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Theatre Upstairs: The words are there

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If a picture tells a thousand words, then what about a movement, a gesture, a pose, a step? How much of a story can be told by the way we move, turn, look or keep completely still and silent?…

Silence… Ronan Dempsey’s new piece is anything but silent. As a matter of fact, it’s screaming louder than any amount of words. A story about a man, whose whole life is as turned and broken inside as it is outside: a table balancing on three legs, a puddle of spilled wine so similar to a quickly growing pool of blood, a festive sign “Welcome Home” written to someone special, who was never meant to see it in the first place.

The Words Are There is the kind of tragedy that usually happens behind the closed doors. It’s not talked about. But it doesn’t make the screams of the abused one being any less louder. It’s just not everyone wants to hear them. The walls people build conceal everything.

He – The Man (played by Ronan Dempsey) is a person who has seen abuse from an early age. When he meets her – The Woman (voiced by Jessica Leen) – a little hope of a possible happiness is being born in his heart. They will live in Bettystown, by the sea. And everything is going to be fine because he has her and she has him. But not unlike him, she has demons of her own who are tearing her broken soul apart.

In his fifty minute piece and one single, almost spilled out, line, Ronan Dempsey presents a story deeper than those books worth a thousand pages. When actions speak louder than any words, the tale tells itself.

The Words Are There balances on the border between reality and fantasy created by The Man. Trained in physical theatre and mime by the very masters of their art, Dempsey builds a whole world on stage; only a true genius can make a mop not only come alive but also represent something beautiful and lovable.

A performance that speaks for itself. The Words Are There is an unforgettable piece of theatre that won’t leave anyone unmoved. The play is written and directed by Ronan Dempsey and presented by The Nth Degree Productions in collaboration with Theatre Upstairs, where it runs till May 20th. Fore more info or to book tickets: http://www.theatreupstairs.ie/thewordsarethere 

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Player’s Theatre: Montparnasse (IDGTF)

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Just as the International Dublin Gay Theatre Festival 2017 is about to re-open its doors to the second week of the gay awareness feria, there is just one more play from the first week that deserves to be highlighted.

All the way from the Canadian province of Alberta to the Emerald Island, Theatre Outré brought to us Montparnasse, a 75 min extravaganza about two girlfriends living and experiencing the Années Folles – The Crazy Years. In the aftermath of the Belle Epoque a whole new era of art, culture and ideas has emerged. And the two Canadian ex-patriots, as well as best friends, found themselves in the midst of what was promising to be one of the most exciting eras to be alive.

We are in the city by the Seine. The aroma of vine, croissants and mixed paints is in the air. And Margaret (played by Katharine Zaborsky) is loving it. She has re-defined herself as a muse to some and a party friend to the others, but always being in the center of the elite Parisienne société: Miller, Modigliani, Hemingway, Chagall… Stripping off her clothes in front of them day after day, Margaret believed that she was doing something more, something bigger: she was inspiring the artists to create and to produce.

While her friend Amelia (played by Carolyn Ruether) didn’t find it all that amusing. A painter herself, she was more interested in the game of light and shadows, in the angles, in the positioning of the body… It seemed she had all the tools to do the job but the only missing piece seemed to be the vital one: the inspiration. Nevertheless, a new and unexpected, even a bit scary at the beginning, experience has been presented to Amelia. But is she ready to lay bare her body in order to learn from the best?

Montparnasse is an unexpectedly eccentric piece. It lets you witness not only the denuding of the body but also the stripping down of the very soul hiding behind it. The confidence and the security with which the actors present their work is both mesmerising and captivating. The Company has brought to the Dublin audience an absolutely beautiful recreation of Paris during the roaring twenties and the true portrayal of the spirit of the era.

Montparnasse is a brave piece of theatre that is not afraid to expose the human body in all its glowing beauty; it mixes well the picture with the entertaining story and some dreamy French tunes. With a small amount of props on stage our attention is completely overtaken by the plot and its masterful narration by the three actors.

When a play is worth bringing all the way from the other side of the ocean, it’s worth bringing! Montparnasse is easily one of the highlights of the first week of the festival. Prepare yourself for a play unlike anything else you’ve seen before!

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Theatre Upstairs: Monster?

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A new collaboration between Theatre Upstairs and EGM Productions has brought a real gem to its audience. Emily Gillmor Murphy’s new play Monster? is an original poignant story that won’t leave anyone feeling indifferent.

Let’s have one more conversation about women’s reproductive rights. Let’s look at the situation from a different point this time: what if she just doesn’t want to be a mother? Does it make a monster out of her? After all, all that a woman wants is to have a choice and not to be judged or frowned upon for how she feels.

Nell (played by Aisling O’Mara) – a mother-to- be – a woman – an individual and a human being just like anyone else – keeps repeating to her unhappened partner Adam (played by Jamie O’Neill) that the body is hers. Not his or the baby’s, but hers. After a drunk one night stand, she quickly discovers her unexpected new condition. Adam, though a nice guy but definitely not yet ready for becoming a father, after a brief freak out offers Nell to move in with him and, maybe, start a family. Isn’t it, after all, what every girl dreams of? Almost an orphan herself, Nell already knows she doesn’t want this baby. Not because she is an evil creature or a witch from a kid’s fairy tale but simple because she doesn’t feel ready to bring a new life into this world. My body – my choice? Or shall Nell just follow the rules of the society and silently consent to what God has created every woman for?

This roughly an hour long play doesn’t only take an unconventional approach to an important (mostly unspoken of) social topic but it also has an absolutely perfect sharp ending for a piece of this kind. With a small cast of three, Monster? is a surprisingly funny play. Michael Glenn Murphy (who plays Ru) provides the ultimate comic relief, while the other two actors wonderfully balance the tragedy and the heaviness of the story. All under the directing hand of the master himself – Karl Shiels.

Lisa Krugel’s simple but quite stunning stage design – a bar – is the first thing that welcomes you into Theatre Upstairs’ cosy auditorium. It provides the perfect setting for the story and the unforgettable beginning.

Monster? is a play that gives you more than mere entertaining and a nice night out. It gives you some real food for thought. It’s a brave, challenging production created by a bunch of undoubtedly talented and creatively inspiring artists.

Monster? by Emily Gillmor-Murphy runs in Theatre Upstairs till April 29th. So, there is no excuse not to go! For more info or to book tickets: http://www.theatreupstairs.ie/monster

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Theatre Upstairs: Fizzy Drinks with Two Straws

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Tea + Toast Theatre Company in association with Theatre Upstairs presents Fizzy Drinks with Two Straws. And if the title itself hasn’t already intrigued you enough, then maybe you should stick around for a bit longer to find out what it’s all about.

An original piece of theatre, written by Joyce Dignam and directed by Dignam herself and Meabh Hennelly, Fizzy Drinks is a simple story told from a very nontrivial point of view. It tells us about an Irish family on their holidays in Wexford. Maybe not the fanciest of all holiday destinations, one might think and Lara (played by Ali Hardiman) and Rosie (played by Tara Maguire) will definitely agree with you. But it’s not the lack of exoticism or Mediterranean sun on the resort that upsets the little girls; it’s the feeling that something bad is going on in their family and nobody would tell or explain them anything. Mam and Dad seem to be enclosed in a local pub with a family friend, while Lara and Rosie are left to play by themselves in a playground outside. Nevertheless, their minds can’t help but wonder what’s really hiding behind all that grown-up talk that even playing Mommies and Daddies doesn’t help.

In this approximately one hour play, we witness the story from the point of view of two little girls – the eldest being only ten. It’s definitely catchy and refreshing. Both Hardiman and Maguire are excellent at portraying little girls as well as adults. The sense of naiveness and childishness that they transmit to the audience is nothing but adorable and hugely entertaining.

Fizzy Drinks with Two Straws is an easy to watch and enjoy production showcasing some of the raising talents of the Irish theatre. The play was presented as part of this year’s Scene and Heard Festival last month. Apart from decent acting, there is some nice lighting (by Shane Gill) and sound (by Conrad Jones-Brangan) designs. As for the set design, being presented as a playground, it’s quite outstanding with a real slide mounted on the Theatre Upstairs’ cozy stage.

Fizzy Drinks with Two Straws runs in Theatre Upstairs till April 8th. It’s never too late to be a child again and perhaps remind yourself how it all used to feel like. For more info or to book tickets: http://www.theatreupstairs.ie/fdwts

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Smock Alley Theatre: Bronte

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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/

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Bewley’s Café Theatre: Jericho

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Here’s some substantial and even, perhaps, existential thought for your lunch break: how did we end up in this giant puddle of poo-poo? I mean: us. Yes. Us. And the world. The little blue dot we all happily inhabit.

What do you do when you’ve been asked to make a play about the world? Our world. Where do you start? Where do you start?… The uneasy task was taken upon by one of Dublin’s most progressive and forth-looking theatre companies: Malaprop. The answer they came up with might not be the most obvious one but it sure is a very interesting approach to something so deep and important. Malaprop bravely decided to wrestle the discomforting subject. Both literally and metaphorically. And the result is Jericho.

After a couple of not-quite-so-satisfying attempts, Maeve O’Mahony finally emerges on stage the way she has always imagined it: with the triumphant music playing on the background and hundreds of fans cheering for her victory. But the question remains: what did she win? In the comfortable cosy life of hers, O’Mahony’s character is a young journalism graduate who works for one of those so popular nowadays newspapers that generates traffic on clicks. Our nameless heroine tells us she has to write a new story every 45 minutes and hope that it will be read (or at least clicked on) by as many people as possible. In an office meeting it was proposed to feature an article on Wrestlemania (the one where the current president of one of the most powerful countries on earth bodyshames another billionaire and entertainer by publicly shaving his head) and though she doesn’t know a thing about wrestling and thinks that maybe, perhaps, we should focus on something more important like feminism and women’s rights right now, yet she doesn’t say a thing and just smiles and nods.

Interestingly enough Jericho itself lasts for approximately 45 min. Just long enough for us to focus on one thing before our attention will inevitably be diverted by something completely different and undoubtedly much less important though hugely entertaining, like a video of a cute cat or a baby.

Jericho (“The city. Not the wrestler”… I think) is loaded with visual and audio materials. The smartly designed stage (by Molly O’Cathain) quickly transforms from our heroine’s office into her rented apartment, into a wrestling arena, etc. This production is a nice example of an interactive play where the audience can feel like they are being part of the created on-stage world. O’Mahony speaks with you rather than at you. The amount of flashing and sounding effects (by John Gunning) is overwhelming at times but it does the trick and produces the feeling of being so overpowered by the media that we can’t hear our own thoughts anymore.

O’Mahony does an absolutely fantastic job portraying her typical 21st century girl with a degree and a wish to make the world a better place. But, you know, life just gets onto the way sometimes. I mean: all the time. It happens to all of us and that’s why we, just like her, don’t say anything, don’t do anything and just carry on. Click. Click. Another page. Another story.

Jericho, devised  by Malaprop Theatre Co and directed by Claire O’Reilly, runs in the Bewley’s Café Theatre until March 4th. Food for thought indeed it is. For more info or to book tickets: http://www.bewleyscafetheatre.com/events/jericho

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The Abbey Theatre: Arlington

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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 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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Scene and Heard: Tender Mercies

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The yearly festival of the original raw writing Scene + Heard is in its full swing. Colette Cullen, the creator of YES and Blind Date, together with Home You Go Productions presents a brand new play – Tender Mercies.

In this poignantly darkish tale of life, love and loss we follow the story of Mary Fortune (played by Denise Quinn), a middle-aged hairdresser who happened not to be as fortunate as her last name might suggest. Tender Mercies invites us to an hour long ride during which we don’t only meet some of Miss Fortune’s most notorious costumers but also get a peek into Mary’s somewhat more personal affairs. A smoker and a hopeless wine drinker, she isn’t a cliché. She is a person who, just like anyone else, wants to love and be loved back.

In this wild and, at times, unbelievable mixture of dark comedy and bitter tragedy, Quinn blows the life into her character and creates an unforgettable one woman show. Her doubtlessly outstanding performance is hugely supported by the thoroughly written script. You cry, you laugh, you are left in an awe. The time flies as you are getting more and more involved into Mary’s entangled story. The twisted ending hits you unexpectedly and hard. I didn’t see that coming! – the whispers from the audience exclaim.

With quite a simplistic but elaborated set and decorations (designed by Carolyn Croke), Tender Mercies benefits from some very nice creative touches when it comes to both directing (also by Colette Cullen) and staging. No doubt though that apart from the solid script the strongest side of the play is Quinn’s absolutely breathtaking portrayal of Mary Fortune. Taking into account that this is still a kind of a raw material brought out to the audience basically for a trial, the play has an enormous potential. Especially, if staged in a somewhat smaller and more intimate space. And once all the little things are sharpened, Tender Mercies is going to be a must-see of the year.

Unfortunately, the show enjoyed quite a short two-day only run at the Smock Alley’s Main Space. But, for more information (and fingers crossed for its soon return) about Tender Mercies and its future, please, follow: http://www.homeyougoproductions.com/index.html 

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O’Reilly Theatre: King Lear

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“Nothing can come of nothing, speak again.”

–       King Lear, W. Shakespeare

Just when you think that there is nothing left to surprise you in Shakespeare and his work, a new company pops up and completely re-imagines the good old well-known.

It’s highly admirable when the audience attention can be captured from the moment one walks into the auditorium. And The C Company with its production of King Lear achieved it no doubt whatsoever. Refreshing and captivating it was to see the actors in their natural habitat even before the first word was said. The beginning of the play was so natural; it almost felt like you are eavesdropping on the characters while they are carrying on about their everyday business.

The Leir of England is mad and doesn’t need an introduction or explanations. Perhaps, one of Shakespeare’s most famous and greatest plays about the quarrels of fathers and sons, or rather daughters, truly finds a new interpretation on the O’Reilly’s stage. It’s like Aoife Spillane – Hinks, the director of the piece, opens the window of the old locked house and lets a wave of fresh air in. Everything is eye-catchy and fascinating about this production, starting with the drastic cuts to the script (the piece is slightly under two hours, no interval) and continuing with an interesting set and imaginative costume designs.

It always depends on the director which characters to show off (unless a sneaky actor decides to steal the show, of course). In this particular interpretation, two characters stood out for me: Goneril (played by Maeve Fitzgerald) and the Earl of Gloucester (played by Simon Coury). Not to undermine the rest of the cast, I must note that the ensemble performed absolutely beautifully from the beginning to the very end. With such talented and truly outstanding performers as Breffni Holahan, Mark Fitzgerald and, of course, Jonathan White who took upon himself the title role of the piece, it couldn’t be any other way.

Feminist bags, fairylights skirts, Dr. Martins shoes, funky glitter jackets… it’s only a tiny hint into what one is in for when going to see this King Lear. Hanna Bowe, the designer of the play, has taken some very brave decision on how to dress the stage and the actors. And now she can be well-deservedly praised for it.

One thing that particularly stands out about The C Company’s production of King Lear is the stage craft and movement. And here I’m not talking about stage combat or fighting. The way the actors interacted with the furniture and props was fascinating. The O’Reilly’s Theatre is a very difficult space to perform in as the audience is separated from the stage by a huge stretch of emptiness. Thus, the decision to use that space and to have some actors exit and enter through the auditorium was a strong choice.

So, if you are getting the January blues and in need of some theaterapy, do not look any further and come to see The C Company’s production of King Lear. For more info or to book tickets: http://www.oreillytheatre.com/

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