Tag Archives: TUpstairs

Happy Birthday, Theatre Upstairs!

Have you ever been to a theatre’s birthday party? Well, I never. Before yesterday. Dublin’s very own, Dublin’s very fair Theatre Upstairs has celebrated its 3rd birthday yesterday!

This is not a review. This is an experience sharing.

I didn’t know what to expect, but when the event was announced I knew I had to be there. My very first time in Theatre Upstairs was about 2 years ago around Christmas time. I went to see “The gift of The Magi”. I liked it so much that I went to see it twice. And the second time I brought a plus one, because an experience like that just had to be shared. “The gift of Magi” (directed by Gemma Doorly) was one of three The Yule Tide Tales staged in Theatre Upstairs that Christmas. The second one was “The Little Match Girl” written and performed by the amazing Katie McCan and the third one being “It’s a wonderful life” by Gary Duggan. All three plays were outstanding.

I quite vividly remember that back then Theatre Upstairs was a bit different from how we know it today. The stage was smaller… I remember entering the house for the first time with a bunch of other people and I still can’t help but remembering one old man’s comment “Oh, it’s so small. Intimate, that’s what they call it.” And Theatre Upstairs is quite an intimate place when you get to know it. It has its own spirit, its atmosphere, its soul…. it’s nothing like the Abbey or The Gate. It doesn’t have those big auditoriums ready to accommodate more than half a thousand people. That’s something I extremely like and value about TUpstairs: every time I go to see a play, I know almost everyone in the audience (which doesn’t necessarily mean that they know me) and no matter whether it’s an opening night with overbooked house or a Wednesday matinee performance where you can easily feel like the only bird on the wire.

Yesterday was a particularly special night because of both the audience and the performers. I guess it’s a problem any theatre goer comes across at least once in a lifetime: will I see this again? We all know that, more or less, any play can be redone over and over and over again… in a different theatre, with different decorations and a different cast… something better something worse… During the three years of its infancy Theatre Upstairs has premiered a countless number of brand new shows enabling some of Ireland’s most talented and creative emerging actors, directors and theatre companies to showcase their original work. Every show runs for no more than 15 performances; 15 Performances it’s 15 chances to see something before it might be gone forever… It’s not a Broadway show where a play can be on for years. Theatre Upstairs’ plays are like pieces of cake that will be quickly gone if you don’t catch one. I would also advise anybody booking to book a ticket quite early in the run, the chances that you will want to go and see it again are very high.

That’s one of the reasons why yesterday was so special. It gave us one more opportunity to glance at those shows that are already gone. The evening was full of surprises, the company in residence did truly an amazing job to host the whole evening… talented in something, talented in everything: the extracts from plays, the spoken word, the fairy tales, the songs… Moments can’t be counted, memories can’t be counted… they can only be lived and remembered and nurtured in one’s heart. Yesterday was definitely an evening amongst friends. An evening that one will always remember when one will step into Theatre Upstairs (which shall be soon).

By the by: Happy Birthday, Theatre Upstairs. Here is to another countless years of joyful drama!

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Theatre Upstairs: A Boy Called Nedd

Yesterday was the opening night of a brand new play A Boy Called Nedd by Emily Gillmor Murphy.

A boy called Nedd tells a story of five teenagers, who go to the same school. All five of them are very different, but quite stereotypical Irish:

Nedd (played by Conall Keating) is a sweet guy who is going through a lot of shit. His older brother Ben has just committed a suicide; his dad, unable to cope with the situation, has just left; his ma can’t hold a job. Nedd really likes Alice and it even looks like she likes him back.

Alice (played by Amilia Stewart) is a girl who’s sleeping around with everyone. She does it out of insecurity and complete lack of confidence. She is desperate for any proof that she’s likable and pretty, that a guy would just like her just for who she is. And when such a guy does turn up, she’s too confused and scared to let him inside her heart.

Anto (played by Liam Heslin) is Nedd’s best friend. He is the cool guy, or the one who desperately wants to make such an impression. He drinks, he smokes,… he is the kind of bad guy good girls would fall for.

Sophie (played by Aislinn O’Byrne) is the typical good girl, who gets A in every single subject. She looks up to Alice and is desperately in love with Anto who barely knows that she even exists.

Niamh (played by Jasmine Brady) is the bitchy one. She is smart, very confident and has an answer for everything. She doesn’t like when things don’t go the way she wants. She also likes Anto but, unlike Sophie, she is not afraid of doing something about it.

A Boy Called Nedd is a darkish comedy that simply sweeps you away with some really high class acting. Characterisation in this production is simply amazing. Every single actor plays his or her part so precisely and so uniquely that it takes your breath away.

Visually it’s also a very fair play. There are absolutely no props on stage except for a wall with pictures and drawers at the very back. This small but very effective detail constantly reminds us that the main action takes place in a school. Another nice directing choice has been made in the change of scenes: actors would change places and focuses marching like soldiers.

No doubt some of the best scenes took part in the classrooms, rather than outside of school, when the characters would communicate by whispering one to another. The reactions were just so perfect that anybody, who has ever gone to school, could easily associate with them.

This beautiful production is part of Occupy Theatre Upstairs program by Bitter Like a Lemon Theatre Company. It’ll run until June, 13th. For more info or to book tickets, visit: http://www.theatreupstairs.ie/a-boy-called-nedd

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Filed under A Boy Called Nedd, Bitter Like a Lemon, Performing arts, Theatre Upstairs

Theatre Upstairs: Hollow Ground

It’s been more than a year since I’d been to Dublin’s Theatre Upstairs. And the first thing that came to my mind as I entered the building today was “Why hadn’t I come back earlier?”.

Funnily enough, the last performance I saw was Katie McCann´s adaptation of The Little Match Girl in late 2013. The Theatre Upstairs itself and productions were very different back then: smaller (much smaller!), the space was teeny tiny, with minimum sound/light effects, decorations or props. As fas as I remember, actually, there has been no props whatsoever on the stage.

As for the play itself, The Little Match Girl (which was a part of three Christmas’ Yule Tales), I loved it. It was extremely well done. Katie’s acting was at a very high standard and the adaptation itself was very original.

So last week, when I saw that Katie was presenting her second piece, I couldn’t miss it.

“Hollow Ground” is one story told by two different people: a brother and sister. It’s a very difficult play, to be honest. Very emotional. Very tragic. It’s a tragedy within a tragedy. A story of a broken family and of what’s left of it.

The brother is played by the very talented Rex Ryan, who gives a very memorable performance of a disturbed man-boy Graham. Graham, now grown up, struggles to fit in. He is different and he is being punished for it.

The sister is played by Katie McCann herself. Just like her brother, she is struggling in her every day life. But she’s a bit luckier, she is the one who managed to get away from her childhood home and from her past. She is able to have some sort of a “normal” life. I simply loved Katie’s brilliant ability to switch characters at a blink of an eye. So many different, invisible, characters became so alive and real.

Hollow ground has been directed by Theatre Upstair’s Artistic Director Karl Shiels. Shiels also directed another play that had been showed earlier this year in The Project Arts: Leper+Chip. Even though Hallow Ground and Leper+Chip are two very different plays, they are very much like each other at the same time. One can definitely identify a certain pattern there. So if you liked Leper+Chip, you’ll love Hollow Ground.

As for the set: simple but very accurate for the play. The set is so smart that you only realise it some half-way through the play. And just like in Leper+Chip the lights are very important for the perception of the show. So, do expect some flashing lights from time to time.

Hollow Ground runs in Theatre Upstairs till March, 21st. If you book for an 1pm matinee performance, you will also be able to get some light lunch in the theatre itself, which is completely complementary. For more info or to book tickets:

http://www.theatreupstairs.ie/hollow-ground

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