Tag Archives: dublin theatre festival

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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Filed under Both Sides Now, DGTF, DGTF 2017, Pearse Centre Theatre, The International Dublin Gay Theatre Festival 2017, Uncategorized

The Abbey Theatre: Donegal

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“All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”

– Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina

The beautiful season of golden Irish Lughnasa inevitably brings us back to county Donegal. After the successful national and international run of McGuinness’ Observe The Sons of Ulster Marching Towards The Somme, we have the pleasure to witness another work by the Donegal-born playwright. In his new play Frank McGuinness introduces us to The Days, a west country Irish family with a musical spark.

Donegal isn’t a musical, it’s “a play with songs”. Quite good and catchy ones, too. Once rich and famous, Irene Day’s (played by Siobhan McCarthy) singing career has seen better times. She barely sells any tickets, no matter how hard her husband Conor (played by Frank Laverty) and sister Joanne (played by Eleanor Methven) work to lure the audience in. Irene has the whole family working for her to regain the love of the Irish music lovers. But no family is a proper family without a black sheep in it. Jackie Day (played by Killian Donnelly), Irene’s own son, is a country singer, too. Be it the jealousy of his success or the accusations that he throws at her for being a bad mother, Irene admits that she had never listened to anything that he had ever produced. But, life is a tricky thing. Now she depends entirely on him to bring her old life back.

What we once learnt with Brian Friel, we can now solidify with Frank McGuinness. Every good Irish play has a deviated torn apart family in it. Generation after generation, they hate, bad mouth and poison each other, but no bonds are stronger than the family bonds. Relatives wash down with liquor all their little tragedies and unhappinesses just to wake up the next morning and carry on with life as it is. The only difference with Donegal is that this play also has some sparkly costumes (designed by Joan O’Clery) and nice tunes (by Kevin Doherty) that you can hum to.

One of the absolute bonuses of seeing this show is evidently the fact  they there is a live band at the very back of the stage (under a black veil). Personally, it’s always a plus when for the price of one you get to see a production and listen to some high quality music. It’s also a positive if you are into west-country songs but even if you are not, the melodies of the show create a very powerful atmosphere of a different (somewhat unknown in Dublin) Ireland.

The stunning set design (by Liam Doona) converts from something very simple outdoor-ish into The Day’s house, pub and even a performing arena. That’s when the lighting design (by Ben Ormerod) plays its memorable part. It does create a feeling of a very colourful bright experience; the light will be shining long after the play is over.

Always at its best is Frank McGuinness with the profound characterisation and pencil-sharp lines. Such characters as Magdalene Carolan (unforgettably played by Deirdre Donnelly) shall remain in the history  of fictional bad mouthes for a long time. The modern plays are getting corkier and corkier. The usage of language is changing; what once used to be a taboo or, well, fringe, is now a part of life.

An entertaining show, undoubtedly unlike any other, probably makes Donegal one of the absolute highlights of this year’s Dublin Theatre Festival. Impossible not to enjoy, that’s for sure. Runs until November 19th. For more info or to book tickets: https://www.abbeytheatre.ie/whats_on/event/donegal/

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The Peacock Theatre: The Remains of Maisie Duggan

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One door closes just for another one to fly open. 18 days of first -class theatre are in full swing with Dublin Theatre Festival.

While The Abbey stage is about to open with Frank McGuinness’s new musical Donegal, the Peacock is enjoying its second week of provincial Irish surrealism. A new play by Carmel Winters – The remains of Maisie Duggan – is probably the perfect link between the grotesque fringe and the modern theatre festivals.

As any proper Irish story, this sharp 90 min piece unravels the string of life and misfortunes of the Duggans, a family from North Cork. No family is a proper family unless there is a boiling mixture of hatred, resentment and well tucked deep down inside love for one another. The Duggans aren’t an exception. Maisie, the mother of the family (played by Bríd Ní Neachtain), has a car accident which makes her believe (or rather wish for) that she is dead. In a terrible confusion in the post office involving an Eastern European newbie Maisie’s long estranged daughter, who is now living with the Salvation Army in London, receives a message on Facebook which simply states that her mother had died and funeral arrangements would follow. Booking a three day trip to her long forgotten homeland, Kathleen (played by Rachel O’Brien) finally steps on the wet Irish soil. The mad mother, the resentful and abusive father (played by John Olohan) and the slightly autistic brother (played by Cillian Ó Gairbhí) might be exactly the reason why Kathleen left in the first place. But she too has demons of her own and unresolved issues that she chooses to run from.

I don’t think it would be an underestimation to say that The Remains of Maisie Duggan is quite a dark play. Unimaginably controversial things happen on stage in plain sight. To mention but a few perfect examples of the thin border between fringeness and social taboo: urination on a new grave and death of an animal (not a real one though, but still!).

The Remains of Maisie Duggan is, it’s safe to say, a play unlike any other. Even though not a very realistic one but it portrays the essence of life in rural Irish community, the mentality of the country folk and the secrets well hidden behind the closed doors. It shows the existence of people for whom death is a better looking option than life. The play bears no buried metaphors, it openly shocks, unnerves and staggers the wildest of imaginations.

With the atmospheric set design (by Fly Davis), the Duggans house represents the border between this and the other life. Half-burned, half-neglected, it’s a portal to the afterworld. And something’s telling us that for people like the Duggans it just might not be heaven. But anything is better than hell on earth.

The lighting design (by Sarah Jane Shiels) reminded me a lot of the one elaborated for The Gate’s current production of The Father. Unfortunately for this play, Rick Fisher’s idea worked quite nicely for the kind of the piece The Father is, while in the case of The Remains of Maisie Duggan, it mostly blinds people who are already in a deep awe from what’s happening on stage.

Otherwise, quite an interesting viewing, The Remains of Maisie Duggan, directed by Ellen McDougall, is a very brave piece of theatre that will challenge the views of some of the audience members. Runs in the Peacock Theatre until October 29th. For more info or to book a chance of peeping through the closed curtains: https://www.abbeytheatre.ie/whats_on/event/the-remains-of-maisie-duggan/

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Filed under carmel winters, Dublin Theatre Festival, The Peacock Theatre, The remains of Maisie Duggan, Uncategorized

Project Arts Center: Luck Just Kissed you Hello (Dublin Theatre Festival’15)

When one has been to the theatre as many times as I have it’s becoming quite difficult not to have some sort of expectations from certain shows, actors and theatre companies. And let me just say that Amy Conroy had a very special place in my heart.

When I found out that HotForTheatre will be presenting its new show for Dublin Theatre Festival this year, I was beyond excited. Having seen I ❤ Alice ❤ I earlier this year (which, honestly, was one of the life-changing plays for me), I was determined not to miss any plays written by the amazing Amy Conroy.

HotForTheatre and Galway International Arts festival presents Luck Just Kissed you Hello, an original play written by Amy Conroy and directed by Caitriona McLaughlin.

The never-stopping beeping background noise immediately sets the scene. We are in a hospital waiting room. Three men, or two men (played by Mark Fitzgerald and Will O’Connell) and one in transition (played by Amy Conroy), are waiting for their Big Ted to die. Mark (or, shall I say Laura?) can stop the torture and the waiting. He is the next of kin. One signature and the life support machine will stop making the irritating sound. Mark doesn’t hesitate but yet doesn’t sign. It’s not that he doesn’t want to sign the paper to prolong the life of his already brain-dead father. No, the reason is way more complicated. Signing the paper for Mark means putting his christian name on it: Laura. The name that was given to the body that he has hated ever since he could remember himself. “The skin just didn’t fit”, Mark kept repeating. And the father wasn’t exactly helping about it, either.

A mixture of hospital waiting room scenes and flash-backs of memories when Laura/Mark was still a child bring us on a journey of a life of a boy who was born as a girl.

Just like the previous works of HotFotTheatre, Luck Just Kissed you Hello beautifully combines current affairs with light humour and thought provoking real-life situations. The smart writing and skillful storytelling allows the audience to feel for the characters on stage.

Amy Conroy herself is simply brilliant. I will never stop envying (in a good sense) her incredible ability to be so natural on stage. She isn’t the first woman who plays a man, of course. But the way she does it is so unbelievably believable that you never question it twice. And, by no means, it’s in the appearance but rather in the subtle shifts of movement and voice.

I <3ed this play so much that long after I left the theatre the characters still stayed with me. Plays like Luck Just Kissed you Hello are crucial to see for all members of the modern society. Being over stuffed with taboos and traumas and topics that never should be mentioned, Luck Just Kissed You Hello can challenge the audience in a very big way. Unfortunately, not yet everyone is comfortable or acceptive of people changing genders, even in the twenty-first century. But even sadder is the fact, that such an issue isn’t even getting enough acknowledgment or recognition.

So, all the more reasons to go and see Luck Just Kissed You Hello, which runs in the Project Arts center until October, 4th. For more info or to buy tickets, please, visit: http://projectartscentre.ie/event/luck-just-kissed-hello/

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Filed under Amy Conroy, Dublin Theatre Festival'15, HotFotTheatre, Luck Just Kissed you Hello, Project Arts Center

The New Theatre: At the Ford (Dublin Theatre Festival)

The Dublin Theatre Festival 2015 has officially opened! The programme this year looks amazing, with some really interesting productions, events and talks.

I started the festival for myself with one of the festival’s definite highlights and already an almost sold out production At The Ford, a new play by Rise Productions and directed by Bryan Burroughs.

This very unusual and absolutely beautifully choreographed play tells us the story of a very traumatic Irish family. Post-Celtic Tiger, a businessman, who has gone bankrupt, swims into the Irish sea to never come back. Did he commit  suicide after not being able to pay the debts or does the family bear a much darker secret? His three children are left with a tough decision to make: try to save the business their father once started or sell it out to pay the debts.

The first part of the play is focused on two brothers (played by Ian Toner and Aonghus Óg McAnally) arguing over the business proposition. The two brothers, just like two little boys, try to find the solution quite literally with bare knuckles. Slap after slap after slap after slap. Blood on the walls, blood on the floor, blood on the cloth. Surely the blood must be completely covering their eyes, too, thus they can’t see properly that for the money a brother is going against a brother. For them, that’s the only way to communicate. This physical closeness of a fist against a fist is what actually makes them understand each other. The scene is very beautifully staged. It’s like a dance of two bodies. Even the language, from time to time converting into a poetic verse, synchronizes with the movements.

But it’s the sound that makes the scene so attractive. The sound of a bone hitting a bone, of a nose cracking or a cheek being smashed… it does give you the sensation of watching a real fight.

The second part of the play bears a striking contrast to what had been happening before. Now it’s a brother agains a sister (played by Rachel O’Byrne). No bare knuckle, I am afraid, will do here. The emotional fight takes over. The power of the words, the ability to charm, to attract, to appeal, to play, to confuse… Max is a girl who had desperately wanted to be accepted into her elder brothers’ world. She wanted them to fight with her, too. She wanted to play their games. Now, grown up, they have no choice but to play hers. And there will be only one person driving away with the bugatti into the sunset.

This very unconventional and beautifully staged play is running in The New Theatre until October, 3rd. Get your tickets before they are gone! For more info: https://www.dublintheatrefestival.com/Online/At_The_Ford

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Filed under At the Ford, DTF2015, Dublin Theatre Festival, The New Theatre

Project Arts Center: A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing

Yesterday I started (for myself) a new theatre season at the Project Arts Center. It’s been a while since I’ve seen a play there, so I was very much looking forward to this performance: A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing.

A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing (written by Eimear McBride, adapted and directed by Annie Ryan, performed by Aoife Duffin) premiered during Dublin Theatre Festival’14 at The Samuel Beckett Center. Originally “A girl is a half-formed thing” was written as a novel. It has won quite a big number of literary prizes, among which Baileys Women’s Prize for fiction, Desmond Elliott Prize and many others. At the moment, “Girl is a half-formed thing” is one and only of McBride´s novels. She’s working on her second.

During the Dublin Theatre Festival the play was very well received and it got some excellent reviews. So when The Corn Exchange decided to bring it back to Dublin I thought that no doubt I should go. I was just very curious what was exactly that the people loved so much about it, to be honest.

The tickets are a bit pricy for the run, so I decided to go on the first (preview) night, which cost me 16 Eur. I went with a friend, who also brought a friend. As with all the performing spaces in Project Arts, the seats are not allocated, basically you can sit wherever you want. So we arrived just in time to snap up good seats in the first row.

If it wasn’t sold out, there should’ve been very few tickets left as the place was absolutely packed. For those of you who are familiar with Project Arts Center, the play was performed in the space upstairs, which is quite a nice and spacious area. The first row is a bit away from the stage, so it allows you a slightly better view.

Before anything, I should probably mention that I am not the biggest fan of one man/woman shows. But, at the same time, I just have to acknowledge that some of the one person shows I’ve seen were exceptionally good (the first one that comes to mind is definitely Pondling by Gúna Nua. I’ve seen it twice!). After all, this time I didn’t really know what to expect so I just kept open-minded.

I’ve never read the novel therefore I can’t really compare it to the stage adapted version. The first thing that struck me was that the girl on stage (Aoife Duffin) wasn’t telling the story as a monologue, but actually, at times, she was playing different parts. On a very simple basis, of course. But it did throw me off a little bit. The next thing was: the play is clearly written by a very disturbed person. The story is shocking. But it’s like there’s no light whatsoever. It goes from bad to worse. It’s not real life, so why don’t you add some sort of positivity or something that won’t make you want to kill yourself after watching it. It is my personal opinion: I don’t understand what’s the point of basically hearing a story about somebody being constantly raped by a family member; in addition to which, the child has no father, a mother who doesn’t really care, and a brother who dies of cancer…

Some people might say “yeah, well, that’s life for some of us”. Even if it is, there’s always something we cling to, something we go back to at the darkest moments to stay happy, to stay sane. Every story is a story about coping with problems. We are all humans, we don’t need to be told what kind of problems there are out there, but how to deal with them, how to remain positive.

In addition to all that, the technical side wasn’t great, either (again, comparing to Pondling where the set and the directing were simply amazing!). There was no set, no costume (the girl was wearing pjs). There was not a single prop (which is ok), nothing, not a single thing to make it look believable, something we could relate to, something to show us a connection between the story and the story teller.

The only thing that actually is worth mentioning was the great acoustics. Aoife’s voice sounded really clear and powerful.

I didn’t like the show. Neither did my friend. Or her friend. They described it as “horrific”. The audience seemed to have a better opinion about it since the performance got a standing ovation at the end.

I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone I know. But for those of you who got interested: it’s running till the 14th of February. Tickets available at: http://projectartscentre.ie/event/girl-half-formed-thing/

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Filed under A girl is a half-formed thing, Irish Stage, Performing arts, Project Arts Center, Theatre, Theatre in Ireland, Theatre Lovers