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Theatre Upstairs: Murder of Crows

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“The only way to get what you want is to make them more afraid of you than they are of each other.”

– The Crimson Crow

Christmas could be very different. And sure it’s unlike anything else in Theatre Upstairs, where unravels a dark tale of friendship, foulness and fighting for the ones you love.

Bitter Like a Lemon in association with Theatre Upstairs presents its latest play Murder of Crows, a story about a school trip to hell. The three best friends Sam (played by Katie Honan), Dee (played by Amilia Stewart) and Jess (played by Aisling O’Mara) aren’t even meant to go in the first place but end up on the bus to the Garden of Ireland anyway. Just before the trip begins the girlfriends hear a prophecy that warns them of the black crows and begs them not to go anywhere near them. Not taking it too seriously, the girls set off on a journey that is going to change their lives forever. In Wicklow, they are scheduled to do some obligatory scholar activities that nobody is particularly excited about but the real fun starts after. The girls of St Brigit’s are being joined by students – mainly boys – from other schools. They start drinking, intermingling and do things that teenagers normally do. But the fateful hour has already been set. And maybe some people should be more careful with what they say and do, maybe they shouldn’t bully and make fun of others – weaker – ones… Maybe deep inside each one of us lives a little devil that is only waiting to be set free. The consequences of which sometimes can be harmful, even mortal or soul destroying.

Lee Coffey’s Murder of Crows is a heartbreaking piece with an unbelievable twist at the end. It’s almost impossible to digest how much raw meaty parts there is in this slightly under one hour play. Under the superb direction of Karl Shiels, the gradation of the piece is perfectly timed: it starts off nicely and slowly with no preparation of what is yet to come. You think it might be just one of those hight school plays where students talk about their problems. But you couldn’t be further from being wrong. Lee Coffey wouldn’t be Lee Coffey if he hadn’t written a play that actually aims to touch on some of the most tabooed and controversial subjects that teenagers encounter in everyday life but are afraid to talk about.

The script is being strongly supported by the outstanding cast of three actresses, who absolute nail their parts. The characterization and physicality is incredibly strong and it goes to both the main parts that the girls are playing and the secondary characters. I don’t think I’ll be wrong if I say that the way Aisling O’Mara delivered the prophecy sent chills to everyone in the audience. An absolutely out-of-this-world experience that petrified and mesmerized at the same time.

In a play like Murder of Crows, visual aspects can be very important and influential. The two things that caught my eye straight away were, of course, the set (by Naomi Faughnan) and the lighting (by Laura Honan) designs. Quite simple but visually very strong mood setters that made the piece even more atmospheric.

So, if you are in a mood for something completely different this season, don’t be a Grinch and steal Christmas. Go to see Murder or Crows and get your dose of darkness and brutal reality! Runs in Theatre Upstairs until December 17th, for more info or to book tickets: http://www.theatreupstairs.ie/murder-of-crows

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Filed under Bitter Like a Lemon, lee coffey, Murder of Crows, Theatre Upstairs, Uncategorized

The International Bar: Gulp

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If you had just over half an hour to explore a typical Irish topic, what would it be? What aspect of every day Irish life would be interesting, understandable and easily relatable by the young modern audience? Looks like SQUAD Theatre Company got this one right!

As we sit down on the second floor in the International Bar (from where every door unmistakably and rightly so leads to the bar downstairs), drinks in hand, Friday night plans in head, Lorna Castello and Emma-Jane Purcell offer us an insight in the tenderest and, probably, longest-lasting relationship in their lives: the one with the alcohol.

In this hugely entertaining super fast-paced piece, where every one and a half liner is a total cracker (and not only because it’s funny but also because sure you can recognize yourself in the character), we quickly discover how Lorna tried her first bit of alcohol at the age of six – the cream on her grandfather’s pint of Guinness – and Emma-Jane promised to her mother to never ever drink… but the love and desire for a pint of plain, or creamy, or fizzy, or mixed, or not a pint at all but a shot, or a can, or a bottle was much stronger than keeping the small sweet girl’s promise to her mama.

The onomatopeyac Gulp, written by Lorna Costello herself and directed by Robert Dawnes, is a nicely structured piece. It even includes a real alcohol knowledge quiz, where members of the audience can win drink tokens. And how can anybody say no to that? So, don’t be shy and pick a place in the front row, closer to the action.

From a person who doesn’t drink at all, I can absolutely confirm that the play is a pure joy to watch. The amount of energy, only comparable to a Friday night out fever, both Costello and Purcell put into this piece is incredible. It starts off from the very first word and doesn’t stop until the last drop has been squeezed out of it. As the piece is only slightly over half an hour, it also means that the after-party drinks are never too long to wait for.

Taking into account the nature of a performance space like The International Bar, the lighting designer took quite an interesting approach to separate scenes. The blackouts were a good, strong choice that added colour and structure to the story. Another atmosphere setter was “a voice from the crowd” coming from the back of the auditorium. Little details like that very nicely extend the performing space making you believe that you are on the actual location rather than in a theatre.

Remember, “when health is bad and your heart feel strange, and your face is pale and wan, when doctors say you need a change – a pint of plain (or whatever tickles your fancy, for that matter) is your only (wo)man”. Gulp, by the ever so talented and never disappointing SQUAD Theatre Company, runs in The International Bar until November 26th. For more info or to book tickets: squadtheatrecompany@gmail.com

 

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Filed under Gulp, Squad Theatre Company, The International Bar, Uncategorized

The Pavilion: Famished Castle

“Better a cabin with food than a famished castle.”

Unless it’s a play by Rough Magic Theatre Company. Famished Castle does take its name from the quote above, which was said by Enda Kenny in his speech for Michael D. Higgins’ inauguration.

Famished Castle was a long waited play for me. For many reasons, but mainly because Rough Magic never fails to produce some truly outstanding and challenging work. This new play, in particular, was written by The Irish Times columnist and playwright Hilary Fannin; directed by Lynn Parker herself, who, doubtlessly, is one of Irish best and most notorious theatre directors.

The story revolves around Nat (played by Raymond Scannell) who for the first time in ten years comes back to Ireland from Germany, where he is living with his young girlfriend. His elder father has been diagnosed with dementia and needs care. It’s an unusually snowy winter, many flights are being delayed. Upon his arrival in Dublin airport Net bumps into Angie (played by Aislín McGuckin), his old sweetheart. Angie is married now, two kids and all… but to the naked eye it is quite obvious that the love story between Nat and Angie isn’t quite over yet. Now prepare to be transported back to Ireland of the Celtic Tiger, when money was plenty and life was carefree. A family dinner for four in a posh restaurant: Nat and Angie, younger and happier, are here together with Nat’s parents Tom (played by Vinnie McCabe) and Trixie (played by Eleanor Methven). Through the dinner and nicely pitched monologues we discover the tragedy that happened to Net’s family before he was born, as well as the fact that Tom hasn’t been the perfect father or husband and Beatrix, now old and sick and on the verge of alcoholism but still strikingly beautiful, is desperate to finally start living. Nat’s family is just like any other with its problems, its happiness, its humanity… But tonight is just another family night. Or is it?

Famished Castle is an absolutely charming and, in a way, fringy play. The writing is excellent, with some memorable lines and strong characters. Talking about characters, I can’t help but say that Vinnie McCabe was simply amazing. When you see his Tom deteriorating in hospital, losing his memory, not recognising his own son… you can’t help but feel for him. Such a revelation of humanity and pure human vulnerability at its worst. Another amazing performance was given by Eleanor Methven, one of Irish finest actresses. Her Trixie was a bit unexpected … but again, so very human and feminine. Call me weird, but it’s so beautiful to see struggle on stage. To see somebody fighting for something as simple and as complex as a “want for living”. A desperate need to feel alive because time is indeed running out. And for this woman the time is ticking a tiny bit faster than for anybody else. I can’t help but quote: “she is not a woman who doesn’t want to die, she is a woman who desperately wants to live”.

I absolutely loved the unfolding set: one curtain behind the other, behind the other…  One layer behind the other, just like layers of memory in our head. Beautiful decision for multi-level production. And that fish in a tank… such a show-stealer!

Famished Castle runs in The Pavilion Theatre, Dún Laoghaire till May 23rd. It’s a not to be missed production, for more info or to book tickets: http://www.paviliontheatre.ie/events/view/famished-castle

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Filed under Famished Castle, Performing arts, Rough Magic Theatre Company, The Pavilion