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Broadhurst Theatre: Misery

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When you are in love with theatre, it’s impossible to go to New York and not see a show. Any show. The lights and the buzz around Broadway are all too tempting not to be lured in. Such big names as The Lion King, Phantom of The Opera, Matilda The Musical, etc etc are flashing on the big screens of  Times Square inviting you to come in and see for yourself some of the highlights on some of the world’s best stages.

I’m somewhat more of a play person rather than musicals. So, when going to the tickets office on Times Square, I just wanted to see a play. Any play. Somewhere in my memory there was a recollection of having seen ads for Misery that was showing in The Broadhurst Theatre on 44th Str. The screen outside the office box was announcing that there was a 50% discount for Misery that day.

The tickets were equally expensive for all the plays (it’s Broadway after all), so in for a penny, we thought… it’s not something we will be doing every night, so for the sake of one time let’s go big. And we settled on Misery.

In this version directed by Will Frears, Misery features such big names as Laurie Metcalf (playing Annie) and Bruce Willis (playing Paul Sheldon). This play, based on the same-name novel by Stephen King, tells the story of a famous chick-lit writer Paul Sheldon, who was rescued from an almost lethal car crash by Annie. Coincidentally, Annie isn’t only a good samaritan, she is also Sheldon’s fan number one (and there ain’t number two, according to her). Having both legs severely damaged in the accident, Sheldon has no choice but to be subdued to Annie’s 24h care. But it looks like the good old Annie might be after something more than just bringing back onto his feet the famous writer.

This suspense thriller is, without doubt, one of my favourite titles by King. And this production does it justice once and for all. The absolutely wonderful performances given by both actors on stage steals your heart from the very first minute. I must say that Metcalf is absolutely amazing as Annie. She doesn’t only show her mad side, but also reveals her beauty and humanity. Her performance made me feel sympathy towards this poor lady, who is trapped in the world of reality and fiction drama.

Willis himself isn’t bad at all. I’m not a fan and must admit that I had no expectations what so ever. But after finding out that it was his Broadway debut, I was pretty surprised. The first theatre role and such a challenging one. It’s not easy to sustain a 90 min performance being hugely restrained in movement and only able to move around only in a somewhat awkward wheelchair. And Willis did it believably and bravely well.

Another point that I can’t help but share is the set design. I understand that budget is a term pretty much non-existing on Broadway, but what David Korins did with the stage is simply amazing. An almost entire rotating house was built! I’ve never seen anything of that quality in my life. A very impressive decision it was that contributed not only as a set for the stage, but also as a set of mind. In a number of scenes the house was moving together with the actors either standing or moving with it, which created a beautiful feel of time, space and urgency.

Another thing that differs this play from those ones I would normally be used to in Dublin is that Misery had a soundtrack. Some really easily recognizable tunes added to the whole atmosphere of the piece.

Unfortunately, Misery has drawn its last curtain yesterday on February 14th. A performance that introduced me to Broadway shall never be forgotten. For more info about the play: http://www.miserybroadway.com/castcreative/

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Filed under Broadhurst Theatre, Broadway, Misery

Project Arts Center: A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing

Yesterday I started (for myself) a new theatre season at the Project Arts Center. It’s been a while since I’ve seen a play there, so I was very much looking forward to this performance: A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing.

A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing (written by Eimear McBride, adapted and directed by Annie Ryan, performed by Aoife Duffin) premiered during Dublin Theatre Festival’14 at The Samuel Beckett Center. Originally “A girl is a half-formed thing” was written as a novel. It has won quite a big number of literary prizes, among which Baileys Women’s Prize for fiction, Desmond Elliott Prize and many others. At the moment, “Girl is a half-formed thing” is one and only of McBride´s novels. She’s working on her second.

During the Dublin Theatre Festival the play was very well received and it got some excellent reviews. So when The Corn Exchange decided to bring it back to Dublin I thought that no doubt I should go. I was just very curious what was exactly that the people loved so much about it, to be honest.

The tickets are a bit pricy for the run, so I decided to go on the first (preview) night, which cost me 16 Eur. I went with a friend, who also brought a friend. As with all the performing spaces in Project Arts, the seats are not allocated, basically you can sit wherever you want. So we arrived just in time to snap up good seats in the first row.

If it wasn’t sold out, there should’ve been very few tickets left as the place was absolutely packed. For those of you who are familiar with Project Arts Center, the play was performed in the space upstairs, which is quite a nice and spacious area. The first row is a bit away from the stage, so it allows you a slightly better view.

Before anything, I should probably mention that I am not the biggest fan of one man/woman shows. But, at the same time, I just have to acknowledge that some of the one person shows I’ve seen were exceptionally good (the first one that comes to mind is definitely Pondling by Gúna Nua. I’ve seen it twice!). After all, this time I didn’t really know what to expect so I just kept open-minded.

I’ve never read the novel therefore I can’t really compare it to the stage adapted version. The first thing that struck me was that the girl on stage (Aoife Duffin) wasn’t telling the story as a monologue, but actually, at times, she was playing different parts. On a very simple basis, of course. But it did throw me off a little bit. The next thing was: the play is clearly written by a very disturbed person. The story is shocking. But it’s like there’s no light whatsoever. It goes from bad to worse. It’s not real life, so why don’t you add some sort of positivity or something that won’t make you want to kill yourself after watching it. It is my personal opinion: I don’t understand what’s the point of basically hearing a story about somebody being constantly raped by a family member; in addition to which, the child has no father, a mother who doesn’t really care, and a brother who dies of cancer…

Some people might say “yeah, well, that’s life for some of us”. Even if it is, there’s always something we cling to, something we go back to at the darkest moments to stay happy, to stay sane. Every story is a story about coping with problems. We are all humans, we don’t need to be told what kind of problems there are out there, but how to deal with them, how to remain positive.

In addition to all that, the technical side wasn’t great, either (again, comparing to Pondling where the set and the directing were simply amazing!). There was no set, no costume (the girl was wearing pjs). There was not a single prop (which is ok), nothing, not a single thing to make it look believable, something we could relate to, something to show us a connection between the story and the story teller.

The only thing that actually is worth mentioning was the great acoustics. Aoife’s voice sounded really clear and powerful.

I didn’t like the show. Neither did my friend. Or her friend. They described it as “horrific”. The audience seemed to have a better opinion about it since the performance got a standing ovation at the end.

I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone I know. But for those of you who got interested: it’s running till the 14th of February. Tickets available at: http://projectartscentre.ie/event/girl-half-formed-thing/

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Filed under A girl is a half-formed thing, Irish Stage, Performing arts, Project Arts Center, Theatre, Theatre in Ireland, Theatre Lovers