Tag Archives: new writing

Theatre Upstairs: Fizzy Drinks with Two Straws

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Tea + Toast Theatre Company in association with Theatre Upstairs presents Fizzy Drinks with Two Straws. And if the title itself hasn’t already intrigued you enough, then maybe you should stick around for a bit longer to find out what it’s all about.

An original piece of theatre, written by Joyce Dignam and directed by Dignam herself and Meabh Hennelly, Fizzy Drinks is a simple story told from a very nontrivial point of view. It tells us about an Irish family on their holidays in Wexford. Maybe not the fanciest of all holiday destinations, one might think and Lara (played by Ali Hardiman) and Rosie (played by Tara Maguire) will definitely agree with you. But it’s not the lack of exoticism or Mediterranean sun on the resort that upsets the little girls; it’s the feeling that something bad is going on in their family and nobody would tell or explain them anything. Mam and Dad seem to be enclosed in a local pub with a family friend, while Lara and Rosie are left to play by themselves in a playground outside. Nevertheless, their minds can’t help but wonder what’s really hiding behind all that grown-up talk that even playing Mommies and Daddies doesn’t help.

In this approximately one hour play, we witness the story from the point of view of two little girls – the eldest being only ten. It’s definitely catchy and refreshing. Both Hardiman and Maguire are excellent at portraying little girls as well as adults. The sense of naiveness and childishness that they transmit to the audience is nothing but adorable and hugely entertaining.

Fizzy Drinks with Two Straws is an easy to watch and enjoy production showcasing some of the raising talents of the Irish theatre. The play was presented as part of this year’s Scene and Heard Festival last month. Apart from decent acting, there is some nice lighting (by Shane Gill) and sound (by Conrad Jones-Brangan) designs. As for the set design, being presented as a playground, it’s quite outstanding with a real slide mounted on the Theatre Upstairs’ cozy stage.

Fizzy Drinks with Two Straws runs in Theatre Upstairs till April 8th. It’s never too late to be a child again and perhaps remind yourself how it all used to feel like. For more info or to book tickets: http://www.theatreupstairs.ie/fdwts

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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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Scene and Heard: Tender Mercies

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The yearly festival of the original raw writing Scene + Heard is in its full swing. Colette Cullen, the creator of YES and Blind Date, together with Home You Go Productions presents a brand new play – Tender Mercies.

In this poignantly darkish tale of life, love and loss we follow the story of Mary Fortune (played by Denise Quinn), a middle-aged hairdresser who happened not to be as fortunate as her last name might suggest. Tender Mercies invites us to an hour long ride during which we don’t only meet some of Miss Fortune’s most notorious costumers but also get a peek into Mary’s somewhat more personal affairs. A smoker and a hopeless wine drinker, she isn’t a cliché. She is a person who, just like anyone else, wants to love and be loved back.

In this wild and, at times, unbelievable mixture of dark comedy and bitter tragedy, Quinn blows the life into her character and creates an unforgettable one woman show. Her doubtlessly outstanding performance is hugely supported by the thoroughly written script. You cry, you laugh, you are left in an awe. The time flies as you are getting more and more involved into Mary’s entangled story. The twisted ending hits you unexpectedly and hard. I didn’t see that coming! – the whispers from the audience exclaim.

With quite a simplistic but elaborated set and decorations (designed by Carolyn Croke), Tender Mercies benefits from some very nice creative touches when it comes to both directing (also by Colette Cullen) and staging. No doubt though that apart from the solid script the strongest side of the play is Quinn’s absolutely breathtaking portrayal of Mary Fortune. Taking into account that this is still a kind of a raw material brought out to the audience basically for a trial, the play has an enormous potential. Especially, if staged in a somewhat smaller and more intimate space. And once all the little things are sharpened, Tender Mercies is going to be a must-see of the year.

Unfortunately, the show enjoyed quite a short two-day only run at the Smock Alley’s Main Space. But, for more information (and fingers crossed for its soon return) about Tender Mercies and its future, please, follow: http://www.homeyougoproductions.com/index.html 

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The New Theatre: Happy Birthday Jacob

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You know a decent play from the very start! Beautifully designed stage (by Ciara Murnane), intriguing beginning and an adorable 10 year old playing one of the main parts! It’s unusual enough for a big production to have child actors (never mind The Abbey’s latest staging of Anna Karenina), let alone a first production of an original play. Challenge must definitely be something Púca Productions aren’t afraid of and ready to embrace.

A poignant tragedy about two brothers: a 17 year old Jacob (played by Sean Basil Crawford) and a 10 year old Lucas (played by Finian Duff Lennon). After both of their parents left them, for eight years Jacob has been looking after his baby brother. Perhaps not an ideal brother himself, with demons of his own as we all are, Jacob was the one who stayed behind and always cared for Lucas. Living in a run-down flat and barely making ends meet, the situation, nevertheless, takes an even worse turn when Lucas suddenly gets into fight at school and parents are being called in. Jacob quickly realises the gravity of the situation; his baby brother, the only person he has in this world, can be soon taken away from him as there is no parent or legal guardian looking after the two underaged boys. The only hope remains that in a couple of days it’s Jacob’s 18th birthday. And then a sudden knock on the door from the past comes…

In Michael Marshall’s roller-coaster script, there is everything a good audience can wish for. Hand in hand with the impeccable and obviously talented cast, the author brings you on a hugely enjoyable though highly emotional journey to Jacob’s life and loss. In Happy Birthday Jacob there is absolutely everything a solid plot needs: there is tragedy, there is comedy, there is singing and dancing (in a very cute and adorable way!), there are carefully crafted characters who make the audience really care about their lives.

Nowadays it’s quite difficult to pull off a twist at the end that is not predictable all throughout the play but Marshall did it and he did it well. Just when you think you know what’s happening, the very last scene comes as a complete jaw-dropping surprise and as the lights go out, you suddenly understand that the blackout isn’t only for the audience.

But no play, no matter how good it is, is ever truly alive without the actors actually performing the scenes and saying the words. The small cast of four in Happy Birthday Jacob beats all the possible expectations. Every single one of them absolutely shines on stage and truly gives a performance of a lifetime that shall never be forgotten. All the characters are very diverse and beautifully shaped out by both the actors and the playwright. The absolute jewel of the crown is the immensely talented Finian Duff Lenon portraying Lucas. But kudos must also be given to Maree Jane Duffy (playing Mary), whose storytelling skills were so moving it made some cry; to Karen Kelly (playing Terry) for bringing us back to the 90s in a way that no travel machine could have done better! And, of course, to Sean Basil Crawford who created a truly beautiful complex human being.

Done to a very high standard was also the technical side of the show. Happy Birthday Jacob wouldn’t be what it is without the outstanding music and sound design (by Bill Woodland).

So, if in doubt, it’s simple: don’t think twice: Happy Birthday Jacob is a play that has to be seen. It’s touching, it’s heart-breaking, it’s probably one of the best written and performed plays that you will see this year! See where I’m going with that?.. For more info or to book tickets: http://www.thenewtheatre.com/tnt_php/scripts/page/show.php?show_id=288&gi_sn=589af5e1ee950%7C0

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The New Theatre: All Washed Up

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Another day – another show to catch. For those of you who are suffering from the melancholic autumn blues, there is a cure: All Washed Up‘s post-Halloween theatre therapy currently running in The New Theatre.

Developed by the recently formed theatre company Rosebuds, All Washed Up is dramatic comedy about one very unusual relationship. Alice (played by Romana Testasecca), Fionn (played by Jamie Sykes) and Kate (played by Karen Killeen) are three friends living together. Normal modern life situation. But is it? The catch is: apart from sharing the common living space, they also happen to share the only bed in the apartment. Fionn goes to an office job every day, Alice cooks and paints her pictures and Kate… well, Kate is just being Kate – the glue that is keeping them all together. And everything seems fine until one of them decides it’s time to move on to somewhat more ordinary life.

All Washed Up is a beautiful representation of how an abnormal situation can become almost a routine, the kind of life that you just get used to. The original idea of the show belongs to Jamie Sykes but by elaborating it inside the company, the actors managed to create some very different and very real characters. It’s a pleasure to watch three fully developed personas with their naturally human perfections and flaws: be it the corkiness of Kate or the down-to-earthness of Alice.

Being just a one hour piece, the play flies by. The set (by George Reeves) and the lighting (by Patrick Maher) designs are a very nice addition to convey the atmosphere of the life in the house. The chaotic mess in the room is a powerful representation of the mental state our characters find themselves in.

An unusual story about what’s happening behind the closed doors of ordinary people, All Washed Up, directed by Lorna Costello, is running in The New Theatre, Temple Bar till November 5th. Halloween might be over but the fun isn’t. For more info or to book tickets: http://www.thenewtheatre.com/tnt_php/scripts/page/show.php?show_id=282&gi_sn=580baefe09e7a%7C0

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The International Bar: Triangles

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If you are in a bad need of a post-fringe detox (as one might easily be since there is such little time to get over one event just before another one is about to hit), then I’ve got just the right play for you. Sad Strippers Theatre presents Triangles.

Written by the company’s very own Ciara Smyth and performed by the other two company members, the play is an indescribable kaleidoscope of games that the characters play on stage and that entangles into one whole piece. Chair (played by Laura Brady), Muesli (played by Meg Healy) and Bread (played by Ciara Smyth) entertain themselves by re-enacting different scenes that they might have witnessed.  After the end of  each scene they repeat it again and again each time adding something new or switching characters. The result is always the same though usually unpredictable.

In this crispy fast-paced thirty minute piece, the three actors give a performance filled with an incredible amount of energy, joy and laughter. With the bare minimum that the performing space in the International bar can offer, the three actors did an amazing job to create the atmosphere. Not relying particularly on lights, set or props (as the majority of other productions usually do), the show was completely stolen by the beautiful and very skillful acting. The characterisation was remarkably strong. I was reminded of cartoons where each personality, even though blown up immensely, still remains believable, carefully crafted and quite unique.

Triangles is a great example of a story where the third isn’t necessarily the odd one out, but the wheel that keeps the show (and the laughter) rolling. So, if you find yourself stranded and lost on the path in between the two biggest theatre festivals, allow yourself a break and pop into the International Bar for a bun and a blast. Triangles is closing on September 30th. For more info or to book the tickets: https://www.facebook.com/events/1665535230426742/

 

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Smock Alley Theatre: Animalia

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Tiger Dublin Fringe 2016 is in its prime with the first week shows in full swing. With the three shows under my belt, this review will be about Ian Toner’s new play Animalia.

Developed at Fringe Lab with the support of Tiger Dublin Fringe and Theatre Lovett, this fifty min piece follows the story of two girls who could’ve been best friends: Danielle (played by Louise O’Meara) and Sarah (played by Ashleigh Dorrell) – two eleven year olds, who are going through fifth grade crisis of identity, popularity, friendship and first love and loss. What could be more existential than two children being faced with every day – every life issues known to anyone who has ever been a child.

So, why go and see this play out of all others on offer during the fringe? The answer might be somewhat more obvious that many would expect. Because we’ve all been eleven years old, we’ve all experienced what Sarah and Danielle (and Brigid and other girls and boys in the play) are going through. And now, when we are in our twenties and thirties or further down the road, now we can finally look back and not only smile at our young selves, now we can see how smart we were and how big some of those issues were and how wise we managed them despite our age and inexperience. Animalistic instinct – first rule of survival.

To bring this onto a different level, one of the main characters – Sarah – is given a trivial, at first look, but crucial to the story hobby: she loves reading about animals and natural life. So, the characters are not only being compared to the inhabitants of the somewhat wilder nature, but their actions, decisions and personalities are all animalistic to the very core. Simply because inside of each one of us there is an animal.  That helps to understand the play on a more instinct-driven level. We’ve all had a friend who was as hissy as a snake, as cute and adorable as a panda or as timid as mouse. When we talk about animals, we don’t consider only the outside but rather the inside, the very nature of a being.

Animalia, with its absolutely superb acting, is the perfect example of how tragedy is shown through comedy. Both O’Meara and Dorrell portray a whole range of characters (varying quite masterly both gender and age). Even though it does take some time to get used to the idea that one actor can be playing two different characters in the same scene, once you’ve got your head around it, the characters come across quite vividly and crystal clear.

With a quite minimalistic set (by Katie Foley), Animalia is one hundred percent acting driven. But then, who needs layers and layers of decor and elaborated design (as fancy as it might sometimes be), when the almost magical space that The Boys’ School is can be filled with wonderful voices, movements and real human emotions.

If you are on a lookout for a time travel machine into the past (with the benefit of not having to travel too far), then I couldn’t recommend anything more than Animalia, written by the talented Ian Toner and directed by the wonderful Sarah Finlay. Runs in the Smock Alley Theatre until September 18th. For more info or to book tickets: http://www.fringefest.com/festival/whats-on/animalia 

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The New Theatre: The Belly Button Girl

The Belly Button Girl, written and performed by Tom Moran, is a story about a twenty-something guy who falls in love with the cute barеутвук at his cousin Sharon’s 21st birthday party.

The story is simple and quite straight forward. Except, that it’s not. Set in, undoubtedly, one of the most beautiful corners of the Emerald Isle – Dingle Peninsula, this piece tells us a story of a guy who fell in love and wasn’t afraid to admit it to himself and to the others. In an age of masculinity and in a country when showing your feelings is still a dangerous and, mostly by choice and ever so pressuring society, unexplored territory (especially by men), this is a huge deal.

All throughout the 60 min piece not for second is The Guy scared to say what is really on his mind. The story is easy to follow and understand because it doesn’t come out as a pretentious overwritten piece but rather like somebody’s natural train of thought. Yes, it’s ridiculous at times, but it’s very truthful. Thanks to this, we forgive and even laugh with Moran’s character when he mentions some of the most unspeakable and unmentionable details of his dating the Belly Button Girl. Why would you say something like that? the audience might think. But then you remember, that’s something we all think about and there is nothing bad in saying the truth. It’s like Moran removed the filter that was holding the society’s daily courtesy talk routine and just poured it all out.

Another element that immediately attracted me to this play was the amazingly believable characterization. Every single one of them: from the main characters – The Belly Button Girl – to the smallest ones – The Massive Lad or The Sambuca Lady. It’s a very interesting tool that not many playwrights use: to identify characters by who they really are. Without too much description or an overload of names, I could easily picture all the characters in the play and know what kind of people they were.

Now to the setting. Dingle is a very attractive place to set a story. The furthest corner of the Irish land; anything can happen there. But Moran, once again hits the jackpot, with some very modest but easily recognisable imagery. If you’ve ever been to Dingle Peninsula, of course you would have heard about its main attraction: Fungie, the dolphin, who doesn’t show himself to everyone. And, even though being one of the most gorgeous places of nature and typical Irish landscape, there is very little to do on the peninsula.

I was also quite fond of the structure of this sixty minute piece. It finishes very much the way it had started. The circle has been complete. With the only difference that our main character – The Guy – isn’t the same anymore; he has grown up emotionally. And that’s what all the good stories are about: the characters journey on a self-exploration and self-development.

A tearing comedy with a somewhat unusual ending, The Belly Button Girl, directed by Romana Testasecca, is a beautiful piece of very touching and truthful theatre. Tom doesn’t use any props and there is barely any sound effects, the play is one hundred percent about  stripping down one’s own soul and sharing the experience with the audience.

The Belly Button Girlbrought to us by Squad Theatre Company and Intensive Purposes Productions, runs in The New Theatre, Temple Bar until August 27th. It’s the kind of play that has all the potential to woe the Fringe (be it Dublin or Edinburgh) audience. A very refreshing piece of truthful theatre. For more info or to book tickets: http://www.thenewtheatre.com/tnt_php/scripts/page/show.php?show_id=268&gi_sn=57bd6f62e9ebe%7C0 

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