Tag Archives: kate gilmore

The Bewley’s Theatre: The Wickedness of Oz

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“I think you are wrong to want a heart. It makes most people unhappy. If you only knew it, you are in luck not to have a heart.”

– The Wizard of Oz

Sooner or later all good comes to an end. Tiger Fringe Festival isn’t an exception. Two weeks of creativity and arts are ready for its final applause. Tonight the final curtain will fall on one of the undoubtable highlights of the festival – Kate Gilmore’s The Wickedness of Oz.

Presented as show in a bag, Gilmore’s 60 min play is a superb mixture of music, theatre and storytelling. The Wickedness of Oz isn’t all about the strength of the story (even though the script is amazingly entertaining and amusing to follow) but rather the stunning performance given by Gilmore, who is also the writer of the piece.

With the familiar tunes from the beloved musicals (slightly new wording though!), we follow Debbie, a young Dublin girl who holds a degree in hospitality and works in a travel agency. Debbie is twenty one, in love with her boyfriend and slightly irritated slash bored with her life trapped in the same old routine. She checks her phone only to see photos of other people, who seem to enjoy life much more than she does. And a light of hope sparks for Debbie when her boyfriend gets a visa for New Zealand and invites her to come with him. Will she go with him? Can she go with him? Can she be so selfish to leave her mother and father, who already lost two of their children? The middle one, Debbie is stuck. The yellow-bricked road seems to lead nowhere and sometimes there’s truly no place like home. No matter how grey the reality there might be.

Kate Gilmore brings her  play off the stage right into the midst of the happily roaring audience. Easily transforming from a dancer into a cabaret singer, and back into an office assistant, she blows her viewers away with her talents (that seem countless) and the ability to capture different characters and their traits.

The Wickedness of Oz is one of those plays that is so vocally strong that you start perceiving it from a different angle. Everything ceases to be only and simply visual; the different voices, the songs, the sounds, the pronunciations of the words start playing a huge role in the creation of the bigger story. Close your eyes and the picture will be just as vivid and colourful. It shows Gilmore’s incredible gift for transmitting the meaning through her voice.

I don’t want to underestimate other things, like the performance itself or the choreography (by Kitty Randle), which were all impossibly flawless. I just want to point out what made this performance in particular stand out from the bunch of other shows on offer. Kudos to Gilmore’s vocal coach Shelley Bukspan and the direct of the piece Clare Maguire, who made the Kate’s inner sunshine spread to the last rows of the packed theatre that the Bewley’s was on the night I visited it.

If you are choosing to step on a yellow path, let it bring you to The Wickedness of Oz, there might be no great wizard there but a very talented artist instead, who pulls down all the curtains to tell her story. The Wickedness of Oz, directed by Clare Maguire, closes on September 23rd. For more information: http://www.fringefest.com/festival/whats-on/the-wickedness-of-oz

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The Peacock Theatre: Town is Dead

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The Abbey Theatre continues to be waking the nation. After the enormous success of Cyprus Avenue and Tina’s Idea of Fun, another gem has just hit the Peacock’s stage: Town is Dead, written and directed by  Phillip McMahon with the music composed by Raymond Scannell.

Through this series of Ireland-focused plays, the Abbey theatre wants to present to the nation a window into the life of common Irish people: what’s happening behind the closed doors of those, whose stories normally never get to be heard; what’s going on in the lives and minds of those who live on the edge of city and sanity.

Town is Dead is brought to the Peacock theatre by Phillip McMahon. Some of you might be already familiar with McMahon’s previous work, which includes the hugely successful musical comedy Alice in Funderland (premiered on the Peacock’s stage in 2012) – a play also dedicated to Dublin and its citizens.

At this stage it’s safe to say that Mcmahon definitely has a good set of skills for writing an enjoyable musical that stands out and also carries a message.

Town is Dead is a North Inner city Dublin story unlike many others. A typical creature of her natural habitat Ellen (played by Barbara Brennan) is being moved from her house into a shoebox room in her sister’s place. And just before the last box is packed and sealed, an unexpected visitor (played by Fia Houston-Hamilton) comes for a visit. Ellen’s house and mind is anything but ghostless… and that’s exactly the reason why Rachel is there. No matter how hard one is trying to escape the ghosts of the past, in one form or another, they will soon inevitably reach you.

The first impression of the play starts with an incredible set design (by Paul O’Mahony). The stage is divided into two spaces: Ellen’s house and the backspace, where the live mini-orchestra is placed behind a veil. With the skillfully elaborated lighting design (by Sarah Jane Shiels), one or another part of the stage is accented at different times, the veil being a huge part (both literally and metaphorically) of it too especially when it comes to play with light and shadow. Let me just point out here that unlike many somewhat more traditional musicals, Town is Dead is first and foremost a play. The beautiful ensemble of keyboard (by Danny Forde), harp (by Christine O’Mahony) and clarinet (by Conor Sheil) is used primarily to enhance and highlight the dialogue.

Town is Dead counts with five on-stage debuts: Kate Gilmore, Fia Houston-Hamilton, Conall Keating, Danny Forde and Conor Sheil, all starring alongside one of the veterans of the Irish stage: Barbara Brennan, who gives an absolutely smashing performance. McMahon’s writing is refreshing with spot on jokes, which is easily proved by the unstoppable laughter coming from the audience.

Town is Dead is only in its previews, but it’s already selling super fast. Don’t miss your chance to see the play. For more info or to book your tickets, please, visit: http://www.abbeytheatre.ie/whats_on/event/town-is-dead

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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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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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The Gumption Theatre Company

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Hallowe’en is fast approaching and Theatre Upstairs has a real treat for you this year. “Tales from the Woods” is a play compound of three original pieces written by Kate Gilmore, Gary Duggan and Theatre Upstairs’ very own Artistic Director Karl Shiels.

The short plays will be brought to life by the amazing members of the fast rising and highly acclaimed The Gumption Theatre Company, that lives up to its name.

I had a chance to chat to the lovely founding members of the company: Marnie McCleane-Fay, Eilís Carey, India Mullen, Shane O’Regan and Dave Rowe. We met in Theatre Upstairs, where The Gumptions are deep gone into the woods rehearsing for the show, which is opening on Tuesday, October 27th.

The Gumption Theatre Company was founded by The Gaiety School of Acting’s graduating class of 2014. Today the company counts with a total number of 7 core members. I was lucky enough not only to see their graduation play Dirty Laundry (written and directed by Chris Edmund), but I also witnessed their performance in The Critic (DTF2013) and Bee-Loud Glade Cabaret concert.

Shane O'Regan

Shane O’Regan

My first question, naturally, is about what made them choose the acting path. Marnie says that she comes from an artistic family and theatre has always been a part of her life. In Eilís’ case, before auditioning for The Gaiety she had already gotten a degree in Irish and History and a Master’s in Military History; but seeing her dad and grandmother taking part in an amateur theatre group inspired her to give it a try herself. Dave remembers himself watching TV when he was still a small boy; the characters, the story lines, everything inspired him to come up with his own scenarios; he even built hand-made sets inside shoe-boxes. India was involved in acting and dancing since a very young age; in addition to that, her mother was a big theatre lover and enthusiast, who used to bring India and her sister to see a lot of different (often obscure) plays and shows. For Shane acting started in his mom’s car, when they were waiting for his older sister going to private speech and drama lessons; tired and bored of waiting around, he asked if he could join in as well.

Different lives, different experiences and stories behind each one of them, but the result is life brought them all together to make a little history on the pages of Irish theatre. It’s been just over a year since the young actors graduated from The Gaiety School, with four productions (two mini-plays and two full-length plays) they are already doing quite impressively.

Marnie Mcleane-Fay

Marnie Mccleane-Fay

Seven members might sound like an awful lot of people, but The Gumption members told me that they are getting on really well with each other. And having such a wide range of people in your company can be quite helpful and reassuring sometimes; team-work and having people with diffierent strength and talents can be a real undoubtful benefit.

Upon their graduation and formation of the theatre company, The Gumption was approached by Karl Shiels and Laura Honan, who offered them a chance to compose a play of individually written pieces and put it up in Theatre Upstairs for two weeks. For starting out actors, this was an opportunity not to miss. During that first collaboration with Theatre Upstairs, some of the members of The Gumption took upon themselves the roles of producers and dramaturgists, as well as writers and actors. The result of this collaboration was a devised full-length play “Out of print”.

Marnie says that, as actors, they have some essential qualities in common: they are all strong writers and performers. Eilís says that because they’ve worked so closely with each other, they’ve developed this crucial trusting bond. They can safely display any work-in progress or present a fresh idea to the group and expect honest constructive feedback. More than a theatre company, The Gumption can be described as a collective of young talented artists, who are ready to undertake any creative task to make a production happen. Apart from the Gumption, all members have separate projects they are working on and compound part of other theatre or film companies.

When it comes to making the final decision, there is no straight regulation as in who will have the last word. They all understand and respect each others opinions. Finally it comes down to who created the piece and who is going to be involved in its production. At this stage (with Tales from The Woods being its fifth production), Marnie Maccleane-Fay is the person who has been involved in every single piece; she has also written a piece for this year’s Collaborations festival. While for Shane O’Regan, for example, it’s actually going to be the first time acting with the Gumption.

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India Mullen

Tales from the Woods is a play that consists of three originally written pieces. Imagine your grandmother telling you the scariest stories on the scariest night of the year:

 “The Ballad of Ginny Fogarty” by the fast rising actress and writer Kate Gilmore, who is a graduate of The Gaiety School of Acting herself and a founding member of The Cup Theatre Company. Kate has recently appeared in the hugely successful musical “The Train” by Rough Magic.

“The Ballad of Ginny Fogarty” is a short piece based on a song and will feature the three girls: India, Eilís and Marnie.

The second piece “The Beast in The Woods” is written by Gary Duggan. It will feature India Mullen, who plays The Girl, and the voice of Peter Gaynor, who plays the man lost in the woods. As India puts it “It’s a Little Red Riding Hood -esc play; it’s the most fairy-tale old school Hallowe’en type of play”.

The third piece is “How the Children played Slaughtering” by Karl Shiels. The piece will be re-enacted by Dave, Shane and Marnie. It’s inspired by one of the most obscure fairy-tale by The Grimm brothers that was taken out from the latests editions of the book. Dave, Shane and Marnie are telling me that working with Karl as the director of the piece is very inspiring in itself. He is a very open-minded person, who allows his actors to develop their own characters and is always welcoming of new ideas and suggestions. With the music and sound effects by Derek Conaghy, this is, no doubt, the scariest piece of all.

Theatre Upstairs didn’t stop there and the fun will be well continued even after the performances; each night (and matinee) there will be a special guest reading one of the good auld Hallowe’en stories to the audience.

With each piece being only about ten-minutes long, the Gumptions are revealing to me that it’s really challenging to flesh out your character as much as possible in such a short time. Marnie says that basically it’s “creating a huge personality and shrinking it back” into the amount of time given. Dave says that the shortness is something that he actually enjoys about this project; there is no time for wobbling around; “It’s like the snap shot of the story”, he says “you are going into it and immediately you are ripped back out. You get to the point with no fluff about it.” Eilís says that for her, it’s interesting to be able to give to the audience the whole arch and the experience of meeting her character in such a short amount of time.

Marnie compares the experience of working on this project with their first show “Out of print”, where everyone was given roughly five-six minutes on stage to present their characters and stories.

The Gumption is still in rehearsals, so Marnie points out to me that a huge difference will make the set, the costumes, the light and sound effects. In her case, the costume will change the physicality of her character and it’s something you might not know or take into consideration while rehearsing. Eilís adds that it’s really rewarding to finally start rehearsing with real props and just get the touch and texture of them, which can be real influential on your final performance, as well.

The rehearsals and bringing the whole piece together have been really rewarding and fun so far, as the Gumption tells me. Karl and Laura in Theatre Upstairs are amazing people to work with, who try to take care of as much as possible, so the actors and the creative team can fully concentrate on the play. For actors it’s crucial to be able to play around with their characters, bring it to different extremes and see what might come out of it.

Eilís says that it’s great to see other actors creating their characters. “You can learn a lot from them”, she says “and it’s a great reminder that you are actually surrounded by some amazing talented actors.”

Being all of them graduates of the Gaiety School of Acting, the guys are telling me that John Delaney and Helena Walsh, two tutors at the school, were a huge inspiration for them. Both John and Helena are amazing people to work with and to be taught by. In Helena’s class, I’ll take the liberty to say, you are being more then simply taught, she is sharing her profound wisdom with you. Interestingly enough both teachers encourage you “not to be afraid to fall”. Or “fail beautifully”, as Helena likes to repeat.

“The Cup Theatre Company”, founded by The Gaiety School graduating of class 2013, also had a huge impact on The Gumption. Marnie says that it was truly inspiring to see that they were doing great. “If they can do it, we can do it”, she says. All the companies that came out of The Gaiety are very supporting of each other. “It really isn’t a competition”, says Eilís, “it’s really rewarding to see how everyone supports everyone and gets happy when you do well.”

As for the future productions: Dave Rowe is currently working on an original piece of script for the company. Marnie’s “The Valley of Dolls”, that was originally produced as a short piece (starring India Mullen and directed by Aonghus Og McAnally), will be transformed into a full length play and presented to the audience early next year.

Whether you decide to trick or treat somebody in to the theatre this Hallowe’en, here is the link to get your tickets for Tales from The Woodshttp://www.theatreupstairs.ie/tales-from-the-woods

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Project Arts Center: The Train

Ireland is a small country and whenever a play is a real success, the word is being spread around quite quickly.

Rough Magic presents the hit musical that I can see turning the lights on on Broadway one day. We are boarding The Train.

With an amazing cast, a live band, and a hell of a story behind it, after it premiered in the Lime Tree Theatre (Limerick) The Train has finally arrived in Dublin. Originally the play was part of Dublin Theatre Festival 2015, but due to [crazy] popular demand, extra days have been added. And The Train just kept on running.

From my own experience, I can safely say that one of the essential ingredients of making a rememberable play is by discussing an uneasy and deeply tabooed matter. The deeper you dig into the roots, the better it will be. That’s why such plays as The Field, Riders to the Sea, The Plough and the Stars will always be popular with the public. People love reminiscing, people love dwelling on good olden days. But even more, people love realising how long a road they have walked; how much they have changed; how much the country they call home has changed.

A play is always a very healthy way of reacting to a problem. It’s also a very desperate one! It’s the public’s scream of help and acknowledgment. Forty years have passed. We need to talk about The Train.

Think that only some thirty-forty-fifty years ago Ireland was a totally different place. Divorce was illegal, abortion was (and still is!) illegal, the use of contraceptions was illegal… a woman, if married, needed  permission from her husband if she wanted to travel to a different town or city! I am not even mentioning the fact that women were made redundant the day they got married. And even though matriarchy and women power was not a myth and existed, it was strictly restricted to stay within the walls of one’s own house. And it’s not that Irish women needed liberation (of course, they did!), even more they needed a life and to be in control of it!

Set in 1971 in Dublin, The Train tells us the story of five women who (along with another 42) boarded a train at Connolly station to go to Belfast. Five passionate activists from Irish Women’s Liberation Movement boarded that train to bring the contraception pill from the North (where it was legally, with a prescription, sold in chemists’) to the Republic. By law and by the catholic church, Irish women were not allowed to use any sort of contraception. No exception was made for no one. Family planing? Who needs it, when God has already planned it all!

By the reactions in the audience, it’s evident that for some women The Train touched on a very personal ground. I myself did not know anything about it before seeing the play, and even I was touched by some tunes and scenes. Oh, did I want to stand up to chant with the rest of the voices “Let them through!” when the girls have crossed the border and the train stopped in Dundalk!

I absolutely loved the way the story was delivered to us. If you think about it, such a difficult matter… was made into a musical. With nice and melodic tunes that carried the action forward, outstanding acting and the energy coming from both the cast and the audience, I can say without any doubt that The Train is to become one of Ireland’s symbolic plays.

Darragh Kelly gave an especially memorable performance! Watching him in a play is a pleasure itself, but his out-of-Father-Ted-ish priest was absolutely brilliant. The wit, the mimics, the mannerisms… it was all worth every last drop of sweat he produced!

The five “train” girls: Danielle Galligan, Kate Gilmore, Liza Lambe, Karen MacCartney and Sophie Jo Wassen were also outstanding. It was truly eye-captivating how they created totally different and unique characters.

The play would not be complete without Clare Barrett and Emmet Kirwan hilariously but absolutely beautifully portraying a “typical Irish couple”. I saw Clare in a couple of plays previously and she always wins me over with the ways she can naturally create an interesting and human character.

The set is another gem. Representing two railway tracks, it’s not only symbolic but also works very well establishing the hierarchy. Notice how some characters always stand on the tracks when they are speaking…

I don’t think that The Train needs any more words to be said… it’s an amazing play about our past and the journey we’ve all taken. The Train that departed on May 22nd 1971 has arrived back. Forty seven brave women made the journey that changed the life of all Irish women forever. And I’m not talking about condoms and the “jelly”. There are still women against contraception. At least, now they’ve got a choice.

The tickets are very hard to get due to the play’s success, but it’s always worth trying your luck. To get your ticket for The Train, as per usual… http://projectartscentre.ie/event/train/

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Theatre Upstairs: Rehearsed Readings

Yesterday the curtains fell on a series of rehearsed readings in Dublin’s Theatre Upstairs. Four brand new plays, eight talented playwrights, three different directors and a total cast of sixteen actors and actresses. I must say that I am not a big fan of rehearsed readings (some of them can be really dull) but as soon as I saw the names of the playwrights, there was no chance that I would miss it. Not every week you are given an opportunity for just a tenner to go and witness creative work of a bunch of Irish best playwrights. And I really mean it. From the good ol’ ones to the rising newbies.

The first play “Quartet” was written by one of Irish most famous and loved playwrights Marina Carr. The rehearsed reading of  the play was directed by the Theatre Upstairs’ very own Karl Shiels. The story revolves around a married diplomat (played by John Kavanagh), his beautiful middle-aged wife (played by Sharon Coade), his elder but wise and intelligent Irish mistress (played by Barbara Brennan) of whom the wife is very much aware!, his young American lover (played by Ciara O’Callaghan) and her teenage son.

I can’t say that I’m very familiar with Marina Carr’s previous work (who doesn’t know “By the Bog of Cats”, obviously) but, for some reason, I expected something totally different from “Quartet”. I can’t say what exactly. Nevertheless, it turned out to be a very light and humorous play. The audience were in stitches how funny some bits of it were.

Another great thing about this play was that all the cast was clearly enjoying the reading just as much as the audience did. It might have happened because it was the very first night and everything was new and unknown… but it definitely added to the whole atmosphere.

The second play was “Ceasefire Soldiers”, written and directed by Jimmy Murphy. This really Irish play tells the story of three IRA volunteers. Two young men: Sean (played by Liam Carney) and Eamonn (played by Frank O’Sullivan) and a girl Marie (played by Neilí Conroy) were living in England when they got recruited by the same man from for an important task on behalf of IRA. The task was to place a bomb in Central London (Soho). They were told that the bomb won’t go off, it was just needed to remind the people about the Irish radicals and that the IRA was still alive. Eamonn, Sean and Marie did as they were told. They followed the instructions. But the bomb did go off. And two people were killed, including an innocent child. Soon after the Irish Three realised that it was all well-planned beforehand, they decide (each other on their own) to run away from London. Go to somewhere like Scotland or Wales to hide for some time before they could safely return to Ireland. They were never caught.They were never convicted. They were never imprisoned. But now, thirty years after, they still carry the burden of their wrong-doing. And as Jimmy Murphy puts it himself “For some people the war is just never really over”.

This play was totally different from the first one. As a matter of fact, they are incomparable. The mood of this play is much heavier and darker. You see the situation from the perspective of view of the IRA members. What they did, how they did it and what happened next. This piece plays with the audience feelings a lot: there they are, people who in their own hands brought the bomb to Soho and left it there. What kind of feeling does it awake in you? What would you do in their place? Is it their fault?

Yet again, the cast for this play was spot on.

The third play was “Fogarty”, written and directed by Karl Shiels. As we were told before the reading, this play was commissioned by The Abbey Theatre. So maybe some time in the near future we will see a fully staged production of this play in The Peacock?

Fogarty is a play about a clown named Fogarty (played by Joe Conlan) and a thirteen year old girl (Megan O’Brien) who he had kidnapped and now keeps in his basement. The story is being told to us by the little girl herself. She has been in the dirty basement for some time now, she is already used to it. She has even kind of grown to like (“accept” might be the word) Fogarty. She is not scared of him anymore. She has even found a way of talking to him and making him do what she wants (sometimes, when he is in a good mood).

This play was probably the darkest one of all. It contained some strong language and explicit descriptions at times to make the piece sound authentic. I absolutely loved Megan O’Brien’s voice. It was like a little bell. She did sound like a little girl. On the opposite side, Joe Conlan created an absolutely appalling and disgusting Fogarty The Clown but put something very human into him too, which is always the main aim in acting. Nobody wants to see a completely evil creature if there wasn’t something human in it, something everyone (on some level) could relate to.

The ending of this piece was interesting, I thought. I can’t really say that it was totally unexpected but the solution of the problem was very smartly pitched.

The fourth reading was a whole collection of mini  plays: “Youth” by Kate Gilmore, “Glutton Free Philosophy” by Keith James Walker, “Presentation” by Jeda De Brí and Finbarr Doyle and “Slice” by Lee Coffey.  All of them directed by Jeda de Brí.

This was quite something. First of all, it was a bit more than a simple reading. More like full scenes played out by actors. All four of them were very different: from an arguing couple (who happened to be a brother and sister) to a guy who steals bikes to another couple who has found not the easiest way to get their first work project to a guy who can’t tolerate glutton and is in love (it’s a difficult story!). Some of the pieces aimed to be funny and some of them really were. Furthermore, all of the pieces were very well done and quite enjoyable.

It was a bit sad to realise that it was the last one, though! There goes hoping and wishing that Theatre Upstairs will organise more readings like these ones some time soon!

For more info about the plays or to keep an eye on forthcoming plays, visit: Theatre Upstairs

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