Tag Archives: hallowe’en

Theatre Upstairs: Venom So Sweet

It`s Halloween! It`s Halloween!
The moon is full and bright
And we shall see what can`t be seen
on any other night!

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Wonderful news in store for those who appreciate high-quality theatre and are looking for something fun and quite unique to do on this Hallow’s Eve: Theatre Upstairs has reopened its doors. Being undoubtedly one of Dublin’s most atmospheric theaters, TUpstairs together with Little Shadow Theatre Co has entered the season of ghosts and ghouls with a venomously delicious treat – Venom So Sweet, written by Roger Gregg and directed by James O’Connor.

For those of you who are familiar with Roger’s previous work, this play will come as a bonus to his magnifficent styleized cabaret performances and saxophone playing delights. Venom So Sweet follows the story of a somewhat cowardish and not the best kind of human beings – Legion (portrayed by Gregg himself) – who in a deep western accent tells you his poisonus story of being a con-man empowered by the devilsnake inhabiting his soul from within rather than without. Roughly based on the life of Saopy Smith (a 19th century con-man from Georgia) and the horrible fate that so unfairly grasped the poor souls of Sand Creek indigens in 1864, Gregg took a few liberties with the history and added some colour and pitch to it.

In this one hour piece, Legion is joined by three beautiful companions: Jezebel Demon (played by Juliette Crosbie), Serpent Demon (played by Alicky Hess) and Sorceress Demon (played by Madi O’Carroll). They might be characters of few words but their presence is ominous on stage. Once too often I caught myself just watching them interact with each other and move about the stage.

Venom So Sweet is a show in its best composition. It has an absolutely magical ensemble of theatre professionals that takes care of not only carrying the story forward but also creates an incredible atmosphere of being in a different time and place all together. All four actors engage in the musical part of the play and create the sounds live on stage with the help of both props and a whole variety of musical instruments. The lighting design also is a huge impact on the overall mood. Be it the director’s or the lighting designer’s decision but some scenes are so perfectly framed that watching them gives an aesthetic pleasure. In the best traditions of a cabaret show, the actors are very interactive with the audience and make it feel like you are part of the plot; one more in a crowd of citizens imagined by Roger Gregg and his team.

I can’t think of a better choice to start your Hallowe’en adventure this year. Venom So Sweet is a real treat for all of you li’l trickers out there. Runs until  November 5th. For more info or to book tickets: http://www.theatreupstairs.ie/venom-so-sweet

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Filed under Little Shadow Theatre Company, Roger Gregg, Theatre Upstairs, Uncategorized, Venom So Sweet

Theatre Upstairs: Tales from the Woods

After two interviews, pictures of guest speakers and comments by people who had already seen Tales from the Woods, the Hallowe’eny play brought by Theatre Upstairs and The Gumption Theatre Company, I thought I knew the performance inside out. How wrong was I!

I was nicely surprised from the moment I walked into the auditorium of Theatre Upstairs. Absolutely gorgeous set, designed by Theatre Upstairs very own Laura Honan, puts you into the right mood straight away. The ginger leaves covering the floor, a self-rocking chair, a spooky doll, an old-tape player… there is no place for a mistake: you are not in the middle of rainy Dublin anymore. This is the dark, mysterious, dangerous for some, liberating for others Woods. The light and the sound effects howling somewhere in the background just add to the intimate atmosphere of stepping on the unknown path, where there is not a single light at the end.

The play starts with a very soothing and comforting voice of a grandmother (spoken by Irene Shiels) who is telling bedtime stories to her little granddaughter:

Chapter I: “The ballad of Ginny Fogarty”, written by Kate Gilmore and directed by Karl Shiels. This piece is based on the song “The River Saile”, which is a very obscure tune, telling not such a happy story of a woman who killed her baby. The mini-play features three girls: Eilís Carey, Marnie Mccleane-Fay and India Mullen, who are playing truth or dare. And, as it happens, in the best traditions of an old haunted house horror films, one of the girls is being dared to knock on the door of an abandoned house where Ginny Fogarty once used to live. No need to say that nothing good comes out of this idea.

The piece features an absolutely beautiful and tragically touching interpretation of the song performed by Kate Gilmore.

Chapter II: “The beast in the woods”, written by Gary Duggan and directed by Karl Shiels. This “Little Red Riding-Hood” type of story that marries the modern world with the old prejudice. Are things always what they seem? The woods is indeed a very dark place… it’s probably the only place, where you’d rather meet a lonely male stranger than a small little girl.

This full of symbolism mini-play features India Mullen, who gives an extraordinary performance as The Girl, and the voice of Gary Duggan.

Chapter III: “The children played at slaughtering” is a mini-play developed by Karl Shiels and The Gumption Theatre Company.

The third and last piece is the darkest one. Rayne (played by Shane O’Regan) and Root (played by Dave Rowe) are two brothers from a small village, who decide to play at slaughtering one day. Naive (or maybe not so much?) one of them takes the role of the butcher upon himself, the second one plays his assistant, the third, a younger boy, is playing the pig. When the two brothers finally reach the pig, they kill him. But shall the young brothers be punished?

This grim story of lost innocence and justice also features Marnie Mccleane-Fay, who brilliantly plays the silent Plague Doctor.

This spooky and very atmospheric production is a perfect proof of how many levels a theatre can work on. Such a beautiful and strong interpretation of every single character by The Gumption Theatre Company brought up the creepiest in each one of the three mini-plays and made you feel your hair standing up on the back of your neck. The effect is even bigger when you realise that you are part of the show and in front of you are real people.

Theatre Upstairs is a kind of house you would want to knock on the door of on Hallowe’en for they have a whole hand full of  treats for you!

Tales from the Woods runs until November 7th with two performances on the last day! Would you want to wait another year to see something that great and that scary? Of course, not! Book your tickets here: http://www.theatreupstairs.ie/tales-from-the-woods

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Filed under Tales from the woods, The Gumption Theatre Company, Theatre Upstairs

The writers of “Tales from The Woods” talk about their plays.

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October 31st might have passed but Hallowe’en isn’t quite over yet! For those of you, my faithful witches and wizards and other magical creatures, Theatre Upstairs has a very special gift! Tales from The Woods has entered in its second week and the reviews are absolutely raving! If you haven’t seen the play yet then I don’t know what you are waiting for! It’s an opportunity not to miss… Some of finest Irish writers and actors have come together to make this piece happen.

I, in my turn, had an amazing chance to ask the writers of Tales from the Woods a few questions about their mini-plays. And here is the result. Karl Shiels, Kate Gilmore and Gary Duggan explain what they wrote this particular piece, who inspired them, what was the most enjoyable/challenging and much much more.

Can you tell me what your own piece is about? 

Karl: My play is about two brothers standing trial in front of the creatures of the forest for the murder of a boy.

Kate: “The Ballad of Ginny Fogarty” is about three young women playing truth or dare around halloween and find themselves in Ginny Fogarty’s cottage in the woods. Alone.

Gary: A man’s car breaks down on the edge of the woods and he meets a little girl who says she’ll lead him to a phone. They walk through the woods together and we gradually realise that they both have secrets.

What/Who inspired you to write this piece?

Karl: The play is based on a very early Grimm Brothers tale called How Some Children Played at Slaughtering, it appeared in their very first publication of Grimm Tales but was never printed again. Some say it’s because their other “popular” tales grew longer, some say the subject matter was too harsh.

Kate: I was inspired by the old Irish song ‘The River Saile’ which I heard at various family parties throughout the years and now find very unnerving. It was the first thing that came to mind when I received the phone call from Karl.

Gary: Well Karl Shiels inspired me to write it, saying it only had to be ten minutes long and creepy. That was hard to turn down! Beyond that, I instantly thought of the Little Red Riding-Hood story and some way to put a modern twist on it.

What was the most challenging moment of writing this piece? 

Karl: I think the biggest challenge with writing the piece was how to truthfully portray/play pure fear on the stage. I think the company excelled at this…

Kate: I was performing and rehearsing for ‘The Train’ while writing this piece and found it difficult not to be influenced by that. Obviously in some ways, it’s good to take from your own experiences and I think I found a balance in the end. For example, the female empowerment I felt during rehearsals made it impossible for me to write for anyone other than the three female actors from Gumption.

Gary: It came out quite easily, as I sometimes find with short pieces with a specific purpose.

What was most enjoyable about writing this piece? 

Karl: The most enjoyable thing about writing this tale was getting to work with such talented and dedicated actors. Pure joy.

Kate: I always find limitations quite freeing so the fact that the piece could be no longer than 12 minutes made it really exciting. I had to achieve what I wanted to in that space of time.

Gary: Being able to play around with language and the theatricality of how it would appear on stage, after writing a lot of stuff recently that was rooted in realistic naturalism.

What lesson (if any) can we learn from your tale? 

Karl: The lesson to take from our tale would be…Be careful what you choose in life as it may have deadly consequences.

Kate: Curiosity really does kill the cat.

Gary: Don’t do bad things. And don’t go into the woods when the sun is starting to set.

Can you describe your play in three words? 

Karl: Scary As Fuck.

Kate: Mother Earth’s Revenge.

Gary: Twisted modern fairytale.

Tales from The Woods run in Theatre Upstairs until November, 7th. Make your Hallowe’en a tiny bit more special! Now that all the tricking is finally done, you can treat yourself to a night in a theatre. For more info and to book tickets, you know what to do: http://www.theatreupstairs.ie/tales-from-the-woods

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