Tag Archives: dlr Mill Theatre

Smock Alley Theatre: Bronte

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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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dlr Mill Theatre: Hamlet

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“Madness in great ones must not unwatched go.”

Hamlet, W. Shakespeare

How many Hamlets per year is too many? One of Shakespeare’s classics has returned to Dublin. And those of you, who can’t find a way to escape the Festival madness, maybe should take the green line bound to Dundrum’s Mill Theatre.

It’s no secret that Shakespeare’s Hamlet has been staged an unimaginable amount of times. So when one goes to a play that one would have seen many times before, it’s not the big picture it’s the smallest details that make all the difference and allow one production to differ and stand out. Directed by Geoff O’Keeffe, this somewhat more traditional version of Hamlet is an almost three hour piece filled with action, reaction and emotion that won’t leave a single audience member indifferent.

The story of a murdered king (played by Neil Fleming) and his longing for vengeance son Hamlet (played by Shane O’Regan) unravels in one of the most beautiful decorations I’ve seen (designed by Gerard Bourke). It’s not even the set itself but the way it transforms from scene to scene that fascinates the wildest of imaginations: what starts as a castle ends up as a graveyard.

The creation of The Ghost of Hamlet’s father is always something to look forward to. The idea of casting the same character to play both parts, The Ghost and his villain brother Claudius, is quite fresh and ingenious. Projecting a picture of the character on different sides of the set was a very strong visual choice. It also created a proper otherworldly  atmosphere. The moments of communication between father and son were breathtaking and quite chilling.

A very important part in a play like Hamlet is, no doubt, the game of light and shadow. The characters in the play always balance on the thin line between this and the other world. Kris Mooney’s design is flawless in general and especially when it comes to detail. The scene at the graveyard was impossible to take eyes off.

The mention of the costume designs (by Sinead Roberts) shouldn’t go astray either. It’s satisfying to see that many directors and designers choose to use more modern costumes for their Shakespearean productions nowadays. But a light touch of a somewhat more traditional design has never hurt anyone. This time, I loved the dark colours and the presence of the red in some characters’ attires. Ophelia’s (played by Clara Harte) dress, for example, said so much about her personality and the way it changed, it was eye-opening. It’s fascinating how much the colour balance (or disbalance for that matter) can enhance the perception.

All the above details, as you might have guessed already, create a very powerful visual piece. Now let’s get down to the acting side of it. O’Keeffe collected an undoubtedly strong cast of 12 actors, some playing more than one part. O’Regan’s Hamlet is an amazingly embodied and physical character. His voice, his movement, his engagement with fellow scene partners are pure joy to watch. One of the best things about watching a good production is that you never know whether it was the director or the actor him/herself who came with an interesting decision for a scene. At the end, it doesn’t matter, of course. It’s always a privilege to see the birth of a well-known character but as a different, new human being.

Another actor who unquestionably stood out for me was Brian Molloy, who played the roles of Player Queen (this one is always a winner), Messenger and Gravedigger. Astonishing but true, pardon for the cliché but there is no such thing as a small character. And Molloy is amazing at each and every part that he has portrayed in this play. Believe me, the piece is worth seeing just to watch him play the Gravedigger.

Hamlet at dlr Mill Theatre has shows available three times a day (see the link for more info), so no excuse to miss it! To book the tickets: http://www.milltheatre.ie/events/hamlet/

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Filed under dlr Mill Theatre, Geoff O'Keeffe, Hamlet