Tag Archives: history

Player’s Theatre: Montparnasse (IDGTF)

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Just as the International Dublin Gay Theatre Festival 2017 is about to re-open its doors to the second week of the gay awareness feria, there is just one more play from the first week that deserves to be highlighted.

All the way from the Canadian province of Alberta to the Emerald Island, Theatre Outré brought to us Montparnasse, a 75 min extravaganza about two girlfriends living and experiencing the Années Folles – The Crazy Years. In the aftermath of the Belle Epoque a whole new era of art, culture and ideas has emerged. And the two Canadian ex-patriots, as well as best friends, found themselves in the midst of what was promising to be one of the most exciting eras to be alive.

We are in the city by the Seine. The aroma of vine, croissants and mixed paints is in the air. And Margaret (played by Katharine Zaborsky) is loving it. She has re-defined herself as a muse to some and a party friend to the others, but always being in the center of the elite Parisienne société: Miller, Modigliani, Hemingway, Chagall… Stripping off her clothes in front of them day after day, Margaret believed that she was doing something more, something bigger: she was inspiring the artists to create and to produce.

While her friend Amelia (played by Carolyn Ruether) didn’t find it all that amusing. A painter herself, she was more interested in the game of light and shadows, in the angles, in the positioning of the body… It seemed she had all the tools to do the job but the only missing piece seemed to be the vital one: the inspiration. Nevertheless, a new and unexpected, even a bit scary at the beginning, experience has been presented to Amelia. But is she ready to lay bare her body in order to learn from the best?

Montparnasse is an unexpectedly eccentric piece. It lets you witness not only the denuding of the body but also the stripping down of the very soul hiding behind it. The confidence and the security with which the actors present their work is both mesmerising and captivating. The Company has brought to the Dublin audience an absolutely beautiful recreation of Paris during the roaring twenties and the true portrayal of the spirit of the era.

Montparnasse is a brave piece of theatre that is not afraid to expose the human body in all its glowing beauty; it mixes well the picture with the entertaining story and some dreamy French tunes. With a small amount of props on stage our attention is completely overtaken by the plot and its masterful narration by the three actors.

When a play is worth bringing all the way from the other side of the ocean, it’s worth bringing! Montparnasse is easily one of the highlights of the first week of the festival. Prepare yourself for a play unlike anything else you’ve seen before!

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The Complex: Horae

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Here’s a saucy one: a play about whores!

Now that I’ve got your attention, let’s talk about Horae – a unique theatre piece about the ancient craft of prostitution. From virgins to whores: in this roughly 40 minute performance Susie Lamb (the creator and performer) dances the audience through her darkishly enlightening tale.

Presented through the eyes of a single character, Lamb deepens us into the ancient world of sacred temples, where the street girls weren’t from the streets at all, they were regarded as almost holy creatures capable of providing the best cure, care and comfort. The goddesses of high places they were. And how quickly everything changed. Horae brings us back in time to learn how drastically the history can turn sometimes. In her mix of movement and spoken word, Lamb narrates the story of how once a sacred profession, a trade of respect and honour, fell so low it became a shame, an unspoken taboo.

Brought to us by NEST theatre company, Horae is an amazing example of theatre created by women and about women that could be easily enjoyed by everyone. Horae is a very strong, very unlike anything else piece of raw daring theatre at its best. It uses powerful elements to carry the already quite substantial and important subject forward and present it to the audience in a unique shape.

In Horae it quickly becomes obvious that Lamb knows her trade inside out. A professional actress and dancer, she is comfortable enough in her natural habitat to present the story to the others while keeping it fresh and engaging at all times.

Horae is a combined piece of many big and small elements. It’s a rich performance when it comes to interpretation but quite appropriately modest regarding the set design and costumes. Nevertheless, the one thing that does stand out is the lighting design (by Adrian Mullan). Visually striking beginning – the red light dot traveling through the body of the actress – was the perfect opening for such a performance.

A thoroughly researched and even more masterfully performed piece that shouldn’t be missed, Horae runs in the The Complex till February 26th. For more info or to book the tickets, do not hesitate a second and contact: http://thecomplex.ie/cinema/horae/

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Filed under Horae, Scene and Heard Festival, Susie Lamb, The Complex, The Complex Live Arts Space, Uncategorized

The Gate Theatre: The Heiress

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“You are good for nothing unless you are clever.” 

–  Henry James, The Heiress

Ruth and Augustus Goetz’ adaptation of Henry James’s novel Washington Square, The Heiress is probably one of the most perfectly unimpressive plays. It’s a typical story of the late 19th century life of  the other half. The constant battle of money, affection and betrayal. It’s also a story where one of the main characters is none the less but a house,  beautiful but soulless space that becomes a prison for some and the entrance into the garden of Eden for the others. New York’s Washington Square charms, it attracts and mesmerizes people who have once seen its rich beauty and now are unable to let it go.They want it for themselves no matter what.

Slightly over two hours long The Heiress is a flaying piece with only a handful of characters. Centered mainly on the life of Catherine Sloper (played by Karen McCarthy), the only daughter of Dr. Sloper (played by Denis Conway) and his late but still very much beloved wife. A simple, bubbly, home life appreciative Cathy perhaps isn’t the best match for the gentlemen of the New York nobility but a spark of hope lights when she meets Morris Townsend (played by Donal Gallery). Against her father’s will and with the help of her spinster auntie Lavinia (played by Marion O’Dwyer), who is a great character herself, a secret marriage has been arranged. For Catherine the decision has already been made but what about the young fiancé who is a bit unimpressed to find out that in the case of this marriage taking place his young wife most definitely will be disinherited?

A cruel story of false promises of love, sour betrayal and cold-hearted but sweet revenge shows us one of the best examples of a strong female characterization in a dramatic play. Catherine is indeed a very enjoyable character whose personal growth is nothing but fascinating to witness.

Even though the play does have some very nice lines to feed one's mind and the acting is as superb as always, there was something missing in the piece to make it stand out. Too sweet and perfect to challenge the audience.

On a slightly more positive note, Jonathan Fenson’s stunning stage and dress designs made it an absolute pleasure for the eye to watch the play. I really enjoyed the captivating depth of the stage and how well it symbolically represented the story.

Directed by David Grindley, The Heiress runs in Dublin’s Gate Theatre until January 21st. Only a few chances left to catch it. For more info or to book tickets: http://www.gatetheatre.ie/production/TheHeiress2016

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The Abbey Theatre: Anna Karenina

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“Rummaging in our souls, we often dig up something that ought to have lain there unnoticed. ”

– Anna Karenina

2016 has been a huge year for the arts. 2016 was anything but a challenging year for the Abbey Theatre in particular, a year filled with the most unexpected, brave decisions and thought-provoking plays. In addition to seeing one year round up of #WakingTheFeminists meeting; Ireland’s National Theatre has also had a change of directors welcoming Neil Murray and Graham McLaren to the steering wheel.

The last play of the departing year is none the less but Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, adapted for the stage by Ireland’s very own literature giant Marina Carr.

No doubt, Tolsoty’s masterpiece is a poignant, heavy piece in all senses possible. Starting with the fact that the play lasts approximately three and a half hours (which then pass by quicker than a fly). But above all, it’s a Russian tragedy where, unfortunately, there is no place for a happy ending.

Anna Karenina (played by Lisa Dwan) is a wife, a mother and a woman, who one day falls in love with Vronsky (played by Rory Fleck Byrne), a well-built handsome young man. Tolstoy has never created a weak woman in his work and Karenina isn’t an exception, either. But just as any human being isn’t safe of making mistakes, she gives in to temptation and finally decides to leave not only her husband but also her son Seryoza and the respected position she occupies among the Russian intelligentsia. She looses everything for a chance to live maybe not a happy but an emotionally fulfilled life. Nevertheless, happiness does come but only for a short time before Anna realises that some things can never be replaced or substituted in life; that people remember it when you did them wrong; that people betray, lie and simply get tired of what once excited them; that some of the most tender souls hide behind the thickest walls; that no heart is made out of stone and every heart breaks in its own way.

This absolutely stunning interpretation of a Russian classic is a truly jaw-dropping piece to watch. It should definitely be placed among the strongest pieces produced by the Abbey last year. Unsurprisingly brilliantly directed  by Wayne Jordan, the play transports us to pre-revolutionary Russia where the  freshly spilled blood is an ever constant contrast to the peacefully falling snow. In a very simple but wonderfully decorated set (by Sarah Bacon) we witness the lives, loves and tragedies of a grand total of 42 characters. Dressed in some of the most eye-catching ribbons and bows (by Sarah Beacon),the piece presents to our display a whole range of mothers, daughters and wives and their everyday struggle. From Dolly (played by Ruth McGill), who perhaps doesn’t even remember what it feels like not to be pregnant and who also is living a tragedy as she has a cheating husband, to Kitty (played by Julie Maguire) a young girl who is only preparing to enter wifehood.

In one single play, we are given the incredible opportunity to see the same problems being dealt with by different people and from alternative angles. With beautifully stylised musical accompaniment (by David Coonan), the cruel Russian reality ideally translates to the Irish stage. Anna Karenina has it all: tragedy with elements of comedy, very nice pace for a long piece, stunning decorations and costumes and some absolutely superb acting. The cast, the majority of whom double and triple, truly gives a performance of a lifetime with each single one of the ensemble being exceptional.

Anna Karenina is a beautiful experience that won’t leave a dry eye. The play runs in The Abbey Theatre until January 28th. For more info or to book tickets: http://www.abbeytheatre.ie/whats_on/event/anna-karenina/

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The Peacock Theatre: The Ireland Trilogy

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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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Filed under Heroine, history, The Family, The Ireland Trilogy, The Peacock Theatre, THEATREclub, Uncategorized

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…

http://pals-theirishatgallipoli.com/booking/

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The Abbey Theatre: The theatre of War Symposium 2015.

The 3-Day Symposium of War at The Abbey Theatre is now officially over.

According to the Abbey Theatre, the symposium welcomed 250 guests and 31 speakers from all over the world, who either worked or came from (post) conflict zones like Rwanda, Palestine, Israel, Afghanistan, Belarus, etc. There were also speakers from Ireland and Northern Ireland talking mainly about The Irish Civil War, The Lockout of 1913, The Troubles.

Apart from the discussions and talks there were two staged readings in the evenings, one musical performance and during the three days of symposium visitors could also go and see “Oh My Sweet Land” production on The Peacock Stage.

I personally attended all the talks and the reading of “Shibboleth”. I didn’t go to the reading of “Returning to Haifa” because I had seen it already in The New Theatre, Dublin, earlier last year. Nevertheless, I was more than happy to meet Naomi Wallace and Ismail Karim Khalidi, people who adapted “Returning to Haifa” into a play. Naomi presented another of her plays, which was read out by Khalidi during the symposium.

I would like to start my review with a quote by Luke Gibbons, the very first speaker of the Symposium: “There is always something left over from the past and it is the future”. 

I was at the first Symposium at The Abbey last year (The Symposium of Memory) and I can’t simply compare these two events. I was a bit concerned before booking my 3-Day ticket because, even though I am very much into current affairs, I don’t really know that much about the current situation in Palestine, let alone Africa. I was just scared that I would be sitting there not understanding what people are talking about. I don’t want to sound ignorant, but I am afraid that many people who live in the 1st world country and live comfortably don’t really know what’s going on outside of their comfort zone/home countries. We are marching for not wanting to paying water charges, Palestinians don’t even get enough water to drink. It’s sad, but it’s the reality. That reminds me of one of the speakers, Ruwantie de Chickera from Sri Lanka, who before beginning her speech explained that she had been asked to talk about her home country because the audience might know very little or nothing about it.

Anyway, I did go further and booked my ticket. And I was indeed very excited about the 3 days. I really enjoyed all of the speakers and their subjects. I was also very glad to see some of the last year’s speakers, like Stacy Gregg.

The amazing thing about this symposium was that many speakers come from different backgrounds and have all sorts of experiences. It was a theatre symposium, so the main focus was, naturally, on theatre makers. But there were also such speakers as Ray Dolphin, who works for United Nation’s Office of Humanitarian Affairs.

Ray’s talk was about Israel’s West Bank and occupied Palestinian territories. He presented a very clear and easily understandable map of the current situation between Israel, Palestine and Gaza. He explained the building if the wall that would separate Israel and Palestine. The conditions in which the Palestinians have to survive (like not having access to cultivate their own land) and the total separation of Gaza, where citizens are held almost like prisoners in their own country.

Or Professor David Cotterrell, who talked about his amazing and heart-breaking experience in Afghanistan. He was commissioned by the Welcome Trust to go to the country and produce an installation called Theatre as a part of War and Medicine Exhibition.

More about his experience can be found here: http://www.cotterrell.com/

One man in particular deeply touched and inspired me with his talk: John Scott. He is a choreographer in Dublin. Scott works with refugees and asylum seekers coming to this country, people who had suffered some sort of trauma. He not only helps them to express their pain and emotions and previous trauma with dance and movement, but he also communicates with them and helps them to find a way to legally stay in this country. He takes this “invisible people” and creates a piece of art, a piece of theatre aimed to help them.

Some speakers (to be exact 6 of them) came as part of one big project: Ariadne Project. Ariadne Project is appointed to finding female theatre makers who either work or come from (post) conflict zones. At the moment the project counts with 6 of them: Hope Azeda (Rwanda), Dijana Milosevic (Serbia), Frederique LeComte (Burundi), Iman Aoun (Palestine), Patricia Ariza (Colomiba) and Ruwanthie de Chickera (Sri Lanka).

Project Ariadne is unique not only because it deals with theatre in war zones, but also because it’s created by women. Even in peaceful countries we have very few female theatre directors,  so how inspiring should it be to see and hear somebody talk about their absolutely unique experiences and, more importantly, their passion for what they do and their desire to change this world for better. And theatre is a way of changing it. Theatre is a way of saying something that can’t be just said out loud. Theatre is a way of expressing emotions that couldn’t be expressed in any other way. Theatre is a way to bring different communities and different peoples together.

I’ll talk very briefly about only one example, Frederique LeComte from Belgium talked about her experience making theatre in Burundi. She has worked with all kinds of people: the ones who had been tortured, imprisoned for political reasons, raped, whose families were killed, on one hand, and on the other, with people who tortured, killed, raped. With the consent of both sides she would produce a play involving both of them. The torturer and the tortured one would work side by side to create something to overcome their pain, their past, their emotions.

Federique LeComte worked during the time of war in Burundi, she has staged very provocative and very risky types of plays. “The types that you could be killed for right during the performance” putting it into her own words.

On the very last day of the symposium I was particularly interested in hearing one speaker: Vladimir Shchrban from Belarus. Vladimir was the only one who spoke with a translator. He spoke in Russian, so I was particularly happy about it. It really does make a difference hearing somebody talk and hearing somebody talk in their native language.

Anyway, Vladimir spoke about his theatre company Belarus Free Theatre. As Vladimir said it himself, after the USSR split up in 1991, Belarus has obtained a dictator. Vladimir along with a couple of other free spirited young people wanted only the best for his country and this “best” he saw in freedom. Freedom of speech, freedom of mind, freedom of being able to express your opinion without being arrested or killed for it. So he created a theatre company. After the company was born the first thing they needed to sort out was what they wanted to make plays about. The answer was simple “tabu topics”. And it looked like they had it very easy because every topic was tabu in Belarus.

Vladimir and his company has suffered a lot during the 90s and 00s. Both the artists and the audience members were persecuted for getting involved in this sort of art. Belarus Free Theatre had difficulties finding venues for the upcoming productions, they would take anything they could rent or secure: it was somebody’s house, in a forest or in even in a sauna. As most of the plays were staged illegally the company needed a legal reason to be there, so that’s where there creativity once again found itself. They would pretend that they were hosting a wedding, a friend’s party or even a family gathering.

For obvious reasons, and as Vladimir puts it himself, most of their plays are “passionate but short”.

Another thing I thoroughly enjoyed was the staged reading of “Shibboleth”  by Stacy Gregg. There is a hope that The Abbey Theatre will produce this play at some point soon. I’ve always been very interested in Northern Ireland and The Troubles. So needless to say that I was more than keen on hearing its first reading. The reading was preceded by a panel discussion “Barriers”, in which Stacy Gregg (together with another Northern Irish artist Brendan Ciarán Browne) talked about the peace wall in Belfast and the responses and reactions to barriers and boundaries.

The play exceeded all the expectations. It was smart, it was funny, it was very Northern Irish. I absolutely loved the cast and their portraying of the characters with thiсk NI accents. “Brick by brick by brick by.”

All talks were very informative and very what’s called first-hand experience. Of course it would be childish of me to think that I know more about conflict zones. I don’t. But this symposium was a great opportunity to start knowing more about this world we live in. It was a great way for me to be introduced to some amazing projects, theatre companies and theatre makers, both nationally and internationally. It’s a starting point. And I’m very much looking forward to the next (unfortunately last) symposium in 2016.

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Filed under Performing arts, The Abbey Theatre, Theatre, Theatre in Ireland, Theatre Lovers, Theatre of War Symposium, TOWS2015