Tag Archives: The Abbey Theatre

The Abbey Theatre: Arlington


The new season, and what looks like a whole new life for The Abbey Theatre, opened 2017 with one of Enda Walsh’s most recent plays – Arlington, a dramatic performance of a new dystopian world that jumps out of page on Ireland’s National Stage in a fascinatingly profound embodiment.

In this ninety minute non-stop piece, Walsh brings us on a multi-dimensional journey into a strangely scary futuristic world of broken people and imprisoned emotions. What roughly could be divided into three parts, Arlington is a powerful combination of spoken words, dance, movement, monologue, sound and visual effects. Almost like something out of a George Orwell novel, in reality Arlington is a beautifully metaphorical closed room drama, speaking both literally and metaphorically.

Isla is a girl (played by Charlie Murphy) who has spent almost an entire life inside this weird empty waiting room just waiting for her number to be called. The only source of communication with the outside world for her has been a mic on the wall. There is a guy – the new guy (played by Hugh O’Connor), as we soon find out – on the other side, nevertheless. In a small cluttered office, like a rat in his preassigned cubicle, he listens to Isla’s wildest dreams and thoughts. It’s only a matter of time now before he himself will take her place inside the locked madness.

And just as quickly as the door opens in front of Isla, it soon closes behind the other girl (played by Oonagh Doherty). Without saying a single world, she offers us her tale entirely through movement and dance. With an absolutely breathtaking game of light and shadow (designed by Adam Silverman), not a single bit of text or explanation is needed to transmit the meaning behind the silent story to the audience. The girl  uses her own body to convey the concept of a locked space: be it a room or a human body.

Walsh’s play premiered last year at Galway International Arts Festival. An abstract piece with more than defined meaning, Arlington combines in itself a hurricane of human emotions. Three very diverse, very different pieces about human nature , deep grief and yearning for something that they are being stripped off, present very nicely balanced contrast one to another.

The set design (by Jamie Vartan) and its symbolism also plays a huge part in the piece. Like a fish herself, the appropriately named Isla, for example, waits in a bare room with almost nothing but three plastic chairs and a forever empty fish tank.

A trap that you would love to fall into, Arlington runs in The Abbey Theatre until February 25th. For more info or to book tickets: http://www.abbeytheatre.ie/whats_on/event/arlington?gclid=CP7IgfaZn9ICFW4B0wodBbcA_Q


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The Abbey Theatre: Anna Karenina


“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 Abbey Theatre: The Plough and The Stars

You might have seen a production of The Plough and The Stars before; you might have even seen it more than once; but you definitely haven’t seen The Plough and The Stars the way Sean Holmes presented it in The Abbey Theatre for the centenary of The 1916 Easter Rising.

Ever since the Abbey announced its Waking The Nation program earlier last year, people haven’t stopped talking about the plays chosen to celebrate one of the most important anniversaries in Irish history. Do we really need to see The Plough and The Stars again? people asked, since it’s been only four years since the time one of O’Casey’s most famous works was last staged by Ireland’s National theatre. But, could such a huge event in the life of Irish people have gone by without bringing back all the memorabilia and some of the most famous characters and lines ever spoken from the Irish theatres?

Now, how does one review a play without giving anything away?

The Plough and The Stars doubtlessly does not need introduction. O’Casey’s four act piece revolves around a tenement house in inner city Dublin, over the period of six months between November 1915 and Easter Weekend 1916. With thick Dublin accents and even thicker personalities we eavesdrop on lives of Mr. and Mrs. Clitheroe (played by Ian-Lloyd Anderson and Kate Stanley Brennan), a young cheerful couple, who gets separated way before their time; The Clitheroes share their flat with Nora’s uncle Peter (played by James Hayes), an old man with fiery republican beliefs, and Jack’s cousin Covey (played by Ciarán O’Brien), a passionate and full of communist ideas and beliefs young man. In the house there is also Mrs. Coogan (played by Janet Moran), an old widow with a teenage daughter, Mollser (played by Mahnoor Saad), who is dying of consumption; and sharp-tongued Bessie Burgess (played by Eileen Walsh), a Protestant mother whose son is fighting in The First World War with the Brits.

The life of all those once happy people have been shaken by the outbreak of the Irish Civil War and the Easter Rising of 1916 that led to it.

Apart from being a masterly penned play, The Plough and The Stars is an amazing piece of theatre that simply has it all. When acutely written dialogues aren’t enough to express the emotions behind them, the singing comes in. And nothing could have portrayed a true Irish soul better than a mix of spoken word and hearty lyrics. The words of love for a woman slowly, slenderly become a confession of love for one’s own country: “Ireland is greater than a mother”. “Ireland is greater than a wife. ” 

O’Casey’s masterpiece hasn’t only survived almost a century without loosing its meaning or relevance, it also shows how one person in 1926 managed to embalm in paper the very essence of what it is to be an Irishman or an Irish woman.

From my own experience, there is no point of staging a production that had been staged numerous times before, if the director can’t blow into it a breath of fresh air. Fortunately for us, Sean Homes brilliantly carried out this task. This particular production is a must see for many reasons, but one of them is the beautiful link of 1916 and 2016. Everything from the set design (by Jon Bausor) to the costume design (by Catherine Fay) shows that a lot of thought went into the piece and it’s not just another one of many many others. This is nothing  but O’Casey’s timeless writing.

The ensemble (including David Ganly, whose Fluther the Jolly Good Fella will stay with me for a long time; or Nyree Yergainharsian who plays the unforgettably cheeky Rosie Redmond, and others) of actors is absolutely outstanding and deserves a special mention: a total of 14 energetic and high-spirited actors brought this up-scale show to an amazingly enjoyable two and half hour result. Not a single second is dragged or boring. Some moments, such as the very opening of the play with Mollser singing of Amhrán na bhFiann as Gaeilge, are absolutely fantastic and a wonderful atmosphere setter.

Long story short: The Plough and The Stars is one of those events without which the celebration of upcoming Easter Rising wouldn’t be complete. The play runs in Dublin’s Abbey Theatre until April 23rd before it sets out on a National and International tours. The tickets are selling out like hot pies, book yours before they are gone! For more info or to book tickets: http://www.abbeytheatre.ie/whats_on/event/the-plough-and-the-stars-2016/ 


Filed under 2016 The Abbey Programme, Easter Rising, sean o'casey, The Abbey Theatre, the plough and the stars