Tag Archives: The Smock Alley Theatre

Smock Alley Theatre: The Snow Queen

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’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/

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

Smock Alley Theatre: Pygmalion

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“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/

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

The Smock Alley Theatre: Boyz Of Harcourt Street

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“Boys will be boys.”

– Proverb

There is a very particular type of people on this earth – the “live for the weekend” type of people; those who drag themselves through the week just so they can enjoy the hell out of a weekend. And we all know what “enjoy” really stands for. If a weekend was good who cares that you don’t remember more half of it?

Rocket Octopus Theatre Company presents Boyz from Harcourt Street. Fosterson (played by Keith-James Walker), Gavmeister (played by Brendan O’Donohue) and D’Arce (played by Laurence Falconer) are indeed three boys; it’s true that they are already in their twenties holding an office job and being able to pay for their own booze and coke (and not the pepsi kind), but no tongue would turn to call those three – men. Cubicle next to cubicle, they spend one hundred percent of their time together: be it at work, home or out partying. They know each other better than anyone else; they’ve been almost hand in hand through it all: love, loss, buying cocaine off a junkie, crashing a car, spending a night in a stranger’s house in Carlow (yes, it is a big deal when for somebody whose comfort zone quite literally goes as far as Dublin’s Harcourt Street), being possessed by a demon… but it seems like nothing can destroy the friendship of these three. But (and there is always a but -one way or another – in every good story) something big is going to happen, and it’s going to happen soon.

Boyz of Harcourt Street, masterly directed by Eoghan Carrick, presents easily recognizable elements of Commedia dell’Arte, which converts this play into a complete and utter farce, but a hugely hilarious and enjoyable farce.

Devised by the performers themselves (apart from Walker, who is replacing Rex Ryan for this run) and Ian Toner, Boyz of Harcourt Street presents an absolutely brilliant and skillful ensemble of acting, miming and movement. The easily identifiable ruthless and careless white collar fellas, who clearly live for the party and buzz, become somewhat more human and interesting to watch thanks to the perfectly timed facial and physical expressions given by the three actors on stage. And even though the play is an unstoppable comedy from beginning to end, the theme of loosing a friend finally finds its absolute climax in one  of the very last scenes and it’s heartbreaking.

Boyz of Harcourt Street stands out from the very first second. It might not even be the script or the directing, but the fact that it’s one of very few plays nowadays that uses hand-made sound effects on stage (by Tiernan Kearns). It’s a rarity and a real privilege to witness such a precise and well-crafted masterpiece of sounds used during a live performance. The absolute genius of it is that thanks solely to those sound effects and put-on voices, a whole world was created. The play also benefited hugely from the usage of music (the cheesy over-played but yet so beloved and nostalgia-evoking tunes from the 80s) and movement bringing otherwise static scenes to a complete change of mood and energy.

Boyz of Harcourt Street is perfect for a fun night out. This easy to watch and to enjoy ridiculously amusing play will keep you laughing and cheering long after it’s over. For more info or to book tickets: http://smockalley.com/boyz-harcourt-street-2/

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Filed under Boyz of Harcourt Street, Rocket Octopus Theatre Company, Smock Alley Theatre

The Smock Alley Theatre: Fleabag

Two years after its premier at Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Bad Mouth Theatre‘s play Fleabag finally found its way onto the stage of Smock Alley’s The Boy’s School.

Fleabag is a one woman show, written by Phoebe Waller-Bridge and performed by Hannah O’Reilly. In the intimate and welcoming place The Boy’s School is, the play starts big and promising: the female character comes down onto the stage drunk … falling off the stairs, singing, drinking… in other words, not being very stable. Obviously, having just left a wild party, she strips down to her underwear in front of the audience and changes into something less attention-seeking and more normal daily-life appropriate. Not having slept a wink, she is off to a job interview.

As the play unravels we find out that our heroine works in a guinea pig themed cafe (with a real guinea pig living there), which she used to co – own. She is in huge debt after the other co-owner and her dear friend tragically died. Our nameless heroine has a sister who doesn’t really want to talk to her anymore, and a father who would rather call a cab to take his drunk daughter home in the middle of the night than let her stay on the couch at his place.

In between all this mess, she finds the time to flirt, sex text, chat up and either have sex or dream of having sex with every moving object she comes across. Some might call it an addiction, I think a twenty something Londoner, who has just lost a good friend and struggles to find any understanding, is simply substituting love with sex.

Waller-Bridge’s play points at the elephant in the room. It’s been barely a month since The Abbey’s meeting of #WakingThe Feminists and it’s really a miracle that we can see a woman on stage talking openly about her sex life. Isn’t she being judged? Of course she is. Even within the context of the play itself. The S word does come out a couple of times throughout the play. But the important thing is that the play is there and it’s bold, it has courage and strength, and it’s made by women and about women.

O’Reilly’s acting is quite strong and natural, but some of the jokes, even though delivered perfectly fine, just fall flat; they mostly provoke a weak smile rather than an out loud laugh. Even though the over all performance works pretty well and is capturing to watch, O’Reilly’s stumbling over some words and phrases unfortunately destroyed the illusion at times.

I quite liked some of the lighting decisions. But the set design could have done with a bit more than just a chair. The action takes place in many different locations, the lighting could have been a bit more elaborated to help us feel the difference between spaces.

Creating other characters by using voices on the speakers was an interesting decision, but I think it might have worked a tiny bit better if the actress on stage embodies those characters. It wouldn’t distract our full attention from the main action.

For one weekend only in Dublin, Fleabag has closed tonight in the Smock Alley Theatre. More details about the show could be found: https://www.facebook.com/badmouththeatre/?fref=ts

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Filed under Bad Mouth Theatre, Fleabag, Smock Alley Theatre