Tag Archives: Smock Alley Theatre

Smock Alley Theatre: Bronte

bronte-banner-image

Illustrated Productions present a bitter tale of feminism, family and fame.

A story within a story, Bronte brings us through the lives of five members of The Bronte family. Growing up near a moor in Yorkshire, the three famous sisters start their story by explaining why their tales have always been inhabited by so many orphans. Though there was a father (played by Ruairí Lenaghan), the mother Bronte has departed from this world way too early; the same cruel fate has not passed by the elder two sisters. But Charlotte (played by Louise O’Meara), Emily (played by Katie McCann) and Anne (played by Ashleigh Dorrell) together with their only brother Branwell (played by Desmond Eastwood) lived long enough to give this world such truly outstanding stories as Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights.

Illustrated Productions has created an atmospherical story that brings you back to the nineteenth century England in a blink of an eye. The beautifully structured two hour piece mainly centers on the lives of the three sisters but doesn’t leave out the not-so-famous brother, either. In a very subtle way the play shows us what and, mainly, who inspired the Brontes to write their masterpieces. Here is the overprotective father, the abusive brother, the virgin, the mad wife, the lover… the list goes on and on. The barrier between the real world and the Bronte’s one at times gets so thin that you forget who is a fictional character and who is the real one. The company has used a visually powerful device: when one of the sisters is writing a new passage of her story, another member of the family re-enacts it on stage.

The brilliant casting decisions are more than evident from the very beginning. All five protagonists come across as real truthful human beings. The diversity and particularity of character of the Bronte sisters that McCann, O’Meara and Dorrell so masterfully portray is striking and quite appealing to watch. The way the characters build up the story and develop the relationships between each other is incredibly strong.

Bronte grabs your attention and doesn’t let it go until the very end. The set (designed by Sinead Purcell), the lighting (designed by Brian Nulty), everything is there to transport you to anything but charming Victorian England and show how three poor unknown spinsters became some of the finest female writers of their century and beyond.

Bronte, written by Polly Teale and directed by Clare Maguire, has enjoyed a sold out run in Smock Alley Theatre. For those who didn’t get lucky, there is still a chance to catch this absolutely magnificent production when it transfers to the dlr Mill Theatre, Dundrum next week. From 16th to 18th March. For more info or to book tickets: http://www.milltheatre.ie/events/bronte/

Leave a comment

Filed under Bronte, Illustrated Productions, Smock Alley Theatre, Uncategorized

Scene and Heard Festival: Syrius

unnamed-5

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.

Leave a comment

Filed under romana testasecca, Rosebuds Theatre Company, Scene and Heard Festival, Syrius, Uncategorized

Scene and Heard Festival: Interview with Romana Testasecca – Syrius

unnamed-5

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.

 

1 Comment

Filed under romana testasecca, Rosebuds Theatre Company, Scene and Heard Festival, Syrius, Uncategorized

Smock Alley Theatre: The Snow Queen

tsq_banner_03-1024x341

’tis the season, indeed! And what a delight to open it with a play like The Snow Queen.

Based on the original story by H.C. Andersen, Ian Toner’s version, with a modern global warning twist, is slightly different but not a single bit less interesting or entertaining. I won’t be shy here and will say that the play won me over from the moment I sat down and opened the progrmme: what a stage design and what a cast!

In this two hour piece, directed by Sarah Finlay, we meet the canonical characters: Kay (played by John Doran) and Gerda (played by Clodagh Mooney Duggan), who live in a place very much resembling Venice, except that Venice doesn’t exist anymore. It’s the first of December and it’s warm. It’s always warm there now. In Kay and Gerda’s dystopian hometown, The Corporation is in charge of everything. Children are not allowed to read books, they’ve never seen snow and Santa Clause is the bad guy who used to come through the chimney to steal your presents. But everything changes the day Kay goes to the library and gets a book. And it’s not just any book, it’s The Snow Queen (played by Nessa Matthews). The book is enchanted by the protagonist and she lures the boy out of town to her frozen kingdom. Having lost her closest soulmate, Gerda and her pet friend Pollyanna (played by Aislinn O’Byrne) sets on a dangerous adventure to save Kay. Along the way they meet pirates, the creatures that live under the water, Santa Clause himself (played by Gerard Adlum) and even Rudolpho, the red-nosed deer (played by John Merriman) who shares with them his tragic story.

The Snow Queen is a play for both the little and the grown ups. It’s filled with beautiful images, touching songs (Rudolpho’s one shall always be my favourite!) and truly Christmas spirit and magic.

Both the costume and the stage design (by Molly O’Cathain) create a very beautiful visual imagery. Starting with the stage floor itself, where the northern star is drawn with the constellations and all the way to the moment when it actually starts snowing on stage. Pure magic! The way both actresses (Mooney Duggan and O’Byrne) convey the state of being cold when reaching The Snow Queen’s kingdom sends a chill to the audience, where some even start shivering.

Another perfectly mastered moment was the creation of The Snow Queen herself. A very nice usage of audio (by Jack Cawley) that created a powerfully fleshed out character who we are yet to see in flesh and blood. Nessa Matthew’s beautiful voice carried it ver nicely.

But kudos have to be given to the whole ensemble without exception! Every single one of the six actors (the absolute majority of whom play more than one character) under the masterful direction of Sarah Finlay creates a strong and vivid character that is enjoyable to watch.

The Snow Queen is a real treat for this Christmas. So, whether you’ve been naughty of nice, don’t deny yourself an opportunity to experience a fairytale. Give yourself or a loved one the gift of true magic – the gift of theatre! Runs until December 28th, fore more info or to book tickets: http://smockalley.com/the-snow-queen/

Leave a comment

Filed under Fast Intent, Fast Intent Theatre Company, Ian Toner, sarah finlay, Smock Alley Theatre, The Snow Queen, Uncategorized

Smock Alley Theatre: The Aeneid

aeneid15

When the bookings opened to public for the Tiger Fringe Festival 2016, the very first ticket I booked was The Aeneid by the Collapsing Horse Theatre Company. Before even reading the description or the cast list, there was something about this production that hugely attracted me from the very first glance.

Based on Vergil’s epic poem – also called The Aeneid – the play follows a young translator (played by Maeve O’Mahony) who, presumably inspired by the spirit of Aeneis, re-tells the  original story of Aeneid, a Trojan solder, who decides to leave his destroyed and burnt down by the Greeks city of Troy. Hearing the prophecy that he is destined for a bright future, he sets out on a journey through the seas with a handful of survivors and faithful followers. Being deprived from his motherland, Aeneid is to become the founder of one of the greatest cities that ever existed – Rome. On his way to do so, he stops in Carthage, a new place founded by princess Dido (played by Aoife Leonard), who falls in love with Aeneid. The Trojan shares her feelings and is ready to stay with his new beloved but he is being promptly reminded of his duty. Is the man’s fate in his own hands? Can he make his own decisions and follow his heart?

The Aeneid by Collapsing Horse is a great example of a story in a story. With a quite basic, but very creative set (by Hanna Bowe) and costume (by Katie Davenport) design the play comes across as a pretty grand-scale solid production. I can easily see it being staged somewhere in a warehouse in London or New York, because that’s where all the cool stuff happens nowadays. It’s very fringy but it has enormous potential and a great idea behind it.

In the programme it says that improvisation played a big part in bringing up this production. And, from my experience, some of the best and most fun shows come from the improv and the exploration of the unknown. The creative freedom gives to the actors  the opportunity to bring to life and existence the best moments. In The Aeneid there is a very simple beauty in the momentum: when the actors communicate between each other, when they step out of characters and create those links in between the scenes.

With the total cast of 5, I must say that it was quite an interesting – and wise – decision to cast an actress to play the part of Aeneid. O’Mahony did an amazing job as the main character and certainly added a glow to the piece. The whole ensemble seemed to work in unison and created a beautiful production, but I couldn’t help mentioning John Doran and his immensely enjoyable and fun to watch Tedd. There might have been one too many moments when he absolutely stole the show.

I must add that before coming to see The Aeneid, I’d heard about the Trojan war and was familiar with little bits of it (such as the Trojan horse, for example) but I had no idea what the story was about. After leaving the auditorium, I realised that the greek tragedies might not be exactly my cup of tea, but I enjoyed what I saw (the reimagined version), I was quite entertained and hugely amused by the acting. And from the audience’s reaction, so were they and that’s the best proof of a success.

The Aeneid, directed  by Dan Colley, runs in The Smock Alley’s Main Space as part of Tiger Dublin Fringe 2016 till September 24th. Get your Greek mythology refreshed. For more info or to book tickets: http://www.fringefest.com/festival/whats-on/the-aeneid 

Leave a comment

Filed under Collapsing Horse Theatre Company, fringefest, Smock Alley Theatre, The Aeneid, Tiger Dublin Fringe 2016, Uncategorized

Smock Alley Theatre: Animalia

animalia-e1468178506439

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 

Leave a comment

Filed under Animalia, FringeFest 2016, Smock Alley Theatre, Tiger Dublin Fringe 2016, Uncategorized

Smock Alley Theatre: Pygmalion

pyg_banner_01-4

“I tell you I have created this thing out of the squashed cabbage leaves of Covent Garden; and now she pretends to play the fine lady with me.” – Henry Higgins, Pygmalion.

G B Shaw’s absolute classic – Pygmalion – is one of the funniest, wittiest and most enjoyable plays ever written in the history of world class theatre. Not unlike many other plays penned by the master, Pygmalion is a piece about the transparent battles of class, status and money. What does it take a girl but a proper pronunciation and even more properer professor to pass for a duchess, even thought she was born in the dirtiest corner of London’s east end.

Throughout the play we follow Eliza Doolittle (played by Anna Shiels Mc-Namee) on her journey from being a shabby flower girl into becoming a respectable upper-class lady. All Eliza wanted was to learn to speak more genteel, so she could work in a flower shop… but Henry Higgins (played by Paul Meade) and Colonel Pickering (played by Gerard Byrne) have plans of their own about the poor – in both senses – girl. The two professors, and deep aficionados of the English language, they don’t only take upon themselves the task of teaching Eliza the proper English but they also bet on whether she’ll be up to it (Y’know, you can take a girl out of the East End, but can you take the East End out of a girl?). Blinded by the thrill of the race, they almost disregard the remarks made by Mrs. Pearce (played by Tara Quirke), Higgins’ housekeeper, who plays the voice of reason in the piece and notes to the brutally rude and mannerless Higgins that the girl, in fact, has a soul and it might be a good idea to think about her feelings about the situation and where it all might lead. Higgins will take none of this nonsense. For him the game had already started, and the bet was placed.

Shaw uses a very powerful method of diversion in this play. All the attention is on Eliza and her journey through the play. But the girl isn’t the only one who’s fate has been drastically changed. Emotionally challenged Higgins – the Pygmalion – starts to shift, too. And I can’t help but quote another famous playwright here: “A crack in the wall?—Of composure?—I think that’s a good sign. . . . A sign of nerves in a player on the defensive!”  (A Streetcar named desire, T. Williams). Without even knowing it, upon taking Eliza on, Henry Higgins set himself on a journey from where there is no returning.

To be completely honest, even though Pygmalion is one of my favourite plays, I was a bit skeptical about this staging. By no means, I expected it to be not good enough… it’s just a few years ago I was completely blown away by the Abbey’s production of the same play. With an almost dream-cast, the play was a masterpiece of theatre. And, as we all know, it’s quite difficult to beat the unbeatable.

Nevertheless, I’m more than happy to report that Pygmalion, directed by Liam Halligan is quite a piece of art in itself. It made me see, once again, that nuances picked up by different directors and actors make all the difference. Meade’s Higgins comes across as the absolutely unlikable, unattractive and even appalling human being. There is so much truth in his character, that not for a second you believed that he’s being pretentious.  While Byrne’s Pickering – being somewhat the good policeman of the story – is so hilariously funny and charming that it’s impossible not to like him. But the real jewel in the crown is Tara Quirke, whose ability to project oneself into two polar characters is simply astonishing. Another mention shall go to David O’Meara, who plays Eliza’s father. Even though brief, his part is memorable. He is the perfect example of a an actor playing a character, whose appearance is always met with a cheer and anticipation. Such a character full of… character that he’s pure joy to be watched.

It’s good to remember that Pygmalion isn’t only a play with great characterization and unpretentious story line, but it’s a language masterpiece, as well, where every line, every word was carefully chosen. It shall just suffice to mention my personal favourite “bloody boots, butter and brown bread.”, pronounced by Mrs. Pearce. We might have only two true professors and connoisseurs of English language in the play but, in the reality, every single character in Pygmalion is a poet of his or her own.

The set design (by Colm McNally) for Pygmalion is quite nice and simple. It makes it easy to transform one space into various contrasting ones. With some essential pieces of furniture being brought in and out, the multiplicity of locations is easily established.

While the summer is still in its ripe, why not treat yourself to a never forgettable lesson in English phonetics and grammar. Or just go and see Pygmalion in the Smock Alley Theatre. Fore more info or to book tickets: http://smockalley.com/pygmalion/

Leave a comment

Filed under G B Shaw, liam halligan, Pygmalion, Smock Alley Theatre, Uncategorized