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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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Filed under Happy Birthday Jacob, Michael Marshall, puca productions, The New Theatre, Uncategorized

Theatre Upstairs: Bob & Judy

“…And it is here that we are, in some pain and with no guarantees, working out our destiny.”

– Carl Sagan, Cosmos

Theatre Upstairs and Fast Intent present the world´s premier of Bob and Judy, a devised play written by Gerard Adlum and directed by Sarah Finlay.

Somewhere on the very edge this universe there is Judy (played by Nessa Mathews). Judy is a misfit. She lives alone in an old house with an abandoned garden. She doesn’t have any friends. When she was a small girl, Judy loved to look at the stars… she knew everything about them. Well, maybe not everything but definitely more than a normal kid would.

Today is Judy’s birthday. Nobody knows about it. But that’s ok, Judy doesn’t really want anybody to know. In addition to all, she does not like surprises.

Bob (played by Gerard Adlum) is a delivery man at Science World. He is a good man, a kind man,.. Bob is also a misfit. He goes on about his work. Every day Bob does his best to deliver all sorts of gifts and purchases that people have ordered. And it might seem as an easy and quite meaningless job, but not to Bob. That’s all he has.

Today the last purchase that Bob has to deliver is a very special gift for Judy.

And everything could have played out just fine for both Bob and Judy if it wasn’t for the comet fast approaching this little green planet of ours.

This is the second play by Fast Intent that I was going to see. After A Man in Two Pieces, which absolutely blew me away, my expectations were very high!

Bob and Judy opens very beautifully with Judy meditating on stage and suddenly springing into dancing. There is also an old radio which quite organically turns on and off by itself to highlight certain moments of the play. One of the loveliest touches happens when a romantic song starts playing pushing Bob and Judy into a dance. The constant interference noises just add to the whole atmosphere of the unknown and mysterious.

Just like in the previous play, the characterisation is particularly strong in this piece. Both Bob and Judy come off stage as real people who struggle to connect with other people, to build relationships, to move on from the tragic past. Their every day effort to fit into this world brings out the very human beings that they are. The effort is different for each one of them, though. Bob is a joyful person, who always tries to find the positive side of things. On the opposite hand, Judy is a very private person, who keeps to herself and prefers a solitary and closed life style to anything else.

The absolutely beautiful way in which both actors portray their character makes the audience sympathize with Bob and Judy and associate with their struggle. The ending of the play might come as a certain relief. Just before the comet hits the Earth, we see that Bob and Judy are finally happy and at peace (as much as it’s possible in this situation, of course). Dying in loneliness would be such an awful and unfair way to die, at least they have each other.

Along with the radio transmissions and music another very important moment of the play is the lighting effects. Thanks to some very smart decisions about lighting and brilliantly written dialogue, there are moments when you really do feel like there is a naked sky above your head. And you can’t help but look up from time to time to see if the stars are really there…

This highly enjoyable and inspiring production is an absolute must-see. Some plays attract because they have some really fringy characters or touch risky subjects; Bob and Judy is a play about two human beings looking into the sky and wondering about the meaning of life. It’s as simple and as complicated as this.

I am absolutely delighted and looking forward to chat to Fast Intent early next week about their theatre company and the play Bod and Judy. So, keep an eye on this space! In the meantime, go and book your ticket for what promises to be an unforgettable evening in the theatre. Bob and Judy runs until August 8th, for more info or to book tickets, as always: http://www.theatreupstairs.ie/bob-and-judy

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Filed under Bob and Judy, Fast Intent, Theatre Upstairs