Tag Archives: sound design

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

Palace Theatre: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (Part I).

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Would you call it dedication to sit in front of your computer for twelve straight hours just to book tickets for a play? But what if it’s not just for any play but a ticket to your childhood, to the place where letters were delivered by owls, where the good always won over the bad and where the-true magic existed!

It’s been nine years since the last book about the-boy-who-lived was published. It’s been five years since the last film about the unbreakable trio was released. It’s been a lifetime of a desperate belief that you too are a witch or a wizard, it’s just your letter to Hogwarts got lost on its way.

That’s not dedication, that’t just admiration and fandom. But what J K Rowling, Jack Thorne and John Tiffany did in Palace Theatre in order to give those avid Harry Potter followers a little bit of magic is a true dedication to the arts, to the literature and to their audience.

J K Rowling didn’t create one single fairytale. She changed childhoods of a whole generation, who went back from TVs to reading books and believing that “happiness can be found in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light”.

When I read Harry Potter and The Cursed Child, I was somewhat disappointed. I did not like the story. I was more than skeptical to see it on stage. I simply did not believe that it would be possible to recreate that feeling of a different world that the books managed to beget. But, as a true fan, I waited those long twelve hours on the day of the ticket release. At twenty five I still desperately needed that kind of magic in my life. And when you finally hold that sacred golden ticket (almost like in Willy Wonka) for the play and queue outside of the Palace Theatre under a huge nest in order to to get in, you realise that you are not alone. Those emotions are shared by hundreds of likeminded people around you. People of all ages, nationalities and backgrounds are there.

I don’t know how to write a review on a play when the whole point is not to give anything away. I have promised to #KeepTheSecrets and I am going to keep this promise. After seeing the play you understand why the production team does not want any details to leak out. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is an incredible experience. It’s more than a play, it’s a theatrical masterpiece. Everything, every single detail to the tiniest ones, is so thoroughly thought through that, at times, you will start questioning your ability to percept the action on stage. Am I really seeing what I am seeing?

The choreography of the piece is a pure paradise for eyes: from simple background activity to change of scenes. Steven Hoggett created such a visually rewarding piece that from an esthetic point of view it’s a movement paragon.

Only a few minutes into the play I realised why I didn’t like the book. It was never meant to be read (not as other Harry Potter books anyway), it’s meant to be seen. John Tiffany, who co-wrote the play and also directed it, knew very well what he was doing. He was creating a theatre piece that would be seen acted out.

And now I shall talk about a different kind of magic on stage. The amazing ensemble of over twenty five performers did all the justice to their corresponded parts. Take into account that it’s a two parter with each part lasting approximately two hours and a half. Also, take into account that the main characters are mainly children/teenagers. And obviously, it’s a live show. You watch the little ones almost with the same admiration as you would have watched Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint in their first Harry Potter films.

As for the parenting generation (it is very unusual to see them being grown up!), it’s just breathtakingly scary in a very good way how well some of the actors captured the essence of their characters. A huge amount of pressure is put on them not to deviate too much from the original story that the characters become completely unrecognisable (we did love them all this years for a reason, right?) or cut outs of the already created ones by somebody else but, at the same time, keep it fresh and… more matured, maybe. After all, it’s been 19 years.

It feels a bit unfair to single somebody out but I absolutely loved Noma Dumezweni as Hermione Granger and Alex Price as Draco Malfoy. Their portrayal of the famous Miss Know-It-All and the grown up Bouncing Ferret played an emotional chord with me when one could truly see the life being breathed back into the beloved characters.

Another important moment that I want to touch on is the stage (by Christine Jones), lighting (by Neil Austin) and sound (by Gareth Fry) designs. Thanks to this incredibly talented bunch, together with the illusionist Jamie Harrison, Harry Potter and The Cursed Child created a magical world on stage. Unfortunately, I can’t give a more precise example but the lost in admiration sighs coming from the audience all throughout the play were the best proof that sometimes even impossible is possible if somebody puts his/her mind to it… with a little but of good old theatre magic, of course.

The first part ends on such a cliffhanger that it’s impossible not to want to see the second part! So, I guess it’s time for another weeks and weeks of fishing on the HarryPotterThePlay website. Tickets do become available there from time to time but you always have to keep your eye on it. And for those of you who haven’t been lucky yet, remember that magic does exist and it’s very real. It just couldn’t be any other way!

For more info: https://www.harrypottertheplay.com/

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Filed under Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, J K Rowling, Palace Theatre, Palace Theatre, London, Uncategorized

Theatre Upstairs: Test Dummy

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After the morning with #WakingTheFeminists’s one year recap in the Abbey Theatre came an evening with the feminists just around the corner from Ireland’s National. During the Monday meeting some absolutely shocking statistics were presented on the gender imbalance in the top ten (all government sponsored) theatres and theatre companies around Ireland during the last ten years. But some hope was indeed restored for me on Tuesday night when I sat down to watch Test Dummy, an original Irish play written by a woman, performed by a woman, directed and even produced by a woman.

Theatre Upstairs in association with WeGetHighOnThis Collective presents Caitriona Daly’s new play – Test Dummy, a beautiful but ever so heartbreaking example of modern worldwide female image created by decades and generations of hardcore patriarchy.

Test Dummy might be a very abstract piece in general but it’s in the detail where you find its uniqueness and meaningfulness. In addition to the captivating script, Caitriona Ennis masterfully creates her nameless character of multiple faces and experiences; and it’s in one of those socially disfigured faces that the members of the audience will be able to sadly recognise themselves: be they the victim or the predator.

Test Dummy also managed to challenge the physical space that Theatre Upstairs is. In order to be able to experience the play more profoundly, the audience is being seated on two sides (facing each other), while the stage lies right in between them. The Dummy appears to be trapped in between watching and judging her people.

According to Caitriona Daly’s Author’s Note, she wanted this piece to be “not necessarily understood but felt”. Thanks to the exquisite combination of absolutely haunting sound (by Carl Kennedy ), skillful set (by Laura Honan) and igniting lighting (by Conor Byrne and Shane Gill) designs in addition to Ennis’ breathtaking portrayal of the Dummy, Caitriona Daly’s intention was achieved quite nicely. Louise Lowe’s spot-on directing allows this piece to be both brutally honest and tense, as well as funny and humorous.

This roughly fifty minute piece flies by in an instant. Caitriona Ennis’ human Dummy with strong voice and bright eyes “is happy to oblige” and the audience is happily left satisfied with the piece that they’ve just… no, not seen but rather experienced. So, don’t be a Dummy yourself and get your lovely (male or female regardless) bum to Theatre Upstairs to witness what comes out when three talented theatre makers and a 50/50 gender balanced crew come together to create art. For more info or to book tickets: http://www.theatreupstairs.ie/what-is-on

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Filed under Test Dummy, Theatre Upstairs, We Get High On This Theatre Collective