Cursed Child, I was somewhat disappointed. I did not like the story. I was more than skeptical to see it on stage. I simply did not believe that it would be possible to recreate that feeling of a different world that the books managed to beget. But, as a true fan, I waited those long twelve hours on the day of the ticket release. At twenty five I still desperately needed that kind of magic in my life. And when you finally hold that sacred golden ticket (almost like in Willy Wonka) for the play and queue outside of the Palace Theatre under a huge nest in order to to get in, you realise that you are not alone. Those emotions are shared by hundreds of likeminded people around you. People of all ages, nationalities and backgrounds are there.

I don’t know how to write a review on a play when the whole point is not to give anything away. I have promised to #KeepTheSecrets and I am going to keep this promise. After seeing the play you understand why the production team does not want any details to leak out. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is an incredible experience. It’s more than a play, it’s a theatrical masterpiece. Everything, every single detail to the tiniest ones, is so thoroughly thought through that, at times, you will start questioning your ability to percept the action on stage. Am I really seeing what I am seeing?

The choreography of the piece is a pure paradise for eyes: from simple background activity to change of scenes. Steven Hoggett created such a visually rewarding piece that from an esthetic point of view it’s a movement paragon.

Only a few minutes into the play I realised why I didn’t like the book. It was never meant to be read (not as other Harry Potter books anyway), it’s meant to be seen. John Tiffany, who co-wrote the play and also directed it, knew very well what he was doing. He was creating a theatre piece that would be seen acted out.

And now I shall talk about a different kind of magic on stage. The amazing ensemble of over twenty five performers did all the justice to their corresponded parts. Take into account that it’s a two parter with each part lasting approximately two hours and a half. Also, take into account that the main characters are mainly children/teenagers. And obviously, it’s a live show. You watch the little ones almost with the same admiration as you would have watched Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint in their first Harry Potter films.

As for the parenting generation (it is very unusual to see them being grown up!), it’s just breathtakingly scary in a very good way how well some of the actors captured the essence of their characters. A huge amount of pressure is put on them not to deviate too much from the original story that the characters become completely unrecognisable (we did love them all this years for a reason, right?) or cut outs of the already created ones by somebody else but, at the same time, keep it fresh and… more matured, maybe. After all, it’s been 19 years.

It feels a bit unfair to single somebody out but I absolutely loved Noma Dumezweni as Hermione Granger and Alex Price as Draco Malfoy. Their portrayal of the famous Miss Know-It-All and the grown up Bouncing Ferret played an emotional chord with me when one could truly see the life being breathed back into the beloved characters.

Another important moment that I want to touch on is the stage (by Christine Jones), lighting (by Neil Austin) and sound (by Gareth Fry) designs. Thanks to this incredibly talented bunch, together with the illusionist Jamie Harrison, Harry Potter and The Cursed Child created a magical world on stage. Unfortunately, I can’t give a more precise example but the lost in admiration sighs coming from the audience all throughout the play were the best proof that sometimes even impossible is possible if somebody puts his/her mind to it… with a little but of good old theatre magic, of course.

The first part ends on such a cliffhanger that it’s impossible not to want to see the second part! So, I guess it’s time for another weeks and weeks of fishing on the HarryPotterThePlay website. Tickets do become available there from time to time but you always have to keep your eye on it. And for those of you who haven’t been lucky yet, remember that magic does exist and it’s very real. It just couldn’t be any other way!

For more info: https://www.harrypottertheplay.com/

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LWI Blog Awards 2016

Absolutely delighted to be on the shortlist for LWI BLOG AWARDS 2016. A huge thank you to all my readers, every single one of you made it possible. One more step to go!

Now I need your help! If you read this blog and enjoy it, please, vote for Unforgettable Lines! The vote will start on August 17th!



More reviews and interviews will soon be coming this way! Let’s spread the joy of World Theatre together!



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Interview with Siobhán Donnellan (Going Spare)

“Hopeful. Authentic. Moving”

I met Siobhán Donnellan, the writer and performer of Going Spare, to talk about her passion for writing and acting, and the success of her latests play. Going Spare is running at Theatre Upstairs until October 24th, tickets can be booked here.

Siobhán tells me that as long as she can remember herself, she always wanted to act. Amongst the people who hugely inspired her, she names Mikel Murfi and Pan Kinevane. After finishing school, Siobhán decided to study Film and Television. But after six years working in the industry, she realised that the acting bug was still there well planted inside her. So she decided to do a Master’s Degree in Drama and Theatre in NUI Galway.

That year in Galway ended up in Siobhán with two other companions from the same course starting a theatre company – Dragonfly Theatre Company. As the result of this collaboration, a new Irish play immerged “Married to the sea”, in which Siobhán took upon her first lead role. The play proved to be a real success and the company toured with it to Dublin, Edinburgh and New York Fringe Festivals.

Such success also gave Siobhán that extra bit of confidence and determination to do what what she really felt passionate about. More to herself than to anyone else, she proved that she could do it.

In between acting jobs, Siobhán also found the beauty and pleasure in writing. Playwrighting gave her the liberty to be able to write the kind of roles that she could play herself rather than just sit at home and wait for the phone to ring. She started with short one act plays. That’s when the years of experience in production came in handy, as well.

A few years ago, Siobhnán was watching Medea Redux in a theatre in Galway and absolutely loved the way it was directed. The unusual authentic approach to the play and the bold strong choices the director made, made Siobhán realise that this was the kind of a directing she would want for her own plays. The director’s name was Aoife Connolly.

Siobhán was happy to realise that apart from being a very talented director, Aoife was also a person enjoyable and easy to work with. Bit by bit, the creative team for Going Spare started to build up.

Out of interest in the debate itself of whether there is or there is not such a thing as psychics, Going Spare was born. Siobhán reveals to me that she has always been intrigued by the possibility that there is an afterlife. And it doesn’t really matter whether the after-life exists or not, as long as people might be able to find a certain consolidation in it and it will bring them peace.

“It’s small things in life you need to grab on to stay alright”, Siobhán says.

Siobhán also liked playing with the idea that everybody has to face death. “Especially when you are a child and you have to sit down and have this conversation with somebody that we are not immortal; we all are going to die at some point”, she says. But, as children, we normally associate death with old people. In Maisie’s case it was different. She saw somebody of her own age die tragically.

Siobhán also tells me that she has her own approach to writing. She would write paragraphs and little scenes and, only at the end, they will all connect to each other in one or another way. “It’s like a jigsaw”, she says, where you have to find the right space for every single piece.

Going Spare evidently has a very unusual and challenging structure. The plays is set in the present with a couple of scenes that bring us back to Maisie’s past. Apparantly, these flashbacks weren’t in the play from the very beginning. And it was quite difficult for Siobhán herself to figure out how to compose the narrative so it’ll help the structure of the story instead of completely confusing it.

Siobhán also adds that the structure of Going Spare is a bit like human memory. We do tend to remember bits and pieces of what had happened. Each memory is highlighted by an emotion.

Aisling Quinn was the third woman who came on board of Going Spare. She composed all the music used in the production by herself. According to Shiobhán, “Aisling is the kind of person for whom less is more; she is about subtleness”, which works brilliantly for the play.

Sharon Bagnall, who is responsible for lighting and Katie Devonport, who designed the set, closed up the circle of 5 women making Going Spare the play we all can deeply enjoy.

Not being a very visual person herself, Siobhán was glad indeed when Katie came up with the simple but smart idea of the set design. The feather cloud floating above the stage (which, honestly, was the first thing that caught my attention as I walked into the auditorium) beautifully represented the eagle and Declan. In addition to the symbolism, it was a great help for Sharon, when it came to lighting. The material the cloud was made of could easily let the light shine through. Siobhán also revealed to me that for her, personally, the cloud is almost personified. Having it there always makes her feel that she is not alone.

I couldn’t help asking Siobhán if the fact that the production was brought by a team of five women was done on purpose. Interestingly enough, it was accidental. They had either worked with each other before on different productions or were recommended by somebody else. And “it couldn’t have worked out better”, says Siobhán with a smile. And I couldn’t agree more.

I ask Siobhán about the energy she brought in Maisie and what helped her develop such an interesting character. And her answer absolutely opens my eyes on a fascinating approach to acting she has: Siobhán works against the text. If the text is sad or angry she would try to read it with a completely different emotion and see what will it do to it. There is always more than one way of saying things. And, in real life, that’s often what gives away our true feelings. And I understand that that’s exactly what made Maisie such an amazing colourful character.

For somebody who had never done a one woman show before, Siobhán says that indeed it was very challenging for her to play all the characters. Not necessarily in a professional way, but also because being in a room with other actors can be very rewarding. You can feed from their energy; you can compensate for each other. Siobhán also didn’t want to fall into the trap of stereotyping her characters, that’s where the research and directing helped enormously.

As for the most enjoyable thing about the play, it was seeing the show finally coming together. Siobhán says that she had a sense of achievement. The audience’s reaction was quite rewarding, as well.

Going Spare is, certainly, a deeply moving, full of hope play. Siobhán says that to her Maisie is very real. She exists and she is still somewhere out there walking under the sky where an eagle flies, and he watches over Maisie in his own little way.

Don’t go spare, go and see Going Spare in Theatre Upstairs! For there is a Maisie living in all of us.

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Collins Barracks: Pals – The Irish at Gallipoli

Back by popular demand: Pals – Irish at Gallipoli has returned to Collins Barracks. I missed it the first time, so I made  sure to be in the frontline to secure my ticket for the second time around.

Pals play by Anu Productions is nothing like any other play you might have seen before. Based on real events, this piece of theatre is so unconventional mainly because it’s site-specific. A term not everyone might be familiar with, especially if you haven’t seen a production like Pals before. Site-specific means that the play takes place where the event the story based on actually happened. In this case it is Collins Barracks (currently it’s the home to The National Museum of Ireland).

The name might be a tiny giveaway. The play is about four pals – best friends – rugby players, who signed up to take part in the first world war. They move into the barracks to prepare before they get a placement abroad. Where? Nobody knows, but the excitement is only the bigger from the fact. Some of these boys have never been outside of Ireland, let alone fought in a war. They signed up as a team, all together, under one condition: wherever they go, they go together.

This very well-to-do middle or even upper class boys are not aware yet what a real war means. Young, healthy, full of energy, enthusiasm and life, just like many other of their contemporaries, they tend to romanticize war; for them it’s just another adventure. The pals are looking forward to be waved off by their sweethearts, when, dressed in a khaki uniform and carrying a gun, they will march off to the front. While still in their dorms, they sing, dance, play… it hasn’t hit them yet; not all of them, anyway. Trembling with simple human fear, some of the pals do realise that once there – on the frontline – there will be no way back. These boys, many of whom are still in their teens, go mental, they have nightmares, they even try to take their own life… anything’s better than the unknown. Complete and utter fear takes over and there is no one to help. It’s better to be dead than a coward.

In this play the set is as much a part of the play, as the actors are. Pals starts outside the main entrance on Collins Barracks, on the square. While you are being told the brief story of the pals army, right behind you the action is already taking place. The feeling is comparable to that one from a book: you are being converted into a ghost, you can travel through time and space and watch any moment in history happening as it is without being seen.

Then the audience is being brought into one of the actual dorms. You are allowed to sit on one of the beds (not one of the comfy modern one, but an old felted one) while the action, quite literally, takes place around you. The actors come and go from nowhere. One scene organically changes into another… the actors are not afraid to communicate with the audience at the same time. Do expect to be asked a question or sung to. Just play along with it.

Every pal has his own personality and a way of accepting (or not accepting) the situation. The play beautifully shows the battle of a man against himself. You will be dead either way, why have to suffer?

The sound and light do an amazing job here. The space is used quite smartly: the stretch in between doorways,from time to time, converts into a track with the deafening sound of a fast approaching train and blinding lights. The image of man going towards the light is quite haunting.

The pals finally get the final news and the destination. They are being sent to Gallipoli. Greece, sweet! – some might think. The pals cheer, help each other into their uniforms, making us promise that we will sing and whistle to wish them good luck and… march off. Just like that. No final bow. Just like a passing by ghost train. This and now is just a station, now it’s time to leave.

Catching the last glimpse of the four pals though a dirty old window on the third of the barracks, you really do feel like you’ve just travelled through the time itself.

Pals – The Irish at Gallipoli runs until September, 6th. Tickets are flying away, to avoid disappointment…


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Filed under Anu Productions, Collins Barracks, Pals - The Irish at Gallipoli