Tag Archives: Ruth McGill

The Abbey Theatre: Anna Karenina

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“Rummaging in our souls, we often dig up something that ought to have lain there unnoticed. ”

– Anna Karenina

2016 has been a huge year for the arts. 2016 was anything but a challenging year for the Abbey Theatre in particular, a year filled with the most unexpected, brave decisions and thought-provoking plays. In addition to seeing one year round up of #WakingTheFeminists meeting; Ireland’s National Theatre has also had a change of directors welcoming Neil Murray and Graham McLaren to the steering wheel.

The last play of the departing year is none the less but Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, adapted for the stage by Ireland’s very own literature giant Marina Carr.

No doubt, Tolsoty’s masterpiece is a poignant, heavy piece in all senses possible. Starting with the fact that the play lasts approximately three and a half hours (which then pass by quicker than a fly). But above all, it’s a Russian tragedy where, unfortunately, there is no place for a happy ending.

Anna Karenina (played by Lisa Dwan) is a wife, a mother and a woman, who one day falls in love with Vronsky (played by Rory Fleck Byrne), a well-built handsome young man. Tolstoy has never created a weak woman in his work and Karenina isn’t an exception, either. But just as any human being isn’t safe of making mistakes, she gives in to temptation and finally decides to leave not only her husband but also her son Seryoza and the respected position she occupies among the Russian intelligentsia. She looses everything for a chance to live maybe not a happy but an emotionally fulfilled life. Nevertheless, happiness does come but only for a short time before Anna realises that some things can never be replaced or substituted in life; that people remember it when you did them wrong; that people betray, lie and simply get tired of what once excited them; that some of the most tender souls hide behind the thickest walls; that no heart is made out of stone and every heart breaks in its own way.

This absolutely stunning interpretation of a Russian classic is a truly jaw-dropping piece to watch. It should definitely be placed among the strongest pieces produced by the Abbey last year. Unsurprisingly brilliantly directed  by Wayne Jordan, the play transports us to pre-revolutionary Russia where the  freshly spilled blood is an ever constant contrast to the peacefully falling snow. In a very simple but wonderfully decorated set (by Sarah Bacon) we witness the lives, loves and tragedies of a grand total of 42 characters. Dressed in some of the most eye-catching ribbons and bows (by Sarah Beacon),the piece presents to our display a whole range of mothers, daughters and wives and their everyday struggle. From Dolly (played by Ruth McGill), who perhaps doesn’t even remember what it feels like not to be pregnant and who also is living a tragedy as she has a cheating husband, to Kitty (played by Julie Maguire) a young girl who is only preparing to enter wifehood.

In one single play, we are given the incredible opportunity to see the same problems being dealt with by different people and from alternative angles. With beautifully stylised musical accompaniment (by David Coonan), the cruel Russian reality ideally translates to the Irish stage. Anna Karenina has it all: tragedy with elements of comedy, very nice pace for a long piece, stunning decorations and costumes and some absolutely superb acting. The cast, the majority of whom double and triple, truly gives a performance of a lifetime with each single one of the ensemble being exceptional.

Anna Karenina is a beautiful experience that won’t leave a dry eye. The play runs in The Abbey Theatre until January 28th. For more info or to book tickets: http://www.abbeytheatre.ie/whats_on/event/anna-karenina/

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Filed under Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy, The Abbey Theatre, The Abbey Theatre:, Uncategorized, wayne jordan

The Gate Theatre: The Constant Wife

The summer season at The Gate theatre has been opened with W. Somerset Maugham’s The Constant Wife. Interestingly enough, this is not The Gate’s first time staging this particular production; the previous revival of one of Somerset Maugham’s most famous plays was staged at the Dublin’s Gate Theatre exactly ten years ago, in 2006.

The Gate definitely does like its classics. Now with a new cast and in new decorations, this funny and, dare I say, feminist play strikes again. The Constant Wife (written in 1926) is a story of an upper-class wife, fatefully named Constance (played by Tara Egan Langley), whos husband is cheating on her with her best friend, the young and cheerful Marie Louise (played by Caoimhe O’Malley). The affair isn’t a big secret to anyone, including Constance, her mother (played by Belinda Lang) and younger sister Martha (Rachel O’Byrne). Each of the three women has her own opinion, hugely influenced by the time and society she was raised in, on what Constance should do about the adultery. Being a smart and progressively thinking woman herself, who can foresee the situation and use it for her own good, Constance makes a very creative though slightly unorthodox decision on how to teach her unfaithful husband a lesson. This decision, anyhow, might have been, in its turn, influenced by the return of an old but long-lasting flame of Constance’s; the man named Bernard (played by Conor Mullen), who had already tried his luck but was  bitterly turned down, has again entered the picture.

The Constant Wife, being a comedy of manners, is an interesting play that through crisp and funny lines raises an important issue. No doubt, this play was way beyond its time and popular ideas when it was written. The beautiful, predominantly female, ensemble of nine characters draws an interesting picture of the epoch. Being a sort of rebel, each one in her own way, the women in The Constant Wife express their opinions on marriage and family  with passion and far from narrow-thinking. They come across as strong, decisive, smart and even a bit of a risqué women of their time; while the men of the play are pictured rather dependent, foolish and somewhat childish.

With the brilliant and, at moments, ludicrously funny plot (especially, the second part of the play), beautiful period costumes (by Peter O’Brien) and the absolutely stunning set design (by Eileen Diss), the two hours simply fly by. The Constant Wife is another great example of a play that is timeless. Written almost a century ago, the issues and the situations that the play presents are easy to understand, enjoy and relate to.

This particular production really stood out for me mainly because of the actors’ ensemble. A very strong casting choice was made by the director of the piece Alan Stanford. Tara Egan Langley as Constance is a beautiful icon of female strength creates a very nice contrast to O’Malley’s bubbly, happy-go-lucky and absolutely careless Marie Louise. Special kudos have to be given to Belinda Lang, who gives a splendid performance as Mrs. Culver, and to Simon O’Gorman, whose character really comes alive in the second part of the play.

The Constant Wife runs in The Gate Theatre until August 13th. It’s a great pick for a fun night out. For more info or to book tickets: http://www.gatetheatre.ie/production/TheConstantWife2016

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Filed under Alan Stanford, The Constant Wife, The Gate Theatre, W. Somerset Maugham