Tag Archives: The Complex

The Complex: Horae

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Here’s a saucy one: a play about whores!

Now that I’ve got your attention, let’s talk about Horae – a unique theatre piece about the ancient craft of prostitution. From virgins to whores: in this roughly 40 minute performance Susie Lamb (the creator and performer) dances the audience through her darkishly enlightening tale.

Presented through the eyes of a single character, Lamb deepens us into the ancient world of sacred temples, where the street girls weren’t from the streets at all, they were regarded as almost holy creatures capable of providing the best cure, care and comfort. The goddesses of high places they were. And how quickly everything changed. Horae brings us back in time to learn how drastically the history can turn sometimes. In her mix of movement and spoken word, Lamb narrates the story of how once a sacred profession, a trade of respect and honour, fell so low it became a shame, an unspoken taboo.

Brought to us by NEST theatre company, Horae is an amazing example of theatre created by women and about women that could be easily enjoyed by everyone. Horae is a very strong, very unlike anything else piece of raw daring theatre at its best. It uses powerful elements to carry the already quite substantial and important subject forward and present it to the audience in a unique shape.

In Horae it quickly becomes obvious that Lamb knows her trade inside out. A professional actress and dancer, she is comfortable enough in her natural habitat to present the story to the others while keeping it fresh and engaging at all times.

Horae is a combined piece of many big and small elements. It’s a rich performance when it comes to interpretation but quite appropriately modest regarding the set design and costumes. Nevertheless, the one thing that does stand out is the lighting design (by Adrian Mullan). Visually striking beginning – the red light dot traveling through the body of the actress – was the perfect opening for such a performance.

A thoroughly researched and even more masterfully performed piece that shouldn’t be missed, Horae runs in the The Complex till February 26th. For more info or to book the tickets, do not hesitate a second and contact: http://thecomplex.ie/cinema/horae/

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Filed under Horae, Scene and Heard Festival, Susie Lamb, The Complex, The Complex Live Arts Space, Uncategorized

The Complex: The Leaves of Heaven

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From big theaters to small lofts. From traditional spaces to the most unorthodox and challenging ones. Only a true theatre goer knows that the beauty of those unconventional places hides in the fact that every performance there is a technical, artistic and directorial surprise. The little spaces are usually the ones that invest all their heart and soul into staging a small scale but otherwise truly big productions. The Complex is a venue exactly like that. You are always in for a nice treat when you walk through the little side door on Little Green Street.

First going through an exhibition room beautifully decorated with candles and much needed winter warmth, you finally end up in the performing space, which is carefully designed to meet the needs of each performance separately. For The Leaves of Heaven the audience is seated on one side facing the stage. And from the second you walk in, all your attention is immediately and irreversibly drawn to the set (designed by Stephanie Golden and Justyna Marta Nowicka). But the real astonishment hits when you realise that the majority of the decoration and props – doll houses – is done with simple DIY tools like cardboard cut outs and paper. Placed on a side they create a somewhat nostalgic image of a child’s room. While on the other side we have a paper tree and a bench – a very symbolic representation of solitude and loneliness, the feeling of which consistently penetrates the story. To add a slightly edgy and even, perhaps, creepy angle to the piece a number of dummies inhabit the already eerie stage. In a corner is hanging a big full moon.

Balancing on the periphery of this world and the imaginary one, we finally meet Francie Brady (played by Brian Mallon) – the butcher boy. In The Leaves of Heaven Pat McCabe revisits one of his most famous characters but only as a ghost, amongst many others, who is there to document Brady’s story not to interfere with it. Following the horrifically abusive childhood and the murder it lead to, Francie ends up in the place where he was always meant to be: a criminal asylum. As his mental state deteriorates and the mind is being almost completely overtaken by profound delusion, it becomes more and more difficult to say which part of his story is real and which one is entirely a plot created by his ill imagination. The only one thing is constant: the apparition of our Holy Mother Mary (played by Mairead Devlin). She is the only one who never gave up on Francie.

Both Mallon and Devlin give an absolutely jaw-dropping performance. Brian’s impeccable spot-on boyish physicality and the impossibly tragic portrayal of the decay of the butcher boy’s mind allows the audience to see a total different side of Francie. He is frail, he is sad but, most of all, he is human. Both Mallon and Devlin play a whole range of different characters, all vary in age, gender and nationality, but every single one of them comes across as a complete real human being. You look at a dummies’ face and you don’t see a dummy, you see a person – a personality – hiding, at times being completely lost, behind it. The embodyment is so creepily exact sometimes that it’s hard to process the fact that there are only two actors on stage. Devlin’s breathtaking voice is indescribable and unreviewable. Her Ave Maria was pure heaven.

To round up the whole experience, the ultimate atmosphere setters are undoubtedly the lighting (by Conleth White) and the sound designs. Music is so perfect for the mood, it makes you cry. It pinches that other sense – hearing – that allows you to perceive Francie’s state of mind on a more profound level. The Leaves of Heaven is one of those plays where the props (by Stephanie Golden, Justyna Marta Nowicka, Sam Lambert, Derek Hathaway and Lewis McGee) are just as important as the actors. The incredible moon that would turn from peaceful white to ominous red was a whole being of its own adding a powerful eerie touch to the surrealism of it all.

McCabe’s play transfers you from a hopeless Irish small town (that the novel is set in) into an absolutely unique and colourful universe that reins in Francie’s mind. Just like their stories, all the characters’ voices are unique and easily distinguishable. And even though their life paths might be gruesome, at times appalling and even shocking, the beautiful storytelling of McCabe’s play allows the audience to surpass those actions of long ago. We witness the real, though heavily decaying, humanity behind the dummy’s mask.

The Leaves of Heaven is impossible not to connect with. The plot, the performances, the characterisation, the actors’ output and, of course, the directing (by Joe O’Byrne) of this production will leave you in an awe. This 90 min piece holds so much of dramatic tension and human emotion that  can only be experienced in a comfort of a safe intimate space like The Complex. The play runs till November 27th. For more info or to book tickets: https://www.tickets.ie/events.aspx/search?s=leaves or by calling (01) 544 6922

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Filed under Pat McCabe, The Complex, The Complex Live Arts Space, The Leaves of Heaven, Uncategorized

The Complex: In Light of Salt Rings They Drew

Yesterday The Complex Live Arts Center opened its doors to the public for the very first time. The first play that was going to introduce the new space to the Dublin audience was the award winning play In Light of Salt Rings They Drew by Sadhbh Moriarty and the Strive Theatre.

Interestingly enough, in the writing community you are told not to write plays about actors. Honestly, I do not know when and where this rule came from. But In Light of Salt Rings They Drew is the perfect exception of this rule.

In Light of Salt Rings They Drew is a story about a demented woman. Maisie (played by Nikki Burke), once a promising film and television star, just had a serious car accident. But that is not the scary part, the awful side of the story is that she doesn’t remember how she got into the car or why she ended up where she ended up; she can barely remember how hours after the crush the rescue team was getting her out of the car. She is in a hospital now… but only for a couple of months, or so she is determined, until the IFTA nominations in April, where she will be accompanying her daughter Mari (played by Rachel Feeney), also a young and promising actress.

In the hospital Maisie gets to know other pationes and staff members. There is the excentric and moody Ethel (played by Shannon Smythe), who wanders into Maisie’s room any time she wants to have a chat or if she feels lonely. And just as easily as she walks in, she leaves. Ethel has dementia and doesn’t recognise members of her own family.

Then there is Alistor (played by Cornelius Dwyer), the caretaker who spends his days craving for a real, non-electronic cigarette. Alister is kind of character who sounds and behaves like he has just stepped down from an Oscar Wild’s book. A kind of Algernon but without the superficiality.

Mona (played by Ellen Quirke) is a kind and caring nurse who takes care of both Ethel and Maisie.

In Light of Salt Rings They Drew, directed by Ciarán MacArtain and Sadhbh Moriarty, is a beautifully paced play in two acts. I personally found it very educative and informative, as the piece deals with two different cases of dementia. And it doesn’t just throw the bare facts at you; but through a very elaborated and thought through plot, it sneaks in the clues and drops bits of information here and there for you to pick them up and study. Just like an early stages of Alzheimer or dementia, it allows you to pick up little bits that are quite out of place, and then create the big picture out of them at the end.

I’m happy to say that there is an unexpected twist at the end. Nowadays, it’s truly very challenging to create an original piece of writing that would be truly fresh and new. In Light of Salt Rings They Drew is one of those plays. Apart form bringing attention to such a difficult topic, Moriarty also created four absolutely human, believable and so unlike each other characters. All five actors gave so much to their characters that it was impossible not to feel and empathise with them.

In Light of Salt Rings They Drew closes tonight in The Complex. But the Strive Theatre is currently touring with the play. So, keep an  eye on it! For more info: https://www.facebook.com/StriveTheatreGroup/?fref=ts

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The Complex Live Arts Space

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All theatre makers in Ireland, and in North-West Dublin Inner City specifically, I have an amazing piece of news for you all! A brand new art space has opened right around the corner from Henry Street, on Little Green Street, in Smithfield: The Complex Live Arts Space.

I had an amazing opportunity to chat to the Artistic Director of the The Complex – Vanessa Fielding. Vanessa is far from a stranger to the world of arts and theatre. Starting her professional life in a very conventional theatre in England, Vanessa has since directed a number of plays, as well as working for the National Theatre in London.

Being hugely inspired by ordinary people on the streets, she has always wanted to make arts available and easily accessable by the public generally, and by the local community, in particular.

The idea of creating a space for creative arts originated in 2008. In 2009 such space found its first home in Smithfield with a number of empty units available for performances and exhibitions. And even though the old space had no infrastructure (electricity, heating, water, etc…), there was no charge to use it. Many artists would have probably known worse working conditions,  but still it was very difficult to bring a professional performance in such conditions. Nevertheless, it’s the experience that counts, so personally for Vanessa it was a good start.

The new space, The Complex, is being leased commercially; so the working conditions from the very beginning are much better. It’s hard to believe that Vanessa and her team only moved into the building on Little Green Street in April. Since then they’ve achieved to do a part of their grand plan: to build new studios. And as I’m interviewing Vanessa, I can hear the builders work in the background. Everything looks new and shiny and ready to be occupied and messed up (in a good way, of course!) by the creative minds and hands.

The next step now is to develop a venue, which, at this stage, is very much a work-in-progress. Some minor issues have prevented The Complex from opening its doors for live performances. Leaping ahead, I want to add very briefly that, as soon as next week The Complex will welcome its first play: In Light of Salt Rings They Drew by Strive Theatre Group.

Strive Theatre will present their play in The Complex for two nights only. And, as Vanessa puts it herself, the team in the Complex sees it as “a preview to the space. It is not formally opened, it’s not formally launched yet.” But it’s a start, and a very promising one!

To date, the big space in The Complex has been mainly used for other events, such as the after party for the Pro-Choice movement, a number of workshops and talks.

As for the studios: there are nine of them. When it comes to leasing the studios, absolutely any artists can apply. At this particular moment, all nine studios have been let amongst all to musicians, photographers, painters, textile designers, theatre companies and performance art companies. There is an option to rent the studio or to share it with another artist/company. It’s important to take into consideration that all studios are being leased on a long term.

There is no competition in who is going to get a studio; it directly depends on the work one or another artist is producing. There is an obvious demand for the studios and Vanessa, together with the creative team in The Complex, has a certain vision of what kind of art they would like to see in their space. Before letting a studio, all candidates will have to present their work and come for an interview.

Another benefit of being a studio artist in The Complex is that there is a space for exhibiting your work. If you have been let a studio, that means that The Complex is supporting your art and your vision. There will be help from the creative team (as well as a financial discount) for those studio artists desiring to exhibit their creations in The Complex.

Apart from the studios, The Complex has its main (big) space. If we had to compare the main space in The Complex to any other venue in Dublin the closest example would be The Project Arts Center on the other side of the river. When a theatre company brings in a production, they would have to have their own rehearsing space. But the biggest advantage of The Complex is that it’s an “empty warehouse”. It’s very convenient for the theatre companies to arrange everything in a way that would suit them and that one particular performance. And when I say everything, I mean it one hundred percent. As there are no seats nailed down, which gives such a freedom for staging and designing the set as for where and how the audience will be sitted.

Vanessa says that alternative seating is something that they, in The Complex, hugely encourage the coming artists to think about. In other words, to make the artists think differently when it comes to interacting with the audience.

Promenade theatre, where the audience physically moves along with the play; Traverse theatre, where the audience is sitted on two opposite sides facing each other, with the stage in the middle; or proper Round theatre, where the audience sits in a circle around the stage are only a few examples of how Vanessa sees the space in The Complex being used for staging plays and performances.

Another amazing feature of this space is that it can host up to 300 people at a time. Take into account that The Abbey Theatre, for example, can accommodate slightly under 500 patrons at a time, while in The Peacock Theatre enter only 130 guests; The Gate Theatre has 371 seats.

When you apply to stage your play in The Complex. You are applying for something much more than simply an empty space. Having rich and profound experience in theatre herself, Vanessa offers mentoring for all new coming theatre companies. “You are not only buying into being in it [the space]”, she says “it’s a shared energy”. And in order for the audience to feel the energy and understand the story, any piece of theatre has to be meaningful and have some social dimension, to be relevant to what’s happening here and now, “to kick some ass”, as Vanessa puts it herself.

Vanessa thinks that the very basic act of story-telling in a confined space has been quite lost in the twenty-first century. “Theatre is anything but fashionable nowadays”, she says. And by creating The Complex, she pretty ambitiously wants to bring theatre back into fashion; to make people come to see challenging (in all aspects) plays made with passion and quality.

There is no stated rule that the coming production has to be brand new or a good old known one. As long as it has a strong contemporary message and is worth seeing, it’ll certainly find its home in The Complex.

But it’s not all about theatre in The Complex. Vanessa says that she would be happy to see “a mixture of disciplines”. Just to give you one example: The Complex will be welcoming a 50-piece Orchestra playing acoustically Prokofiev, Mozart and Stravinsky. How is that for a change?

As for the future events: being an avid director and theatre maker herself, Vanessa has very ambitious plans for the forthcoming year. A play called “Fat Dad” (a clear reference to the six Ulster counties intended here) is only one of the projects that will be coming to The Complex in the new year; another play that might see light in 2016 is Arthur Miller’s “Two Way Mirror”, which is not one of the master’s most famous plays, but has its certain beauty nevertheless.

Being located in the very heart of North West Dublin Inner City, Vanessa and her creative team would love to bring as many people from the local community as possible. Anybody and everybody is welcomed! In addition to that, The Complex has a Youth Theatre of their own, which is located in a different building and hosts weekend workshops worth checking.

To apply for a studio or to send in a proposal couldn’t be easier in The Complex. Just send an email with your idea/script or request to Vanessa at vanessa@thecomplex.ie and she’ll take it from there.

For more information, please, visit: http://thecomplex.ie/

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