Tag Archives: movement

Scene and Heard Festival: Syrius

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If I had to describe Syrius with one only phrase, it would definitely be: the beauty in simplicity.

A sharp 20 min piece about a Syrian refugee on her unintended journey to Ireland presented by Rosebuds Theatre Company is indeed an awakening production. Through beautifully choreographed dance and movement Romana Testasecca tells us the story of Rasha, a young Syrian woman who is forced to flee her though beloved but self-destroying motherland in search of a more peaceful future.

A play like Syrius shows us perfectly how the almost complete lack of spoken words can sometimes even benefit and enhance a performance. One image equals one hundred words. We all live in the same world; we are all human beings who, when really want, can communicate with each other without the need for words at all. Protest banners, the white wedding veil, the headscarf, the tent, the paper boat… all these things are not only props or attributes that help move the story forward but they are also strong easily recognised international symbols.

Even though the actress does remain silent, towards the end of the piece there is an audio recording involved; the beautiful thing is that we can hear both Arabic and the English translation of it speaking almost simultaneously. It gives Rasha that little extra of being a real fleshed out person, even though she is just a generalised character. But the truth remains the same: there are hundreds of Rashas out there who have lost everything from their family and friends to the sense of belonging.

And if we want to be completely honest: there is a bit of Rasha in all of us.

Directed by Karen Killeen and choreographed by Stephanie Dufresne, Syrius is a play that isn’t afraid of challenges: be it in the structure of the piece or what lies behind the story. Rosebuds TC didn’t only create a touching piece of theatre, they brought the reality of today’s world into the art of performing. And isn’t it what good theatre is supposed to do: reflect the current situation we live in?

Syrius ran as part of Dublin’s Scene and Heard Festival in the Smock Alley Theatre from Feb. 24th to 26th. For more info about the production, you can read my interview with the woman behind it all – Romana Testasecca.

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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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Scene and Heard Festival: Interview with Romana Testasecca – Syrius

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Another day – another show. The second week of Scene and Heard Festival has already begun and we are talking human interest, international crisis and physical theatre now. All combined in one: SYRIUS, a new movement piece produced and performed by Romana Testasecca in association with Rosebuds Theatre Company.

In the interview below Romana talks about why she chose such a difficult subject as Syrian civil war and its effects on common civil Syrians; Romana also explains why she decided to present her new play as a movement piece rather than anything else.

SYRIUS will run for three nights only from Feb 24th to 26th in the Smock Alley Theatre’s Main Space. To book the tickets: http://entertainment.ie/show-/Smock-Alley-Theatre/Scene-Heard-Syrius/event-2789898.htm

 

Tell me a little bit about the piece. Is it your first solo movement performance?

1. We’re very excited to present this piece on behalf of Rosebuds, Karen Killeen and I (co-
founders) have never worked on anything like this before. The process has been very interesting and a real eye-opener. The piece is centred around the story of a young Syrian woman, Rasha, who is forced to leave her country. The piece starts just before Rasha takes part in a peaceful protest against Bashar al-Assad which leads to Rasha’s imprisonment. In prison she realises that “the Syria she knows has gone” and it’s time for her to leave. This is my first solo piece and I am very grateful that it will be taking place at Smock Alley Theatre main space to meet its first audience this Friday, Saturday and Sunday at 6.30 pm. (24th -26th Feb)

What made you decide to create a movement piece? Why this genre in particular?

2. Movement is extremely effective especially when the subject matter is so difficult for us to talk about. In many catastrophic situations, like the Syrian civil war happening right now and the subsequent difficulties thousands of refugees are facing, people find it hard to express their feelings about it. It’s hard to comprehend, we say things like “there are no words”, we find it hard to process and vocalise painful news. When matters are beyond our control and we feel helpless it is hard to express our thoughts. Sometimes a visceral bodily reaction is all we have.

Who and how came up with the story behind the piece? Tell me a little bit about the creation of the piece.

3. The process started from an idea I had about telling a specific story of a refugee and the circumstances that led up to that happening. Conversations between myself and the director Karen Killeen gave a structure and arch to the piece. After a lot of research, we pin-pointed what was going to happen, section by section. We then brought in our wonderful choreographer Stephanie Dufresne. She shaped a lot of the movement for each section. We have never had a written piece. You can’t express movement on paper. There was a lot of filming and watching back and repeating over and over. Myself and Karen rehearsed and devised all in one.

What are the main elements that can be achieved through movement and sound that wouldn’t be as noticeable or as enhanced if done in a more traditional style (i.e. a play or a monologue)?

4. Different feelings bring about movement in the body. Sometimes thoughts are hard to elaborate through words. You can achieve a certain flow when you’re moving and that sequence of movements can mean something to one person and a different thing to someone else. People can interpret movement in different ways and that’s what makes it so interesting and unique. Movement connects a different part of us which is very rarely exposed.

The sound, designed by the talented Garret Hynes, is extremely helpful in conveying the message and feeding the narrative. The tricky part of abstract movement is that when it gets too abstract people don’t know what’s going on. When you are invested in the story and you’re creating it, you know what is going on so you feel it’s obvious. You aim to leave the audience as free as possible but you can’t give them too little either or you’ll lose them. It has to be balanced out and the sound provides a great equilibrium and serves as a guide for the audience. The audience then connects the visual with the audio.

What are the main challenges // advantages for you rehearsing and performing the piece?

5. The process is very free and liberating. There are no boundaries but if anything doesn’t work, we’re not afraid of letting it go or moving sections around so that the pieces fit together. It’s good to peel back and get to the core of what we’re trying to achieve. As a performer, you don’t always get the chance to move freely in the space and follow your physical instincts so that has been incredibly interesting to explore. I found it very useful to record myself and to watch it back with an objective eye. The challenge is assigning the correct weight to each part and moving coherently from section to section. The piece is abstract but it does follow a linear narrative, we have inserted voiceovers and certain moments in the story to give a little more context.

What would you like to achieve through the piece? What would you like the audience to bring home with them after the performance?

6. Ideally, we would love for the audience to connect with this story, no matter how far away it is from their own reality; SYRIUS is a universal story about losing everything you hold close, starting with your country. Geographically we are far from what is happening in Syria but that does not excuse us from being mentally disconnected from it. I’d like for the audience to reflect upon what is happening right now and ask themselves what we can do to help refugees. As a nation but also as individuals. These people need our help and all we have is our voice and our bodies. We have to use ourselves to speak out on behalf of people like Rasha. We have to welcome them in our countries. We have to give them a voice.

If you could describe the piece in three words only what would they be?

COLD , HARD , HOPE.

 

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The Smock Alley Theatre: Boyz Of Harcourt Street

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“Boys will be boys.”

– Proverb

There is a very particular type of people on this earth – the “live for the weekend” type of people; those who drag themselves through the week just so they can enjoy the hell out of a weekend. And we all know what “enjoy” really stands for. If a weekend was good who cares that you don’t remember more half of it?

Rocket Octopus Theatre Company presents Boyz from Harcourt Street. Fosterson (played by Keith-James Walker), Gavmeister (played by Brendan O’Donohue) and D’Arce (played by Laurence Falconer) are indeed three boys; it’s true that they are already in their twenties holding an office job and being able to pay for their own booze and coke (and not the pepsi kind), but no tongue would turn to call those three – men. Cubicle next to cubicle, they spend one hundred percent of their time together: be it at work, home or out partying. They know each other better than anyone else; they’ve been almost hand in hand through it all: love, loss, buying cocaine off a junkie, crashing a car, spending a night in a stranger’s house in Carlow (yes, it is a big deal when for somebody whose comfort zone quite literally goes as far as Dublin’s Harcourt Street), being possessed by a demon… but it seems like nothing can destroy the friendship of these three. But (and there is always a but -one way or another – in every good story) something big is going to happen, and it’s going to happen soon.

Boyz of Harcourt Street, masterly directed by Eoghan Carrick, presents easily recognizable elements of Commedia dell’Arte, which converts this play into a complete and utter farce, but a hugely hilarious and enjoyable farce.

Devised by the performers themselves (apart from Walker, who is replacing Rex Ryan for this run) and Ian Toner, Boyz of Harcourt Street presents an absolutely brilliant and skillful ensemble of acting, miming and movement. The easily identifiable ruthless and careless white collar fellas, who clearly live for the party and buzz, become somewhat more human and interesting to watch thanks to the perfectly timed facial and physical expressions given by the three actors on stage. And even though the play is an unstoppable comedy from beginning to end, the theme of loosing a friend finally finds its absolute climax in one  of the very last scenes and it’s heartbreaking.

Boyz of Harcourt Street stands out from the very first second. It might not even be the script or the directing, but the fact that it’s one of very few plays nowadays that uses hand-made sound effects on stage (by Tiernan Kearns). It’s a rarity and a real privilege to witness such a precise and well-crafted masterpiece of sounds used during a live performance. The absolute genius of it is that thanks solely to those sound effects and put-on voices, a whole world was created. The play also benefited hugely from the usage of music (the cheesy over-played but yet so beloved and nostalgia-evoking tunes from the 80s) and movement bringing otherwise static scenes to a complete change of mood and energy.

Boyz of Harcourt Street is perfect for a fun night out. This easy to watch and to enjoy ridiculously amusing play will keep you laughing and cheering long after it’s over. For more info or to book tickets: http://smockalley.com/boyz-harcourt-street-2/

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#WakingTheFeminists

Just back from #WakingTheFeminists meeting at The Abbey.

I’m trying to think of words that could describe the emotion and the energy charge that was created in The Abbey’s Auditorium this afternoon… and there are simply no words big or explicit enough.

My passion for theatre started in The Abbey more than five years ago. If it wasn’t for that theatre, I wouldn’t be where I am now. And even though, I do not have an Irish passport I consider it my National Theatre. In the last three years I barely missed a play in The Abbey. For the last two and a half years I was also a member of the Abbey. I was there when Waking The Nation programme was announced.

I’m not going to lie, I liked the programme. And to my shame, it has never even occurred to me to count how many plays were written/directed by women. I’m very glad that Lian Bell did it for me and for all of us. And I’m also very glad and thankful that she brought attention to the problem. It was a very brave and courageous move. It was also a push that we all needed.

Lian might have been the first to vocalise the truth. But she is not alone. Not anymore. There are hundreds and thousands of both women and men out there waiting, yearning for gender equality. And today’s meeting was just another proof of it! The Abbey’s main space has slightly under 500 seats… for all I know, the event was sold out in less than half an hour after the tickets became available, and today there were more than a hundred on the wait list queueing outside hoping to get in. On a Thursday afternoon, all those people from all around the country and abroad came to The Abbey to support the gender equality. They didn’t come to see a show; they didn’t come to a catch a freebie; they came to show their support and respect for their fellow theatre artists. They came because it mattered. It mattered to show that regardless of your gender, profession or nationality you recognise the huge gender imbalance and flow in the system that supports and encourages the imbalance. It mattered because, just like some six month earlier, our future (and that of our children) depended on here and now. 2016 is a very important year in the Irish history. Let’s not forget that the history was written by both men and women. So why a hundred years after we shall forget about it?

As I said at the beginning, I have no words to express my feelings right now. I’ve been in a super hyper active cycle ever since I found out I got a ticket for the meeting today. I still can’t believe that it happened. I want to thank all the amazing actors, directors, playwrights and theatre makers who spoke on and off The Abbey stage today. Each one of the speeches was incredibly powerful and important to hear. I strongly believe that everyone is entitled to have an opinion and to express that opinion. Even though the problem of gender inequality has existed in the Irish society for a good while now, it’s great that women finally started speaking out (and look at all the brave and beautiful voices they have!). Every single word spoken in The Abbey today has indeed travelled. And not only in space, but also in time. For, hopefully, years and generations after today will be seen as a day that did make a difference. I strongly believe in the importance of vocalisation of your thoughts and opinions. If it’s not said out loud, it can’t exist. And women were kept in silence for way too long.

As a theatre lover, maker, goer, critic… myself, I strongly believe in female voices and stories. That’s a side of life we all want and need to hear (for once!). People say, it’s 2015, it’s time… I say, it’s been time for the last 2015 years and beyond. Our society has shackled and put limitation on us, women; with years those invisible chains grew only bigger and heavier. But a woman isn’t a small and helpless creature… A woman, any woman, is a true warrior. And it’s time to shake off those chains to finally free out voices.

The Abbey wants to wake the nation. Well, we are wide awake and ready and there’s not a single thing that will stop us now.

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