Tag Archives: english 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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Filed under Bronte, Illustrated Productions, Smock Alley Theatre, Uncategorized

The Cobalt Café: Away From Home

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The International Dublin Gay Theatre Festival has been around for twelve years now. For two full weeks every year the festival presents an average of twenty five international and home-bred plays in a number of different venues around the Dublin city center. It’s not rare that some companies/artists return with new work, but it is indeed a novelty that a production that had already been shown at the festival would make a come back.

Away From Home, co-written and directed by Rob Ward and Martin Jameson, is one of those rare plays that has been invited back after a great reception by the audience during IDGTF in 2014.

Presented by the British Hope Theatre Company and Working Progress Theatre, the play tells us the story of Kyle (played by Rob Ward), a young gay escort who doesn’t work on Saturdays and is very much into football. One day, it happens to be a Saturday, Kyle gets a phone call from Vincent, the pimp, who talks him into having a client that night. Unable to resist the good money offer that the client is ready to pay, Kyle accepts it and gets the address of the hotel where the guest is staying. One can only imagine the shock the young escort might have gotten when the hotel door was opened by no more no less but a premier league footballer. Too bad he has just signed a contract to play for the team that Kyle despises; but the guy (whose name is never revealed) himself is nice and the sex is great, so one thing after the other and the two of them fall in love. And just as one might think that this story could have a happy ending, the terrible revelation comes out: the “mister premier league” can’t publicly disclose that he is homosexual in order not to harm his reputation. A lot is at stake, but what is he going to do? And what about Kyle and his feelings?

This highly spirited and extremely fast paced play is impossible not to like. Kyle’s character, brilliantly portrayed by Rob Ward, is hugely likable, funny and full of common human flaws. Within a time space of slightly over an hour, the crispy script brings us through all the possible emotions of a well penned story: we cry, we laugh, we  feel for Kyle, we hate the other guy, we want to know what’s going to happen next. The beauty of Away From Home also lies in the fact that it touches on a whole bunch of different subjects such as relationships between parents and children, true friendship and, of course, homosexuality but not only in life as we know it but also in sports, and especially in big sports.

Rob Ward as an actor is a pure joy to watch. Being it a one-man show, in the course of the play he portrays a whole range of various characters apart from Kyle (including Kyle’s pimp Vince and Kyle’s mother). And here is where good acting had been beautifully married to smart directing, all the characters are crystal clear and immensely enjoyably. Their individual physicality, tone of voice and mannerism make real people out of them. Ward holds us connected to Kyle’s world until the last word.

Away From Home is closing tonight at the Cobalt Cafe, but a play like this has all the chances to be brought back and even go on a tour. So, keep an eye on the updates. For more info: Away From Home at IDGTF

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Filed under Away from Home, Hope Theatre Company, IDGTF, Rob Ward, The Cobalt Cafe, Working Progress Theatre

The Smock Alley Theatre: Fleabag

Two years after its premier at Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Bad Mouth Theatre‘s play Fleabag finally found its way onto the stage of Smock Alley’s The Boy’s School.

Fleabag is a one woman show, written by Phoebe Waller-Bridge and performed by Hannah O’Reilly. In the intimate and welcoming place The Boy’s School is, the play starts big and promising: the female character comes down onto the stage drunk … falling off the stairs, singing, drinking… in other words, not being very stable. Obviously, having just left a wild party, she strips down to her underwear in front of the audience and changes into something less attention-seeking and more normal daily-life appropriate. Not having slept a wink, she is off to a job interview.

As the play unravels we find out that our heroine works in a guinea pig themed cafe (with a real guinea pig living there), which she used to co – own. She is in huge debt after the other co-owner and her dear friend tragically died. Our nameless heroine has a sister who doesn’t really want to talk to her anymore, and a father who would rather call a cab to take his drunk daughter home in the middle of the night than let her stay on the couch at his place.

In between all this mess, she finds the time to flirt, sex text, chat up and either have sex or dream of having sex with every moving object she comes across. Some might call it an addiction, I think a twenty something Londoner, who has just lost a good friend and struggles to find any understanding, is simply substituting love with sex.

Waller-Bridge’s play points at the elephant in the room. It’s been barely a month since The Abbey’s meeting of #WakingThe Feminists and it’s really a miracle that we can see a woman on stage talking openly about her sex life. Isn’t she being judged? Of course she is. Even within the context of the play itself. The S word does come out a couple of times throughout the play. But the important thing is that the play is there and it’s bold, it has courage and strength, and it’s made by women and about women.

O’Reilly’s acting is quite strong and natural, but some of the jokes, even though delivered perfectly fine, just fall flat; they mostly provoke a weak smile rather than an out loud laugh. Even though the over all performance works pretty well and is capturing to watch, O’Reilly’s stumbling over some words and phrases unfortunately destroyed the illusion at times.

I quite liked some of the lighting decisions. But the set design could have done with a bit more than just a chair. The action takes place in many different locations, the lighting could have been a bit more elaborated to help us feel the difference between spaces.

Creating other characters by using voices on the speakers was an interesting decision, but I think it might have worked a tiny bit better if the actress on stage embodies those characters. It wouldn’t distract our full attention from the main action.

For one weekend only in Dublin, Fleabag has closed tonight in the Smock Alley Theatre. More details about the show could be found: https://www.facebook.com/badmouththeatre/?fref=ts

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Filed under Bad Mouth Theatre, Fleabag, Smock Alley Theatre