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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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The Smock Alley Theatre: Cirque des Reves

Yet again The Smock Alley Theatre‘s Boys’ School has been blessed with an incredible performance!

Hallowe’en is just around the corner. But the theatre makers of Dublin are already celebrating and who could blame them? Especially if they invite you to deepen inside what is one of the most Celtic of holidays – Samhain. The season of witches and wizards, vampires, zombies and the likes have officially started. Dare not to join in!

And Sickle Moon Productions together with Illustrated Productions are the first ones to raise the curtain. Katie McCann, Clodagh Mooney Duggan, Finbar Doyle and Kevin C Olohan have got something very special for you this October: Cirque Des Reves, which opened with a sold out preview yesterday.

This very atmospheric performance with moments of the good old story-telling invites us to witness the story of Poppy Parker. Poppy was once a girl just like you and me. But she got tired of her normal, dull life and decided to run away with the circus. Entertaining shows, flashing lights, enchanting music and lucrative illusions, the never ending fun, a new place and new people every day… Her life will never be the same anymore, thought Poppy. Cirque des Reves came to town for three days only and Poppy made sure not to miss a single performance. Wandering around in between the acts, Poppy gets the attention of one of the brothers who owns the circus. Poppy’s dream may come true sooner than she expected… But little does she know that you can join the circus, but you can never leave.

This magic performance straight away steals you from the reality into the world of the Victorian circus. The poetic language, elaborated set, wonderful authentic costumes and beautifully fleshed out characters make Cirque des Reves, so magnificent and enjoyable. No doubt, this play will enchant both the older and the younger.

Katie McCann, the writer of the piece, has an already proven talent not only for playwriting, but also for performing. Watching her and her fellow actors, the three of them are fast rising Irish theatre makers, on stage is such a pleasure to the eye. Another compliment also goes to Jeda de Brí, who directed this production.

Shall you run away with this circus this Hallowe’en? Do it if you dare! For one week only! For more info or to book tickets, as per usual: http://smockalley.com/cirque-des-reves/

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Filed under Cirque de Reves, Illustrated Productions, Sickle Moon Productions, Smock Alley Theatre

Theatre Upstairs: Hollow Ground

It’s been more than a year since I’d been to Dublin’s Theatre Upstairs. And the first thing that came to my mind as I entered the building today was “Why hadn’t I come back earlier?”.

Funnily enough, the last performance I saw was Katie McCann´s adaptation of The Little Match Girl in late 2013. The Theatre Upstairs itself and productions were very different back then: smaller (much smaller!), the space was teeny tiny, with minimum sound/light effects, decorations or props. As fas as I remember, actually, there has been no props whatsoever on the stage.

As for the play itself, The Little Match Girl (which was a part of three Christmas’ Yule Tales), I loved it. It was extremely well done. Katie’s acting was at a very high standard and the adaptation itself was very original.

So last week, when I saw that Katie was presenting her second piece, I couldn’t miss it.

“Hollow Ground” is one story told by two different people: a brother and sister. It’s a very difficult play, to be honest. Very emotional. Very tragic. It’s a tragedy within a tragedy. A story of a broken family and of what’s left of it.

The brother is played by the very talented Rex Ryan, who gives a very memorable performance of a disturbed man-boy Graham. Graham, now grown up, struggles to fit in. He is different and he is being punished for it.

The sister is played by Katie McCann herself. Just like her brother, she is struggling in her every day life. But she’s a bit luckier, she is the one who managed to get away from her childhood home and from her past. She is able to have some sort of a “normal” life. I simply loved Katie’s brilliant ability to switch characters at a blink of an eye. So many different, invisible, characters became so alive and real.

Hollow ground has been directed by Theatre Upstair’s Artistic Director Karl Shiels. Shiels also directed another play that had been showed earlier this year in The Project Arts: Leper+Chip. Even though Hallow Ground and Leper+Chip are two very different plays, they are very much like each other at the same time. One can definitely identify a certain pattern there. So if you liked Leper+Chip, you’ll love Hollow Ground.

As for the set: simple but very accurate for the play. The set is so smart that you only realise it some half-way through the play. And just like in Leper+Chip the lights are very important for the perception of the show. So, do expect some flashing lights from time to time.

Hollow Ground runs in Theatre Upstairs till March, 21st. If you book for an 1pm matinee performance, you will also be able to get some light lunch in the theatre itself, which is completely complementary. For more info or to book tickets:

http://www.theatreupstairs.ie/hollow-ground

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Filed under Hollow Ground, Irish Stage, Performing arts, Theatre, Theatre Upstairs