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Palace Theatre: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (Part I).

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Would you call it dedication to sit in front of your computer for twelve straight hours just to book tickets for a play? But what if it’s not just for any play but a ticket to your childhood, to the place where letters were delivered by owls, where the good always won over the bad and where the-true magic existed!

It’s been nine years since the last book about the-boy-who-lived was published. It’s been five years since the last film about the unbreakable trio was released. It’s been a lifetime of a desperate belief that you too are a witch or a wizard, it’s just your letter to Hogwarts got lost on its way.

That’s not dedication, that’t just admiration and fandom. But what J K Rowling, Jack Thorne and John Tiffany did in Palace Theatre in order to give those avid Harry Potter followers a little bit of magic is a true dedication to the arts, to the literature and to their audience.

J K Rowling didn’t create one single fairytale. She changed childhoods of a whole generation, who went back from TVs to reading books and believing that “happiness can be found in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light”.

When I read Harry Potter and The Cursed Child, I was somewhat disappointed. I did not like the story. I was more than skeptical to see it on stage. I simply did not believe that it would be possible to recreate that feeling of a different world that the books managed to beget. But, as a true fan, I waited those long twelve hours on the day of the ticket release. At twenty five I still desperately needed that kind of magic in my life. And when you finally hold that sacred golden ticket (almost like in Willy Wonka) for the play and queue outside of the Palace Theatre under a huge nest in order to to get in, you realise that you are not alone. Those emotions are shared by hundreds of likeminded people around you. People of all ages, nationalities and backgrounds are there.

I don’t know how to write a review on a play when the whole point is not to give anything away. I have promised to #KeepTheSecrets and I am going to keep this promise. After seeing the play you understand why the production team does not want any details to leak out. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is an incredible experience. It’s more than a play, it’s a theatrical masterpiece. Everything, every single detail to the tiniest ones, is so thoroughly thought through that, at times, you will start questioning your ability to percept the action on stage. Am I really seeing what I am seeing?

The choreography of the piece is a pure paradise for eyes: from simple background activity to change of scenes. Steven Hoggett created such a visually rewarding piece that from an esthetic point of view it’s a movement paragon.

Only a few minutes into the play I realised why I didn’t like the book. It was never meant to be read (not as other Harry Potter books anyway), it’s meant to be seen. John Tiffany, who co-wrote the play and also directed it, knew very well what he was doing. He was creating a theatre piece that would be seen acted out.

And now I shall talk about a different kind of magic on stage. The amazing ensemble of over twenty five performers did all the justice to their corresponded parts. Take into account that it’s a two parter with each part lasting approximately two hours and a half. Also, take into account that the main characters are mainly children/teenagers. And obviously, it’s a live show. You watch the little ones almost with the same admiration as you would have watched Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint in their first Harry Potter films.

As for the parenting generation (it is very unusual to see them being grown up!), it’s just breathtakingly scary in a very good way how well some of the actors captured the essence of their characters. A huge amount of pressure is put on them not to deviate too much from the original story that the characters become completely unrecognisable (we did love them all this years for a reason, right?) or cut outs of the already created ones by somebody else but, at the same time, keep it fresh and… more matured, maybe. After all, it’s been 19 years.

It feels a bit unfair to single somebody out but I absolutely loved Noma Dumezweni as Hermione Granger and Alex Price as Draco Malfoy. Their portrayal of the famous Miss Know-It-All and the grown up Bouncing Ferret played an emotional chord with me when one could truly see the life being breathed back into the beloved characters.

Another important moment that I want to touch on is the stage (by Christine Jones), lighting (by Neil Austin) and sound (by Gareth Fry) designs. Thanks to this incredibly talented bunch, together with the illusionist Jamie Harrison, Harry Potter and The Cursed Child created a magical world on stage. Unfortunately, I can’t give a more precise example but the lost in admiration sighs coming from the audience all throughout the play were the best proof that sometimes even impossible is possible if somebody puts his/her mind to it… with a little but of good old theatre magic, of course.

The first part ends on such a cliffhanger that it’s impossible not to want to see the second part! So, I guess it’s time for another weeks and weeks of fishing on the HarryPotterThePlay website. Tickets do become available there from time to time but you always have to keep your eye on it. And for those of you who haven’t been lucky yet, remember that magic does exist and it’s very real. It just couldn’t be any other way!

For more info: https://www.harrypottertheplay.com/

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Filed under Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, J K Rowling, Palace Theatre, Palace Theatre, London, Uncategorized

Theatre Upstairs: Test Dummy

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After the morning with #WakingTheFeminists’s one year recap in the Abbey Theatre came an evening with the feminists just around the corner from Ireland’s National. During the Monday meeting some absolutely shocking statistics were presented on the gender imbalance in the top ten (all government sponsored) theatres and theatre companies around Ireland during the last ten years. But some hope was indeed restored for me on Tuesday night when I sat down to watch Test Dummy, an original Irish play written by a woman, performed by a woman, directed and even produced by a woman.

Theatre Upstairs in association with WeGetHighOnThis Collective presents Caitriona Daly’s new play – Test Dummy, a beautiful but ever so heartbreaking example of modern worldwide female image created by decades and generations of hardcore patriarchy.

Test Dummy might be a very abstract piece in general but it’s in the detail where you find its uniqueness and meaningfulness. In addition to the captivating script, Caitriona Ennis masterfully creates her nameless character of multiple faces and experiences; and it’s in one of those socially disfigured faces that the members of the audience will be able to sadly recognise themselves: be they the victim or the predator.

Test Dummy also managed to challenge the physical space that Theatre Upstairs is. In order to be able to experience the play more profoundly, the audience is being seated on two sides (facing each other), while the stage lies right in between them. The Dummy appears to be trapped in between watching and judging her people.

According to Caitriona Daly’s Author’s Note, she wanted this piece to be “not necessarily understood but felt”. Thanks to the exquisite combination of absolutely haunting sound (by Carl Kennedy ), skillful set (by Laura Honan) and igniting lighting (by Conor Byrne and Shane Gill) designs in addition to Ennis’ breathtaking portrayal of the Dummy, Caitriona Daly’s intention was achieved quite nicely. Louise Lowe’s spot-on directing allows this piece to be both brutally honest and tense, as well as funny and humorous.

This roughly fifty minute piece flies by in an instant. Caitriona Ennis’ human Dummy with strong voice and bright eyes “is happy to oblige” and the audience is happily left satisfied with the piece that they’ve just… no, not seen but rather experienced. So, don’t be a Dummy yourself and get your lovely (male or female regardless) bum to Theatre Upstairs to witness what comes out when three talented theatre makers and a 50/50 gender balanced crew come together to create art. For more info or to book tickets: http://www.theatreupstairs.ie/what-is-on

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Filed under Test Dummy, Theatre Upstairs, We Get High On This Theatre Collective

The Abbey Theatre: The Wake

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The summer season is on. While The Gate is hosting The Constant Wife, The Abbey Theatre is having a grim wake. More precisely The Wake, one of Tom Murphy’s most famous plays. If that wasn’t enough to make you run for the tickets, then let me also mention that this particular production is directed by Annabelle Comyn.

Tom Murphy has a long history of working side by side with the Abbey Theatre. Written for the Abbey and originally staged in the venue in 1998, eighteen years after The Wake makes its return.

As many traditional Irish plays are, The Wake is a story of a deeply dysfunctional family from the West of Ireland. After years of leading a promiscuous life in New York, Vera O’Toole (played by Aisling O’Sullivan) returns home to Ireland. After the death of her dear grandmother, Vera now is in possession of a family hotel. Making Vera the only owner of the hotel made the other three of her siblings breathe fire and brimstone. (Just like in any good Irish play: it’s always all about the land. Brothers turn against brother when it comes to a piece of tangible property). In her childhood hometown, surrounded by the ghosts of the past and present half-dead half-alive, Vera reminisces on her life. The only person she ever cared for – her grandmother – is now dead and nobody cared to let Vera know. Now, being finally back, the only thing she wants to do is have a wake: a wake for her grandmother, or just maybe for her childhood dream. Vera’s wake for a dream.

In this beautifully staged production of one of Murphy’s classics, the mood is being superbly conveyed by the stunning lighting design (by Sinéad McKenna). As the space is being filled with the dark game of light and shadow, it gives us the perfect feeling of Vera’s emotional state. Sometimes, the only light that you have in life is a small candle dancing in the obscure corner of your soul.

Together with the lighting, another hugely influential mood-setter is, of course, the set design (by Paul O’Mahony). From the very first scene until the very end, the somewhat minimalistic stage is just like a chameleon turning  from a tiny one-bed room into a hotel, a family home and finally into a graveyard. It’s just another example of how much can be achieved with very little.

Whenever it comes to seeing a play in The Abbey, the high quality of acting is just something that goes practically without saying. But, in this particular piece, I want to mention the absolutely amazing performance given by Aisling O’Sullivan and Brian Doherty. Tom Murphy’s dialogue driven script with many quite static scenes, in addition to a handful of references to Greek tragedies and Shakespeare, is being completely turned upside down by the energy that the actors bring with them onto the stage.

A truly Irish play, The Wake will keep you thinking about the bad and good in people, about their dreams and failures, about life and death long before the final curtain falls heavy onto the floor. The play runs in The Abbey Theatre until July 30th. For more info or to book tickets: http://www.abbeytheatre.ie/whats_on/event/the-wake

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Filed under 2016 The Abbey Programme, annabelle comyn, The Abbey Theatre, the wake, tom murphy, Waking the Nation